Production of the Honda CR-X occurred between 1983 and 1991. It was a front-wheel drive, compact sports car that initially took its inspiration from the bullish, American sports cars of the era. Features like the sharply dipping roofline and long engine bay all drew inspiration from the muscle cars made popular in Hollywood cinema.
The Honda Civic CRX, as it first became known outside of Japan, received an update in 1988, when the chassis was redesigned, and matching coloured bumpers were added. The Si models were fitted with an electric sunroof. The main changes to the vehicle at this point were more mechanical. It was around this time too that the manufacturers dropped the Civic, and it was badged as the Honda CRX.
Dramatic design changes occurred in the last, third-generation cars, commonly known as the CRX del Sol, creating a totally different athletic body shape. The Del Sol was fitted with removable targa tops, and the rear panel was made from smoked glass to increase rear visibility, along with an opening rear window. Though it was not a conventional convertible, with the targa top, you could still get that wind-in-your-hair feeling, especially due to the electric rear window.
The CRX is a comfortable car for two people to sit in with deep, bucket seats and enough legroom; it is realistically not designed for more. For its class, there is surprisingly decent boot space, but this is seriously reduced when storing the roof in the third-generation models.
The early CRXs sold in Australia were powered by a 1.6L DOHC, capable of putting down 135kW of energy. The second generation was fitted with the 1.6L VTEC engine, producing a more economic ride without losing anything in performance, with the top-range engines running at 150kW.
On the road, the CRX is a little terrier; fast and agile, it handles fabulously and especially relishes cornering. It's well balanced with a touch of understeer, typical of front-wheel drive cars. The DX ranges came with the option of an automatic gearbox, whilst most other versions were equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission.
You can expect to get between 9L/100km and 11L/100km, although this drops a little when cruising on the open highway, but for a sports car of this classification, this represents a fuel economic car. On performance levels, the 1.6L VTEC engine accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 9.3 seconds and tops out at 190km/h.
Options on cars of this era were not extensive but included powered steering and electric windows, driver's airbag, half leather seats, and alloy wheels. The idea of safety in the cars from this time was a reinforced roll bar, although later models do have airbags for the driver as standard. The options packages on the CRX siR were inclusions like ABS, air-con, CRX mats and mud flaps, glass roof or sunroof, folding electric mirrors, full leather interior, and a central armrest.
The third-generation CRX came with the usual Honda standard equipment but by now included ABS, four-wheel disc brakes, sway bars, electric rear windows, rear spoiler, limited slip differential, and a manual hardtop convertible, which could be unclipped and stored in the boot. The luxury Si model came with 14-inch alloy wheels, and on the Samba green versions, the wheels could be made to match the body colour.
Honda's sporty and durable CRX ably takes on models like the Mazda MX5, Toyota MR2, and Nissan NX Coupe. In most instances, and especially with the later Honda CRX Del Sol, the CRX comes out on top. On size, style, reliability, and performance, the CRX is more than a match for the sports cars of the 1980s and early 1990s.
The passing of the Honda CRX's production is still mourned by motor enthusiasts the world over. Its rugged performance and stylish looks made it an iconic car of its time and one much missed by lovers of sports cars. When driven conservatively, it's economical on fuel, and if buying used, it's worth giving it an all-over check to make sure there is no racer damage. Well-maintained, loved machines will hold their value, and the technology was advanced enough in the day that they still give a good ride now. There is talk of the new Honda CRZ being launched as a replacement for the CRX, but only time will tell if that proves true.