If you thought the Honda Motocompo moped was the best accessory of the Honda City, you’re very wrong! The best accessory for the Honda City R is, by far, the Manhattan HiFi! If you’re wondering what the heck that is, it looks like this in the brochure:

Honda City Manhattan Sound accessory
Honda City Manhattan Sound accessory

Yesterday we featured a Family Album Treasure lightly touching upon the Honda City, but today we have a deep dive into the Honda City!

What is the Manhattan Hifi?

As the name implies, the Manhattan HiFi is a Honda City boombox! Literally! It wasn’t an accessory you could order, but rather more a whole car! Basically, you could order the Honda City R with this big boombox mounted to the ceiling in the rear making your Honda City a boombox!

Honda City R brochure

The Honda City R is the Honda City with a raised roofline. The boombox attaches to the roof of the Honda City, so that raised roofline was necessary to keep that boombox out of the rearview mirror! When you open the hatch, it will fold down and create a wall of sound from the back of your car!

Wacky TV Ad

You can see much better how this works in the 1984 Japanese TV ad for the Manhattan HiFi:

That ad is so 1984! The three ladies singing in the hair salon look like a cheap discounted version of Bananarama. Similar to getting Madness to create a song for the Honda City, Honda also contracted Bananarama to create a song for a Honda scooter in 1983.

If Honda was already in contact with Bananarama, why didn’t they just hire them for the Honda City Manhattan Hifi Sound as well? Perhaps they tried and Bananarama declined, which then caused Honda to create this cheap discounted version of Bananarama. Who knows?


Honda City R Manhattan HiFi brochure page
Honda City R Manhattan HiFi brochure page

The Manhattan HiFi was available starting in November 1982. I was able to find two brochure pages about the Manhattan HiFi in an auction. From the brochure page above we learn that the door and roof-mounted speakers are rated 20 Watts.

Honda City R Manhattan HiFi brochure page 2
Honda City R Manhattan HiFi brochure page 2

Operation of the boombox

The page above describes how you can use and operate it. The boombox folds down when you open the tail gate. You need to lock it in place as otherwise it would dangle and this would be bad for sound quality. The radio is rated for two times 20 Watts as well. The large cone speakers in the doors and boombox are 16 centimeters in diameter, which is quite large for car speakers!

It also shows a FM transmitter that can be used to either mix in vocals or voice and output this via the boombox. Honda describes it as very useful at parties and sports games. You can connect up to two FM transmitters to the Honda City Manhattan HiFi. That means you could even turn your Honda City Manhattan HiFi into a mobile karaoke machine! You can also use the two FM transmitters as walkie-talkies.

The brochure claims the Manhattan HiFi Sound is the highest sound with 1,570 meters. The Honda City is 1,460 meter high. The R’s raised roof adds an additional 110 mm, so the total height is 1,570 meters. I guess they took that as a reference point.

My take on it

The Honda City R with a raised roofline looks a bit goofy
The Honda City R with a raised roofline looks a bit goofy

I like the puns that Honda took here. First of all, there is the City and Manhattan pun. Then there is the HiFi and Manhattan skyscraper pun. The Honda City had a nickname the Tall Boy, so the tall skyscrapers are also a pun. And finally, the boombox culture started in Brooklyn, New York. I guess Manhattan and Brooklyn are one and the same for a marketing director from Japan back in 1984.

Let’s suppose it was 1984, would you buy the Honda City R Manhattan Hifi?