Honda are good at petrol engines. They have been making them since the dawn of time. It is said that Mary and Joseph rode a donkey into Bethlehem. But that’s nonsense. They actually had a Honda 50.
There was a television advert a few years ago featuring a man with extravagant facial hair making a journey using a vast array of Honda vehicles, from mopeds, to motor cycles, to the glorious NSX to a hot air balloon. It was better than whatever programme it was interrupting. Honda has something that the rest of the Japanese manufacturers lack – excitement. Subaru for example, makers of some impressive cars and many bland ones, is a branch of something called Fuji Heavy Industries. Toyota who purport to make ‘the best built cars in the world’ actually make the most uninspiring cars one can buy. I know about the GT86 but it doesn’t really make up for a zillion boring Corollas.
Honda is different. Yes, they conform to the Japanese template of mechanically reliable with a slightly disappointing interior, but there is passion there too. The S2000,with its 2.0 litre naturally aspirated Vtech unit, is a masterpiece. The aforementioned NSX was as much a legend as Ayrton Senna, who helped develop it. The Integra is widely regarded as a contender for best handling front wheel drive car ever. Even their boring cars are exciting. The Civic is the shopping car in the range. It is Honda’s answer to the Ford Focus and the Opel Astra. It is fine. It is reasonably efficient, practical and comfortable. But it is also a pointy, rev-happy scamp.
While the majority of mid range hatchbacks are diligent little students, the Civic is the lad with ADHD who might be on MDMA. Feet tapping, staring out the window, waiting for the signal that it is time to be the first out the gate.
I’ve owned a ’92 Civic hatch, a ’01 Civic coupe and a ’00 Accord coupe and though they were all quite different, they provided very satisfying ownership experiences. I drove two of them from Galway to Edinburgh and back.
For a long time I was of the belief that you couldn’t break a Honda engine. I’m quite sure I ran my ’92 Civic out of oil twice. The noise and smell alerted me that it might be an idea to check the levels. Bad times. I’m a better adult now.
And then it happened – I found the only Honda with a broken engine. I had recently sold my ’01 Civic and had a yearning for something practical. I’d been looking at the Honda Stream as it had the same 1.7 petrol engine I had enjoyed in the previous coupe but with a wagon body, when I spotted an ad for a Honda HRV. It was a five door with the part-time 4 wheel drive system, and it was cheap and local. The seller had replaced the radiator, windscreen and front shock absorbers. The novelty of the high seating position and notions of mild off-road excursions won me over.
Over the next few weeks of getting to know my new car, I found that I had bought the only Honda ever with a bad engine. Hard acceleration produced no speed but much smoke. Power was delivered in wayward lurches. It cost me as much on oil as it did on petrol. Worryingly, the dip stick was missing its tip – as if some gremlin had bitten off the flat metal end and spat it into the engines innards. The noise it made while idling backed up the gremlin theory. Imagine, if you will, the noise a cement mixer might make if it was full of boots and seagulls.
I like to think that one of the measures of a good car is that you can use it for anything, a date, attending a funeral, attending a wedding, a run to the airport. The HRV didn’t tick any of these boxes.
After another spell on Donedeal.ie it went to live with an optimistic home mechanic somewhere in the midlands. Overall, it was like a Kardashian, desirable but horrific to live with.