Classic Cars Wiki
Classic Cars Wiki

Honda Z is the name of a two-door hatchback microcar automobile made by the Honda Motor Company, first from 1970 until 1974 and again between 1998 and 2003.

The vehicle was called the "Z" followed by the size of the engine, and was included in the name and identity of the vehicle.

First generation[]

The two-door Honda Z was a kei car/city car designed and built by Honda sold from 1970 to 1974. US sales (only with the larger 600 cc engine) ended in 1972, well before the 1973 introduction of the Civic. Marketed as the "sport coupé" version of the N600 "sedan", the two models were sold side by side at American motorcycle dealerships until the first stand-alone dealers opened with the Civic on their lots. Total production was 40,586 units. The car was first introduced in October 1970.

The export name of this car, the Z600, simply reflected the engine's size of 598 cc (36 cu in). The smaller-engined Honda Z360 was available in Japan (and other markets, such as Australia) with a 354 cc (22 cu in) twin. The "Z" designation was resurrected in 1998 and was discontinued again in 2003.

As with all cars in the Kei class, the Z360's specifications were tightly governed. The Z360 originally featured an air-cooled, 354 cc, 2-cylinder SOHC engine with a 4- or 5-speed transmission driving the front wheels. Outputs were 31 PS (23 kW; 31 hp) at 8,500 rpm for the Act and Pro versions, and 36 PS (26 kW; 36 hp) at an astronomical 9,000 rpm for the sportier TS and GS models. The Z600 model's 598 cc SOHC engine was rated at 36 PS (26 kW; 36 hp). In December 1971, the Z360 received a facelift and a water-cooled engine, it too producing 36 PS (26 kW; 36 hp) at 9,000 rpm. Only a month later, the 31 PS engine used in the lower spec variants (Standard, Deluxe, Automatic, Custom) also became water-cooled. The engine's technical achievements reflected influence from Honda's larger 1.3 L air-cooled four cylinder used in the Honda 1300 coupe and sedan.

One car magazine recording 136 mpg-imp (2.08 L/100 km; 113 mpg-US) when they didn't exceed 30 mph (48 km/h), which came at almost the perfect time with a gasoline shortage looming.

Despite its small size and low-powered engine, the Z had no problem maintaining freeway speeds and serving its purpose as a commuter. The only frequent complaint about the car was that it had a very harsh ride, which was largely due to its short wheelbase. The interior fit two adults comfortably, though the back seat was not nearly so accommodating.

Front suspension was coil sprung and independent; the rear has leaf springs on a beam axle. The primitive rear suspension contributed to the relatively poor handling of the vehicles. In the UK the Z600 was only available in orange with a black stripe up the side.The car featured an opening rear glass hatch surrounded by a thick black plastic surround, leading to nicknames such as "TV-set" and "swimming goggles". The hatch revealed a small, shallow cargo area. Below the cargo area was a locker that was accessed via a hatch hidden behind the number plate. This locker contained the spare wheel and tools. Later versions, after a November 1972 facelift, dispensed with this extra gate and were also of a pillarless design. These also received the new EA engine of 356 cc (22 cu in), now only available in a more powerful, 36 PS (26 kW; 36 hp) version.

Second generation

A Honda Z prominently featured in the Australian film Malcolm as a get-away car that split into two. Launched on October 9, 1998 the PA1 Honda Z was manufactured for Honda by Yachiyo Industry Co, a Honda subsidiary manufacturing light trucks. The basic structure of the Z, including its midship-mounted engine placement and 4WD drivetrain was shared with its Honda Acty sibling. Unlike the Acty though, it was a four-seater passenger car which also meant that it had to pass passenger car safety standards. The 656 cc E07Z three-cylinder engine was available in a naturally aspirated as well as in a turbocharged variant.The Honda Z was a retro-styled subcompact (656 cc) SUV by Honda Motor Company, introduced in 1998 at Honda Primo Japanese dealerships, and discontinued in autumn 2002. It was a two-door version of the Honda Life with the engine installed in the center of the vehicle.

The Z was only ever available with a four-speed automatic transmission, the same that was used on the EF Honda Civics. The centrally mounted engine was placed in an upright position underneath the rear seat, a layout called "UM-4" (stands for Under Midship 4WD) by Honda. Engine oil changes and minor maintenance work is done through an interior door. As with other mid-engined, four-wheel-drive vehicles, such as the Lamborghini Diablo VT, a viscous center differential was used. Some noteworthy and unusual design features of the Z included the comparatively large-diameter tires, chunky "grip-style" door handles, and the adoption of perspex double-cover headlights.While the Honda Capa was the first car in the "J-Mover" series, the third generation Life and new Honda Z made up the "K-Mover" series. Famous rock group ZZ Top made the introductory commercial, including a song and video ("ZZ Top on the Z"). Since the car's name has always been pronounced "zed" (ゼット) by Honda, in the British fashion, the Americans in ZZ Top had to follow suit.

In June 2000 a special "Super Emotion" package appeared, with body-colored bumpers, CD player with speakers and tinted glass for a small extra cost. This proved so popular that body colored bumpers were soon made standard on turbo models. In August 2002, with stricter exhaust emission about to take effect, Honda ended production of the Z. This was to be Honda's first and last SUV Kei-car. Honda also sold a side mounted step and wheel-arch protector, but these were only for after-market fitment as they made the car too wide for kei regulations and were not crash tested. The naturally aspirated version had 52 PS (38 kW) at 7,000 rpm, while the turbocharged and intercooled version pushed out 64 PS (47 kW) at 6,000 rpm. The engine had four valves per cylinder, Honda's PGM-FI fuel injection system, and were classified asLEVs.