BY ANDY ENRIGHT
In terms of longevity the Honda Logo, on sale in the UK for a mere nine months, is motoring's equivalent of a crane fly. Here one minute and gone the next, the Logo nonetheless makes an interestingly offbeat used buy. Imbued with some traditional Honda qualities, the Logo is better than you'd give it credit for. Admittedly few gave it credit for much, but a test drive could change your mind.
Models Covered: (3dr hatch 1.3 petrol [base, SE])
Launched in April 2000, the Logo was an unashamed stop-gap model designed to fill a hole in the Honda range due to be filled by a Swindon-built supermini scheduled to appear in 2002. After dipping its toe in the water with the rather horrible Jazz model, Honda became increasingly aware that as the Civic got ever larger, eventually maturing into a Ford Focus rival, a gap was appearing beneath it. This supermini class of car, upon which Honda had traditionally built its reputation, was growing fast, sales being poached by the Ford Fiesta, Fiat Punto, Vauxhall Corsa and Peugeot 206 amongst others. Wanting a piece of this not inconsequential action, Honda decided to import a quantity of cars based on their 'Europeanised' JB-X platform. Which, in motor manufacturer speak, means Honda were chancing their arm with some slightly modified versions of a car that was on its last legs in Japan. As such, the Logo suffered a bit when confronted with the sate of Europe's supermini art. Available in base or mildly sporting SE guise, both models were powered by a typically effervescent 66bhp 1.3-litre engine, usually prodded into zinging life by a five-speed gearbox. A four-speed CVT option was also offered, but found few friends in the UK due in no small part to it being an unerringly woeful piece of equipment. Playing the value card, the Logo was upstaged for quality by most rivals, but nonetheless managed to pack in a genuinely impressive level of standard equipment for its modest asking price. Unsurprisingly, the Logo didn't undergo any radical alterations until January 2001 when the UK's allowance of Logos dried up and it quietly slipped from the price lists, unseen, unmissed and possibly underrated.
What You Get
Honda calls the Logo 'stylish and distinctive' and in some eyes that may be so. 'Inoffensive' would however, be a better description. This car could not visually offend anyone if it tried. After the failure of the Jazz to appeal to Western tastes perhaps Honda's overriding design brief was not to make the same mistake twice. From the side, it looks a little like an early SEAT Arosa citycar (though it's 200mm longer and 80mm taller), while the tail styling appears to have been borrowed from Honda's large Shuttle People Carrier. In size terms, the Logo competes, as we've said, in the established Fiesta/Corsa/Clio/Polo supermini class, but its 1.3-litre engine and equipment specification targets the higher-specification citycars. Which means it tried to steal sales from the Arosa, VW Lupo and Ford Ka as well as superminis like the Citroen Saxo, Ford Fiesta and Toyota Yaris. The UK importers chose to market two Logo models, base and SE models, with lots of equipment and the choice of bright colours including a stunning yellow. Honda claimed the Logo 'establishes a new level of standard equipment for the class'. Certainly the list is certainly impressive and the Logo was the only sub-£10,000 car in the class to provide anti-lock brakes, twin airbags and air conditioning as standard. Power steering and electric front windows were also included. Under the bonnet is a 1343cc single overhead camshaft engine that develops 65PS and 108Nm of torque to take the Logo from rest to sixty in around 14 seconds on the way to a top speed of 95mph. Recognising that some buyers in this class prefer an automatic gearbox, Honda offered its own continuously variable transmission (CVT) as an alternative to the standard five-speed gearbox for an extra £900, although this didn't find favour with conservative UK buyers. The Logo engine doesn't have the VTEC variable valve timing technology you find in the upper reaches of the Civic and Accord ranges. Instead, it's been tuned to give a wide spread of pulling power at town speeds with maximum fuel economy and achieves around 45mpg in the official EC combined cycle. Honda claims that the Logo's relatively high roofline provides class-leading headroom for five occupants and the 50/50 split folding rear seat allows various passenger and load-carrying combinations. The luggage area offers everyday practicality and an almost flat floor. Total capacity is reasonable - almost 230 litres with the rear seat backs raised. That's enough for a shopping carrier, a mineral water case and a soft drink crate simultaneously. A folded baby buggy will also fit across the width of the luggage area. Nor is there the kind of annoying 'lip' you find in some small cars over which heavy items must be lugged. Rear seat passengers have been carefully considered as well. Reaching or getting out of the rear seats can be a frustrating business in a three-door car but the Logo's large door openings ease the process, while the front passenger seat has the convenience of a 'walk-in' device.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
Honda's traditional reputation for excellent reliability is just as valid with a Logo as with any other model in the range. Do inspect the car for parking dents and damage to wheels, tyres and the loading bay wreaked by the Logo's native environment, the shopping run. Ensure that the air conditioning is still capable of generating any icy blast of cool air and that all of the interior trim is shipshape. Otherwise, the uncomplicated little Honda is a pretty robust character.
(approx prices based on 2000 Logo SE) You probably wouldn't expect to pay the same £280 for your starter motor as the guy with the flashy Honda S2000 sports model. But you do. Likewise, a new alternator will punch a £305 sized hole in your current account. Other parts are remarkably good value for money. A clutch kit is less than £120, whilst an exhaust including catalyst comes to around £195. Front brake pads are around £50 a set, whilst rear shoes are £77. A headlamp is similarly a mere £77.
On the Road
As long as you don't expect the Logo to drive like a Ford Fiesta then you won't be lining yourself up for disappointment, because as is the case elsewhere, you only get what you pay for. With the Logo you're paying for a willing, if slightly outdated supermini with plenty of standard equipment to boost showroom appeal. Honda hoped to have your name hovering over the dotted line before you'd even think to ask for a test drive. For those that are prepared to put in a spell behind the wheel, the Logo will remind them of a playful puppy, all fizz, bump and hustle. No, it's not particularly sophisticated, but it actually makes you pine for the days when all superminis were built this way. The suspension has been made more compliant for demanding European road surfaces, and the final drive gearing was reduced to give better acceleration in the lower gears. The inexpensive rigid torsion beam rear suspension is neither the first nor last word in ride comfort, but standard power steering, twin airbags, ABS and electronic brakeforce distribution make the Honda an easy going and safe city conveyance. The manual car is infinitely preferable to the CVT which, whilst promising on paper, is a major disappointment on the road. A manual Logo will accelerate to 60mph in 14.2 seconds on the way to a top speed of a modest 94mph. A combined fuel economy figure of 44.8mpg will satisfy all but the most gimlet-eyed economists, as will the meagre 151g/km C02 emissions figure.
As long as you don't expect the last word in driver dynamics or syrupy refinement, the Honda Logo has a fair amount to commend it. Indeed, if the amount of equipment and safety features you receive is an overriding concern, your local Honda dealer may have a dotted line for you to autograph. A used Honda Logo is a slightly oddball choice, but one which is not beyond the bounds of reason. For those with a keen eye for a bargain a nearly new Logo could well be the answer to a question they hadn't known how to ask.