They really can't all be a swing and a hit.
Honda has done some amazing things in the automotive world. The Japanese carmaker has brought us a variable valve timing system that worked, the first car with four-wheel steering, pioneered the idea of a hybrid car, introduced the first on-board satellite navigation system, and created first aluminum-body production car. And let's not forget Honda's Type R performance cars.
With a long history and a commendable habit of entering new territory, some missteps have inevitably been taken. Failure is often a part of the learning process towards success, and Honda has had a lot of success. However, these are the models that it would probably like us to forget.
Honda's rugged mid-sized station wagon was, objectively speaking, a great car. The Honda Accord Crosstour was aimed at the same market as the Subaru Outback and featured a higher clearance and an available "real-time" 4-wheel-drive system that engaged drive at the rear when needed. From a mechanical and driving perspective, everything was as it should be from a Honda vehicle.
However, it looked like someone had flattened out an SUV and then made some even weirder design choices. The nose was too long, and the back end had a little too much Prius to it. It was also on the pricy side, and the combination of looks and price made sure only one generation was built between 2009 and 2015.
Also known as the Edix in Japan, the Honda FR-V lasted just one short generation and never made it to the US. The FR-V was manufactured between 2004 and 2009, and it was doomed to be forgotten from the start. The FR-V was an MPV that, like the much-maligned Fiat Multipla, seated six people across two rows. At the time, it was the only compact minivan available in Europe with a 3+3 seating configuration, which sounds amazingly practical. However, it meant the FR-V was bulky as well as unattractive and that just didn't appeal to enough people to make the FR-V a success.
The Honda CR-Z was a case of a great idea being poorly executed. On paper, it's a sporty little gasoline-electric hybrid two-seater hatchback. While it was one of the least polluting vehicles available until it went out of production in 2016, the CR-Z made a measly 130 horsepower and 128 lb-ft of torque while not handling anywhere near as well as it looked. It also didn't live up to its larger rivals in terms of fuel economy.
The Prelude was a hit for Honda globally and has also become a Japanese tuning icon. However, the second and third-generation Prelude gained a weird and unsavory reputation in Japan. Over there, it became known as a "date car."
In most 2+2 coupes, the lever to adjust the seatback is on the outside of the passenger seat next to the door. That way, anyone entering the car can flip the seatback forward and climb in. However, on the second and third generation of Prelude, the lever was on the other side and allowed the driver easy access to flip the seat forward if nobody was in it. However, if someone were in the passenger seat, it would recline under their weight.
For that reason, the latch arrangement on the front passenger seat was dubbed the "Pervert Lever" or the "Horny Knob." It took a while for the reputation to build as a date car, and the Prelude sold well. But, it's definitely something Honda would like us to forget.
There are two schools of thought on the Honda Civic Del Sol. One is that it was a massively underrated and fun car, and the other is that it was a poor attempt to snag some of the Mazda Miata's market. The little Targa topped two seater's 1.6-liter engine made 127 hp and 107 lb-ft of torque in Si form and only lasted one generation from 1992 to 1998. It was light as well, and in Japan, the Civic Del Sol SiR was applauded for being the first production car to offer 100 hp per liter.
The problem was that it didn't have typical Honda reliability. The Targa top was prone to leaks, and the Del Sol also suffered from electrical faults in the lighting system as well as other smaller but no less pervasive and irritating issues.
Soulless, drab, and uninspiring are not words that usually spring to mind when it comes to a Honda car. However, ask a Brit about the Concerto and the worlds "beige" and "old people" will probably come up. The Concerto was born of a partnership with the Austin Rover Group that provided Honda with a foothold in the UK. It was, essentially, a Rover 200 or 400 in the UK but built better. Still, it was prone to rust, and the twin-cam 16-valve engine could drink oil like a British builder drinks tea with milk and two sugars.
While the Honda Odyssey minivan has morphed into a world-class family hauler full of comfort and features that can make even the most unruly of kids docile on a long journey, that wasn't always the case. It wasn't until the second generation that Honda figured out it needed something a little bigger for the North American market and started building it here.
The first generation didn't do at all well in the US. It was too small but also looked like an inflated Accord. Unfortunately, that's exactly what it was, and the 2.3-liter four-cylinder wasn't up to pulling the extra weight around comfortably.
The first-generation Honda Insight was a trailblazer for hybrid technology. It made 61 mpg on the highway and had a combined EPA rating of 53 mpg. Those are numbers that hybrids are still struggling to reach today, and have given the original Insight a cult following.
The second generation was intended for the mass-market and was objectively as good as the Toyota Prius that it was supposed to go toe-to-toe with. However, the Prius stole the show through its long burn of word of mouth and adoption by the liberal elite. The second-generation Insight sold poorly and will go down in history as an incredible opportunity missed by Honda.