Our family bought a late 1998 Honda Accord with full leather interior and all for my father, as he spends an hour each way driving to and from work every day (Wollongong to Sydney). The VTEC engines were highly rated by everyone and the car was comfortable - all was good.
However, the car has now started going thru crazy amounts of oil, which prompted us to take the car to Honda, to be told the engine is basically shagged and needs 4 grand worth of work. The car has never lived a hard life, I'd say about 70% of its kms were clocked on the highway. The body is fine, the interior is fine, everything but the engine. My impression was that the engines were the swansong of Honda's range - but if owners of 5 year old cars will be required to spend such money on them, I'd be looking elsewhere. Of course, this could be a one off (although another Honda owner is currently having similar problems with her car), but its disappointing to spend so much money on a car to have it die with an easy life.
The possible replacements were Honda Accord Euro (with the veiw of getting rid of it at 5 years again when it dies), Mazda 3 or 6, Toyota Camry, Holden Commodore, Mitsubishi Magna, and Falcon XR6, all in manual.
The Mazda's were eliminated after styling/size issues and performance on the highway - though nothing wrong with the car for a different application.
The Toyota was dropped for small things such as handbrake on the left hand side of the centre console (felt like you are reaching into the passengers lap to use it) and excessive distance between brake and accelerator pedal (just does not feel natural) although the car was quiet and had better gearbox feel than the Falcon.
The Honda Accord Euro was a possibility but the seats were too firm and unsupportive, and once bitten twice shy. Also they offered us nothing for our trade in.
I didn't even need to say anything to eliminate the Holden, my father sat in the drivers seat, and hopped back out, said he would never buy the car as the interior felt cheap and tacky, especially the painted centre console. The paint on the demonstrator was also of terrible quality, so the car never even got started. Also, a friend bought a VY wagon and the drivers door refuses to close and Holden said they aren't sure why and are waiting to see what their head office will let them do (no kidding). So no need for me to say anything there to stop the General entering my world.
The Magna never really got a look in for the same reason as the Holden, the styling was a turn off, the car had a very cheap plastic feel, didn't get started or driven either. Didn't want a car that felt like it did, no matter how well it drove.
So the Falcon XR6 won the competition for comfort, ergonomics (easy to use cruise controls and easy to use dash), torque, and the trade in. It let itself down with the manual gearbox (but neither my father nor myself liked the auto either, even in semi auto mode) a little, just a bit clunkier than the Toyota or Honda gearbox, and in road noise, but only slightly, and most likely due to its wider rubber.
So for the first time all four cars in the driveway are Fords. Our only hope is that the car runs reliably for the 5 years we plan to keep it. All our four cylinder Fords have never let us down, so hopefully this one will be the same. Or else!
So, I am not sure if this is just a couple of VTEC owners with bad luck, or if it is common place, but Honda has lost our support. I hope Ford take up the gauntlet rather than passing it on to someone else...