The "Ascot" name was chosen with reference to the Ascot Racecourse and Ascot tie, in order to add the model an alleged air of class and elegance.
The first Honda Ascot was borne out Honda's strategy to diversify its sales channels in Japan. In 1985, two separate dealer networks were established, under the names of "Honda Clio" and "Honda Primo", in addition to the already existing "Honda Verno" network. While the Primo stores handled kei cars, as well as base Honda Civics, the Clio stores focused on larger models, including the top-of-the-line Honda Legend. With the arrival of the fourth-generation Honda Accord (CB), its sales were assigned solely to Honda Clio.
That meant, however, that the Honda Primo network needed a new intermediate-size car. Honda adopted a rather simple solution (quite common in such cases in the JDM market) of creating a "sister car" to Accord, the Honda Ascot. Technically, the Ascot was identical to the Accord saloon, and so was most of the body, but some cosmetic differences provided for a different look, befitting the Ascot's upmarket role as the top-of-the-line model of Honda Primo. The Ascot had a six-light greenhouse compared to the regular Accord's four-light layout, and featured a different front end with a more formal grille, as well as a revised rear end with a unified light belt.
The Ascot was launched on September 13, 1989, and the television commercials initially featured the "Take the A-Train" jazz standard. Later on, Honda decided to change the marketing image of the car, employing Eric Clapton to do the commercials. In August 1991, a rehashed Ascot was presented, allegedly "refined to better suit the Japanese taste". In March 1992, Honda presented an all-new Honda Ascot Innova (see below), while the regular Ascot was replaced by an all-new model in 1993.
Launched on March 5, 1992, the Ascot Innova was also based on the CB Accord underpinnings, but was given an all-new, modern-looking and rounded body, with styling similar to the 1991 Honda Prelude coupe. The Innova was fitted with frameless side glazing to provide for the "pillared hardtop" look, thus being Honda's answer to cars like the Toyota Carina ED/Toyota Carina EXiV and Mitsubishi Emeraude.