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2000 Honda Prelude SH

In first, third and fifth gear, the button to switch off the radio in the Honda Prelude SH is a finger stretch away from the gear lever.

  • Scenic cityscape of downtown Toronto Ontario Canada during a sunny day

In first, third and fifth gear, the button to switch off the radio in the Honda Prelude SH is a finger stretch away from the gear lever.

This means nothing at least, not until The Moment.

Hot Honda drivers know The Moment:

One minute, you’re cruising along, tapping fingers on smooth plastic column stalks in time with some music. The next, the car in front has moved aside, the road has cleared, and hark there’s a curve ahead.

Then this happens: left fingers tighten grip ’round the wheel, and left foot dips clutch in, as right vigorously blips throttle; right hand slots stick seamlessly forward through well defined gates as here’s the Prelude’s genius extended index finger punches off the music.

Just in time, because no stereophonic moment can match the three dimensional tone of a Honda VTEC spinning furiously to read line, where (past the 6 on the tach) it’s as if the entire car, not just the ball of fire 200 hp 2.2 L four, is a buzz and screaming.

The zinging focuses you, transports you to fantasy land of screaming race cars brap brap braaaping themselves down the gears as they pile into a corner.

The race car impression that Prelude plays noise, wheel tingle, and lowslung view down the road punctuated by two uprising wheel flares on either side of the hood doesn’t fade, either, when said corner (quickly) looms.

The brakes respond to a mere brush of the communicative pedal, the blocky but lithe body rolls only by millimetric measures, and the steering is as feel some as any front-driver’s save, perhaps, for Acura’s even crazier Integra Type R.

Better yet is the SH’s Active Torque Transfer System, an intelligent computer and a handful of gears that transfer engine power to the outside wheel in a curve.

This means the SH will scoot toward the apex on power instead of washing wide on exit no understeer.

Once you’re used to it, this system adds an almost rear drive dimension to the Prelude’s handling, well worth the extra cost over the otherwise similar base model.

There is a price to pay inside for all this performance purity.

Great stereo notwithstanding, the Prelude’s cockpit is a fairly plain, and tight place to be.

Build quality is typically excellent but, save for the stylishly rakish instrument graphics, could just as well be mounted in a Civic.

If only it were, as a Civic offers far more room front and back; even at 5’4″, I found Prelude’s interior a tight fit (though that tightness is undoubtedly conducive to the magical stereo switch placement).

My right leg kept bumping against the centre console and my head brushed the plastic headliner even with the seat cushion cranked all the way down.

What this car needs is that on/off/volume knob again a more progressive audio volume control and, more importantly, a six-speed manual transmission.

More gears would help not only the already sprightly around town performance, but would allow drivers access to Prelude’s dynamic envelope, and that highrev VTEC song, more of the time reaching redline in second gear already menas you’re exceeding every speed limit in the land.

But, really, that’s about it.

Equipment levels are Honda generous, with power everything, a sunroof, leather trim, and heated mirrors and seats standard.

Despite the cornering potential, the around town ride is fine, and the Bridgestone Potenza RE92 tires grip well in bad weather.

Under 6,000 rpm, the engine is as silent and docile as you

could want.

This Prelude cramped cabin aside satisfies both the driving enthusiast and the everyday commuter alike.

So long as you’re buying a small sportster to drive and not pose, the Prelude represents stunning value.

Prices/residuals *Base: $27,900/58

SH: $31,900/58 Freight: $850

Air tax: $100

*Residual percentage for a 36-month lease, as supplied by the current ALG Canadian Percentage Guide.

Freelance journalist Laurance Yap prepared this report based on driving expereiences with a vehicle provided by the automaker. Email: automotive @ bigfoot.com

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