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Future models - Honda - ZSX

Honda wishing for affordable sportscar

Back in the day: Honda offered a number of sportscars in the 1980s and 90s such as the Integra (left), CRX, Prelude and S2000.

Sub-NSX sportscar would be a welcome addition to line-up: Honda Australia

Honda logo23 Aug 2016

By TIM NICHOLSON

HONDA Australia has its hands up high for an affordable sportscar to fill a gap in its line-up and to try and recapture some of the magic of its 1980s and 90s high performance heyday.

The Japanese car-maker now has a performance car offering in its line-up with the 427kW/646Nm NSX petrol-electric hybrid supercar, but its $420,000 plus on-road costs pricetag places it well out of reach of most Australians.

Following the demise of the hybrid-powered CR-Z early last year, the NSX is Honda’s only sportscar offering, and the company says a more attainable driver-focused model would be a good fit in its local line-up.

As GoAuto has reported, Honda has trademarked the ZSX name in Europe as well as the MSX name in Australia, reigniting intense speculation that the company would re-enter the entry-level sportscar segment.

Honda Australia director Stephen Collins denied the existence of a smaller, more affordable sportscar in Honda’s product pipeline but said he would be keen on such a model if one surfaced.

“There is no model available at this point in time but what I would say is that for us it is clear there would be an opportunity,” he told journalists at a media event in Sydney this week.

“If that sort of model becomes available to us we would absolutely be putting our hand up for it. It’s obvious we would want that. Right now there is nothing. Whether there is in the foreseeable future, I would hope so.”

If such a model was given the green light, it could face off against the likes of Toyota’s 86, rekindling a rivalry that dates back to the 1980s when Toyota offered models such as the Celica, MR2 and Supra – which is rumoured to be returning as a joint development with BMW.

Mr Collins acknowledged that until recently Honda’s sporty reputation had taken a hit, but said there was global demand for a more affordable sportscar.

“It is the same in many other advanced countries with a similar position to us.

In the US, back in the 80s and 90s, there were Integras and Preludes and all these pretty cool coupes. I think sporty wise ... we lost our way a little bit.

Us (Australia) and other markets want more sporty cars and that’s what you are starting to see. Whether we can fill another gap with a $35,000 sportscar, who knows.”

While the addition of a sportscar would be welcomed, Mr Collins said more performance focused versions of existing passenger and SUV models would also invigorate the line-up.

“I think most advanced markets are communicating that we want to keep dialling up the sportiness. Whether they are sportscars – there is a distinction between sportscar and a sporty car. So I think the sportiness is what we and others are looking to dial up and I don’t think we are alone there, especially in advanced type markets.”

Mr Collins highlighted Honda Motor Company president and CEO Takahiro Hachigo’s commitment to ensure more freedom in the company’s research and development division in a bid to inject some more excitement into the Honda brand.

“I think at the end of day it’s the company’s will to go down the track of sporty cars. Our president Hachigo has said he wants to give more freedom to R&D.

“My memory of the 80s and 90s was Honda R&D had a lot of freedom and that’s when they came up with some pretty cool stuff. From the president down that’s being acknowledged. We are starting to see fruits of that and I think over the next few years you’ll see more … of that thinking.”

When asked whether there would be freedom to produce a rear-wheel drive platform for a possible future sportscar, or if it would need to be based on an existing platform, Mr Collins said it would have to make economic sense.

“I think its got to be based in reality but I’m not sure there is any mantra about front-wheel drive. It’s obviously got to be based in reality, its got to be based on a business case that works. All of those business realities that have to be ticked off.”

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