Honda has been making cars since the 60s, but they're still a relatively young brand in the Philippines. Still, this year is a big one for Honda Cars Philippines, as October 2020 marks their 30th year in the local automotive landscape.
Over the decades, Honda Cars Philippines sold several icons in the country, some of which are still aspirational cars to this day. But what local Honda models left a lasting impression on us? Here are the 10 Hondas we've loved, and even owned, in the past 30 years
Honda had humble beginnings in the country with the fourth-generation Civic being the only car they sold here. But it was the fifth-generation, known and loved by many as the EG series, that put the brand on the local map.
When this generation of Civic arrived in the Philippines in 1993, it quickly became a smash hit. There were three versions available at the time, namely the 1.5 LX sedan, 1.6 ESi, and the 1.2-liter hatchback. It didn't matter which version you got. The Civic had unleashed the new wave of aspiring racers in the country, and it's still a sought after car for enthusiasts.
With their high-revving 16-valve VTEC engines, Honda gained a reputation for building fun to drive, but still practical, cars in the country. But, of course, enthusiasts wanted more out of their Civics, and Honda Cars Philippines would answer their calls with the SiR.
Introduced in the late '90s, the SiR was every boy (or girl) racer's dream. The 1.6-liter VTEC engine revved up to a sky-high 8,000 rpm, and it put out 160 PS to make it the most powerful compact sedan of its era. It was an accessible performance car too because prices for it hovered around the Php 700,000 when it was new. Yes, it was more expensive than the VTi, but it still cost less than the CR-V and Accord of its era.
There are those who would say the Civic lost some of its mojo in the early-'00s. A lot of the things that made it fun to drive was gone, namely the double-wishbone suspension that made it handle so well. But in 2006, the Civic would come back with a vengeance with the FD generation.
It was revolutionary in terms of design, and it had that unique double-decker instrument cluster. At the time, it looked like it had an interior from the future, and the blue highlights added to that effect. It was a lot bigger than Civics of the past too, and Honda ditched the 1.5 and 1.6-liter engines in favor of more powerful 1.8 and 2.0-liter units. All in all, the Civic FD banished the memories of the previous generation model with a more exciting and stylish design. Oh, and it was a good car to drive, too.
Of course, Honda Cars Philippines' success isn't attributed to just one car. On September 1996, they would launch a car that, to this day, be the best-selling nameplate for HCPI. That car is the City, and it remains to be one of the most significant cars for the brand.
At the time of its launch, it retailed for less than Php 400,000, making it the most affordable Honda at the time. For those who couldn't quite reach for a Civic in the mid-'90s, the City would be a great alternative. You got most of the goodies from the Civic (it was based on the fourth-generation model), at a much more affordable price. For many, the City would be their stepping stone to Honda ownership, with many not turning back to other brands after owning one.
When the Civic hatchback was discontinued locally in the mid-'90s, Honda wouldn't have any hatch offerings in the country for almost a decade. But that was rectified in 2004 with the launch of the Jazz. Upon its launch, the Jazz quickly became a hit and proved that small hatchbacks need not be bare. It was stylish, well-equipped, and easy on fuel, making it an ideal daily driver for those who don't want the bulk of an SUV.
The Jazz is surprisingly versatile too, thanks to its ULT seats that gave it near SUV-levels of carrying capacity. That feature is still present in the Jazz today, and it remains one of the popular subcompact hatchback options in the country.
Before the term crossover was even coined, Honda Cars Philippines was ahead of the curve with the first-generation CR-V. Launched locally in late 1996, it was the first high-riding Honda built in-house. There's a lot to like about the first CR-V as it offered the practicality and versatility the Civic couldn't offer at the time.
This CR-V had the capability to go light off-roading thanks to its all-wheel-drive system. At the same time, it didn't have the bulk of traditional SUVs of the era. The best part is, it drove like a car and it rode like a car thanks to the Civic underpinnings. The CR-V continues to be one of Honda's top sellers in the country, and the new diesel simply expanded its appeal.
Executive sedans may be a dying breed but it was a huge deal for HCPI when they launched the Accord locally in 1994. Here is a brand that's barely four years old but are already gunning for established mid-sized sedans such as the Toyota Corona and Mitsubishi Galant. The move to launch and build the Accord here was a gamble for the brand, but it's one that paid off. It showed that Honda can run with the big boys from the big brands.
Succeeding models of the Accord ushered in new tech and features that would trickle down to more affordable models. Even to this day, the Accord serves as a preview of what we can expect from future Honda vehicles.
It may not have been a smash hit, but the CR-Z is a significant car in Honda Cars Philippines' product portfolio. The CR-Z is, to this day, the only Honda hybrid that was ever offered with manual transmission. The fact that HCPI even brought a sporty two-door coupe here is a surprise, showing that it's not all about the practical stuff in the local range.
Perhaps it was a misunderstood product at the time, but we doubt we will see anything like it in Honda showrooms in the near future.
The BR-V may be the newest name in this list, but it has become Honda's second best-selling vehicle in the country next to the City. The BR-V is just a few years old, but the way it ticks all the boxes made people flock to Honda dealerships.
It's got seats for seven, loads of cargo space, an efficient engine, and a reasonable price. What's not to like?
Last but not least is the Brio. It may not sell as high as the City, or BR-V, but it's one of the local line-up's rising stars. In some ways, it's a bit like the first-generation City and Jazz. The low price makes it a great entry into the world of Honda, and the build quality wouldn't leave you short-changed. The same dedication to quality is present in the new Brio, just like the original Honda City.
As for the other part of the equation, the Brio drives like the first-generation Jazz. Light, easy to drive, and fun to throw around corners, the Brio has the spirit of the first Jazz: small hatchbacks don't have to be boring or bare.
To the next 30 years
The 10 cars we mentioned helped Honda establish itself in the Philippines and grow exponentially over the years. So what do the next 30 years have in store of HCPI? Right now, we're still waiting for the all-new City to land in the Philippines, and we're also looking forward to several models that are set to be launched within the decade. One of them will be the eleventh-generation Civic, and that's one car we're all looking forward to in a few years.