Japan is renowned for producing intriguing cars that never make it to the UK. We find five unofficial Honda imports worth seeking out

These Honda imports were never officially offered in the UK, but don't let that stop you.

1. Honda Civic Type R saloon (2007-2010)

Fancy a third-gen Civic Type R but worried it’s not practical enough? The Japan-only Type R four-door, labelled FD2, might be for you.

Well, it will be if you want more power. With 221bhp at 8400rpm from its VTEC engine, it betters the European car’s 198bhp. Under the skin, the hatch’s bone-shaking torsion beam rear suspension has been replaced by a fully independent set-up.

The chassis is more rigid, too, with impressive results, namely racer-like super-sharp steering and immense roadholding, plus it corners precisely and has a firm but well-controlled ride. A sub six-second 0-62mph time is claimed.

If you can find one, it’ll be expensive (£12k and up) but worth it.

2. Honda Beat (1991-1996)

Japan’s tiny Kei cars were built to exploit tax and insurance rules, and in the 1990s many were unofficially imported to the UK. None was more fetching than the Honda Beat, a mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive roadster of micro proportions and excellent manners, with a design originating from Pininfarina.  

It was fun, too. Its 64bhp, 660cc three-pot engine revved to 8100rpm, with drive sent via a five-speed manual gearbox. This was wind-in-the-hair motoring on a shrunken scale. On the road, it went where larger cars couldn’t, and if you couldn’t find a parking space, you could always pick it up and carry it.

They’re rarer than hen’s teeth now, but £2k-£4k can buy you a good one.      

3. Honda Element (2003-2011)

The boxy, funky and fun Honda Element could have been a big hit in the UK. Designed and built in the US, this plastic-clad beauty was based on the CR-V.

Inside, a hose-down rubber floor, removable rear seats and a clever rear tailgate gave the Element extra versatility and practicality, while the rear-hinged rear doors and absence of B-pillars left a huge and unhindered loading space. Surf dudes loved it.

You could eat in it, sleep in it, or carry friends, bicycles and beach paraphernalia in it. It had two or four-wheel drive, and even a 160bhp 2.4-litre VTEC engine from the Accord. It was a hoot to drive, too.

They’re rare in the UK, but expect to pay £10k-£12k if you can find one.

4. Honda NSX-R (2002-2005)

Before the original NSX, supercars were temperamental and difficult to drive, but the two-seat, mid-engined V6 Honda was fast, tractable and reliable.

The NSX-R, however, was hardcore. Its engine was race tuned, although the power output quoted was the same as that of the standard car, at 276bhp. Stripped of excess weight and with uprated suspension and brakes and unassisted steering, it gripped, handled and stopped superbly. It’d see off the 0-60mph dash in 4.4sec and hit 170mph. 

The first Type R appeared in 1992, with this second-generation NSX-R appearing in 2002. White was the signature colour. Your chances of finding one are low and the price will be high if you do.

5. Honda Prelude Type S (1999-2004)

The Type S version of the fifth-gen Prelude was all about the engine. We had already been seduced by the 197bhp 2.2-litre VTEC unit and trick four-wheel steering of our Preludes, but Japan kept this S version for itself. 

New pistons, cam lift and duration changes, a raised compression ratio, polished intake and exhaust ports and improved breathing upped power to 217bhp, and the torque curve was admirably flat. Performance was up, too, with a 0-62mph time of 6.6sec and a top speed of more than 150mph.

It didn’t have four-wheel steering, though, instead getting a clever Active Torque Transfer System that apportioned torque to quell understeer.

They’re rare, but £2k can secure one. Check condition carefully, though.

Read Autocar's review of the 2015 Honda Civic Type R

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Comments
4

15 June 2015
...but cars seem to get bigger and bigger. The Suzuki Cappucino was a brilliant little car that could be purchased easily and officially in the UK. I suppose the most recent open Kei car made available in the UK would be the Smart Roadster. Shame they don't build those anymore.

15 June 2015
Beastie_Boy wrote:

...but cars seem to get bigger and bigger. The Suzuki Cappucino was a brilliant little car that could be purchased easily and officially in the UK. I suppose the most recent open Kei car made available in the UK would be the Smart Roadster. Shame they don't build those anymore.

Bought a brand new Smart Roadster Brabus in 2006 and it was a decent little thing. Unfortunately 9 months later the missus decided that getting pregnant was far more fun so it had to go. Shame really as it was perfect for just the two of us. Didn't lose a penny on it which was good though and they still demand decent money now. Gearbox was a bit shite until you learn't to accommodate it but it was one of cars which you could bomb around in at full pelt knowing full well that you were still only doing 47 mph.

15 June 2015
you don't cut hair for a living do you gigglebug?

15 June 2015
winniethewoo wrote:

you don't cut hair for a living do you gigglebug?

Nope. Are you a comedienne?

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