Honda's Engineering Marvels: Top 10 Engines That Set the Bar
Aug 28, 2023
Which are the 10 most reliable but performance-driven engines made by Honda? Here’s our list.
When you ask someone which manufacturer makes the greatest engines in the world, the answer is usually repetitive and therefore (ironically) boring. Of course, it’s entirely subjective since the qualities of a ‘good’ engine will differ for everyone, but we want to use this article to showcase some of the very best engines made by one of the world’s most underrated companies: Honda.
Not only are its engines notoriously reliable, but they simply love to redline and scream like banshees as they leave drivers with huge smiles. What’s more impressive is the sheer variety of applications we’ve seen Honda deploy its engines across, from Formula 1 to lawnmowers and even construction equipment. But in this story, we want to stick to the engines that found their way into road cars and educate you on 10 of Honda’s greatest hits.
Note: Using sites like Ultimate Specs and Kelley Blue Book for engine reliability and vehicle data, we’ve compiled a list of Honda’s 10 greatest engines.
Starting the list off strong is one of Honda’s most famous engines from its fabled B-series: the B16A. It is one of the most rev-happy units Honda has ever produced, and duly found its way into the Honda Civic Si of the time and, more famously, the Honda Integra Type R. Using the adjusted valve timing and lift on offer with VTEC only made it more potent, and throw in a redline of around 8,000 rpm. So you can see just why the B16A is such a laugh.
Continuing with the B-series engines is Honda’s B18C block. Not only does it continue the theme of being extremely happy at redlines and surprisingly reliable for the amount of punishment they take, but the B18C is known for the number of aftermarket additions that can be bolted onto it to make it even more powerful. It is one of the defining engines of the Honda Civic Type R lineage, and is associated with both performance and longevity.
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A naturally-aspirated, water-cooled, 9,200 rpm redline block that was produced for a span of nearly nine years during Honda’s golden age for engine creation. One of the cars it was associated with is Honda’s underrated Prelude – a super quirky but undeniably handsome sports car that sadly didn’t quite catch the market by storm the way Honda hoped it would. But examples of the car still do exist, and anyone interested in buying one will be able to enjoy its wonderful inline-4, which puts out around 200 hp in this guise.
Alas, we arrive at the engine which powers one of the very best two-seat sports cars ever made: the Honda S2000. It is often said to be one of the most reliable performance cars money can buy, and when combined with the fact that the S2000 is also one of the most engaging for ‘true’ enthusiasts (and not those that pretend to know about cars and driving), you begin to see why the F22C1 is such a fantastic engine. The S2000 itself is only appreciating in price, and a big reason for that is because the F22C1 can be found solely in this car, making it a win-win purchase. What are you waiting for?
While the F20C was also created as a secondary engine for the S2000 lineup, it made its way into a couple of strange creations found outside of Honda. The first is a Spanish open-wheel prototype called the IFR Aspid, and the second is the Skelta G-Force – both of which were introduced in 2009. Ultimately, neither of these made serious waves in the world, and so the F20C is better remembered for its role in the legendary roadster that is the Honda S2000.
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The H22A was one of the most utile engines ever made by Honda, lasting a span of nine years and predominantly featuring in the Honda Prelude and Accord models during the ‘90s and early 2000s. The height of its fame came with the sporty Prelude model, but it was more widely used in the brand’s attempt at a challenger to the Subaru Impreza WRX Wagon with the Honda Accord Wagon. A highlight of the engine was the fact that it used electronic fuel injection for more precise delivery and an increase in efficiency – two important factors for any vehicle built to last for years.
Also known for powering the incredibly tough Honda Ridgeline, the J35A block is one engine that loves to be worked, and where many big 3.5-liter engines tend to bog down or loathe the sight of a steep hill or murky waters, it continues to push the Ridgeline through the challenge. It has also previously been used in cars like the Odyssey, with Honda opting to utilize the J35A in some of its largest models. Surprisingly, the torque figure isn’t quite as high as you’d expect it to be, but unsurprisingly, it hardly makes a difference. Simply put, the J35A is an engine that wants to get the job done – surely that alone makes it deserving of a place on this list?
The chances are, you’ve at least heard of the Honda K20 engine. That isn't a shock, because this tiny four-cylinder engine has some impressive feats to its name. Not only did it power the 2002-2006 Acura RSX – a car we believe is one of the most underrated to come from the brand – but it also found its way into various Civic and Accord models. Its variety of applications is what makes the K20 such a stalwart among Honda’s most famous engines, and despite its age, is still considered one of the very best to come from the Tokyo-based manufacturer.
Used to power the current and previous generations of the Honda Civic Type R, in addition to the impending 2024 Acura Integra Type S, the K20C1 is one of Honda’s modern greats. Not only has it been the driving force behind several lap records with the Civic, but the K20C1 is also showing plenty of promise in taking the current crop of Honda’s sportiest front-wheel-drive cars into a new era. When we say we’ll miss the internal combustion engine, the K20C1 is a prime example of why.
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While we won’t be seeing the K23A1 engine in the 2023 Acura RDX, it was used to power one of the earlier iterations and is pretty well respected for turning a relatively bland car into something more exciting. It isn’t entirely unproblematic, but for the most part, the K23A1 is a fine engine to round off our list of the 10 greatest Honda engines with. A stern block that has all the attributes of a leader: dependable, powerful, and willing to do the miles.
Shafiq is a petrolhead to his core, and has had a lifelong obsession with anything that came from Japan in the 90s. When he isn't driving, talking or writing about cars, he enjoys watching football and taking his German Shepherd on countryside adventures.His motoring journalism career so far has seen him write for publications like CarThrottle, DriveTribe, Electrifying and The Intercooler. Shafiq is also a double graduate, holding a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in automotive journalism.Honda