Review and road test of the Honda Concerto (1991 - 1995)
A CONCERTOED EFFORT.
BY ANDY ENRIGHT
Reputations are strange things, especially in the used car arena. Some cars we remember as class leaders only to return to them to find they've dated horribly. Other models seemed run of the mill at the time, but 20/20 hindsight allows us to view them in their rightful context. The Honda Concerto is such a car, a model with 'underwhelming' stamped all over it at the time of its launch in the early nineties. A used model makes a great deal of sense, as you're buying Honda reliability without one iota of badge equity. As a bargain five-seater runabout, the Concerto takes some beating.
1.4, 1.5, 1.6 Hatchback [I,EX, SE]
Although you may not realise it, Honda's Concerto was something of a landmark car. Following on from Honda's collaboration with Triumph over the Ballade/Acclaim, the Concerto/Rover 200 cemented the relationship still further and prompted Honda to develop their UK operations still further. Manufactured at Longbridge, Birmingham, the Concerto and the Rover 200 were largely similar but for bonnets and grille pressings, but the Honda's more niche appeal and lack of historical baggage has probably made it a cannier used buy.
Upon launch in 1991, the range consisted of a 1.4 GL version, a 1.6-litre 105bhp EX, and the range-topping 1.6-litre 16-valve SX which developed a healthy 129bhp. In January 1992, the 1.4-litre version was phased out, replaced by an 89bhp 1.5i model, and in November of that year the Blaise limited edition model was introduced. 1993 saw the deletion of the SX version, replaced by either the 1.6-16 or the 1.6-16SE. The Concerto range was eventually replaced by the upmarket march of the Civic.
What You Get
From the 1.6i model upwards, there's an extremely long list of equipment supplied as standard. This includes an electric glass slide and tilt sunroof, electric front and rear windows, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, central door locking, a driver's seat lumber adjuster and a four-speaker stereo cassette.
In addition, all models except the baseline 1.5i have remote control central locking, improved anti-lock brakes, higher quality wood veneer on the dashboard and a colour-keyed rear spoiler & side protectors. Should you opt for the faster and sportier 1.6i-16 variant, you also get alloy wheels and a leather-bound steering wheel as well as Honda's sweet sixteen-valve engine.
And if you want more gadgets, then consider the top-of-the-line 5-door 'SE' flagship variant which comes complete with all that plus a genuine leather interior and air conditioning as standard. The interiors were one area where Rover scored over their Honda partners, the Concerto never feeling quite as special to sit in as a Rover 200. Space certainly isn't a problem, even in the back, as the Concerto was comfortably larger inside than rivals such as the Peugeot 309.
What to Look For
Avoid the 1.4 and 1.5-litre cars if at all possible. The 16-valve engine is the one to go for and has proved almost faultlessly reliable. You may find that on older models, the seats tend to sag if the car has had heavy use. The brakes can suffer from judder and vibration and the electric windows had a history of occasional failure.
(approx based on a 1993 Concerto 1.5 - ex Vat) A clutch assembly is around £135 and an exhaust system about £280. Allow a budget for around £45 for front and rear brake pads.
A radiator is about £165, an alternator about £330 and a starter motor around £245. A front headlamp costs from around £107.
On the Road
Opt for a Concerto 1.6-16 valve model and you'll have a car that can give some hot hatches a good going over. Beneath those unassuming lines is a car that will accelerate to 60mph in just 8.8 seconds en route to 122 mph. That's better sprinting power than a VW Golf GTI 2.0, an Audi A3 1.8 Sport or an Alfa Romeo 147 2.0 Selespeed. Ouch. Don't expect it to handle as well as these cars however, as the suspension is set up for comfort. Turn the wick up and the Concerto gets a bit floaty over high-speed undulations, but the handling is generally sharper than you'd at first give it credit for. The power assisted steering is well weighted although refinement isn't the best.
If you don't particularly care about a car's image and just want a good value, cheap and competent mode of transport, here's a surprisingly well-rounded contender.
Honda Concerto (1991 - 1995) review by ANDY ENRIGHT