The Honda Ascot (Japanese: ホンダ・アスコット, Honda Asukotto) is a compactsedan manufactured by Honda and marketed only in Japan from 1989 to 1997. The first generation produced two versions based on the Honda Accord CB series called the Ascot and from 1993 to 1996 a “pillared hardtop” called the Ascot Innova. The Innova shared much of its mechanicals with the European-market Accord manufactured at the Honda UK facility in Swindon, England, and was essentially the badge engineeredRover 600. The second generation was a platform improvement, shared with the Japan-only sedan called the Honda Rafaga. The “Ascot” name was chosen with reference to the Ascot Racecourse and Ascot tie, in order to add the model an alleged air of class and elegance. Honda Ascot was also used on a range of one-cylinder motorcycles in the first half of the 1980s.
The first Honda Ascot was borne out Honda’s strategy to diversify its sales channels in Japan. In 1985, two separate dealer networks were established, under the names of Honda Clio and Honda Primo, in addition to the already existing Honda Verno network. While the Primo stores handled kei cars, as well as the Honda Civic, the Clio stores focused on larger models, including the top-of-the-line Honda Legend. With the arrival of the fourth-generation Honda Accord (CB) its sales were assigned solely to Honda Clio.
That meant, however, that the Honda Primo network needed an Accord-based compact sedan for the dealership channel. Honda adopted a rather simple solution of creating a “sister car” to Accord, the Honda Ascot. Technically, the Ascot was identical to the Accord sedan, and the interior, including the dashboard, was shared with the Accord. The exterior sheetmetal was unique to the Ascot, with cosmetic differences provided for a different look, befitting the Ascot’s upmarket role as the top-of-the-line model of Honda Primo, which sold small, entry-level products. The headlight units were borrowed from the Honda Inspire, adding to its luxurious appearance, as well as installing LED high mounted brake light in the trunk rear spoiler.
It came in five trim levels; the FB and the FBX came with the 1.8 litre engine, with the 2.0Si, 2.0FBX-i as the mid-level package, with the top level 2.0FBT-i included four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, traction control, a viscous coupling differential, four-wheel steering, and four-wheel double wishbone suspension, with the 2.0 Liter PGM-FI fuel injection engine. Two different engine displacement choices were given so as to allow the Japanese driver which annual road tax obligation they were willing to pay. The fuel economy for the top level engine was rated at 10.4 km/L (29 mpg‑imp; 24 mpg‑US) according to figures quoted in sales materials. Here’s a Honda promotional video introducing the Ascot FBT-i.
The Ascot had a six-light greenhouse compared to the regular Accord’s four-light layout, and featured a different front end with a more formal grille, as well as a revised rear end with an Ascot specific rear tail light treatment, installing the rear license plate indented into the rear bumper. The styling approach was also duplicated on the smaller Honda Concerto, a platform shared with the Honda Civic of the same time period.
The Ascot was launched on September 13, 1989, and the television commercials initially featured the “Take the A-Train“jazz standardA-train commercial. Later on, Honda decided to change the marketing image of the car, employing Eric Clapton to do the commercials. In August 1991, a rehashed Ascot was presented, allegedly “refined to better suit the Japanese taste”. In March 1992, Honda presented an all-new Honda Ascot Innova (see below), while the regular Ascot was replaced by an all-new model in 1993.