Honda CRX (1983)

During 1980s there were two affordable small coupes caught our hearts. One of them was Toyota MR2, another was Honda CRX. Both were cheap, fast and great fun to drive. However, in terms of mechanical design they couldn't be more different – The MR2 was a mid-engined 2-seater sports car, while the CRX was a front-engined, front-wheel drive 2+2 coupe. The drivetrain configuration of CRX was dictated by the fact that it was derived from the contemporary Civic platform (in fact, it was initially marketed as the coupe version of Civic family). In order to improve agility, it had the Civic's wheelbase shortened by 180 mm to only 2200 mm. This also reduced its weight to a little over 800 kilograms. The fastback bodyshell was designed in angular form. Frankly speaking, it looked quite outdated even by the standard of 1983. Just turn to the 1976 Alfa Romeo Sprint and you'll see Honda had yet to match European styling.

Most mechanicals of the CRX came directly from Civic. This included the 100 hp 1.5-liter 12-valve engine and 5-speed gearbox. As the car was relatively lightweight, it achieved pretty good performance - Autocar found it took 8.5 seconds to sprint from rest to 60 mph, although the less powerful American version could take as long as 10 seconds to do that, blame to stricter emission control. However, what really took the CRX to the "Pocket Rocket" status was the later 1.6-liter DOHC 16-valve engine. It was among the industry's first mass production 16V engines. 125 horsepower, 0-60 in 8.0 seconds and a 125 mph top speed must be a nightmare to many European coupes. Even a Porsche 944 costing 2.5 times its price could not go much quicker !

The first generation CRX could not match its arch-rival MR2, however. By comparison, the Toyota mid-engined sports car not only looked more exotic but also better built and handled better. Anyway, CRX Mk1 was short-lived. When the whole Civic range was renewed in 1987, it also entered the second generation. Now the new bodyshell was much more aerodynamic efficient, stylish and high quality. The new interior was modern and spacious for two, thanks to a 100 mm longer wheelbase. Don't confuse, it was still a very compact car, so the rear bench seat had better to be used as luggage space. In the chassis side, the new Civic brought all-round double-wishbones to improve handling.

The previous 1.6-liter 16V engine became standard on the CRX Mk2. It got a boost of 5 horsepower to compensate for the 20 kg increase of kerb weight, so performance remained unchanged. Top of the range was powered by Honda's new B16A 1.6-liter DOHC VTEC engine. This was the second application of the soon-to-be-famous VTEC variable valve timing and lift technology (the first one was Integra), and the first time overseas customers had a taste of it (because the VTEC Integra was not exported). Rev it to 7600 rpm, the VTEC engine produced 150 horsepower, enabling 130 mph and 0-60 in 7.5 seconds.

The Mk2 CRX was praised for superb engine, strong performance, slick gearbox and agile handling. For a front-drive coupe so light and so powerful, its handling was fairly easy, thanks to the plenty of traction from its front tires. However, if you push it too fast and lift off the throttle abruptly mid-corner, it could get into oversteer suddenly. Another weakness was a choppy ride due to the short wheelbase. Driving purists could also demand a lighter and more communicative steering. For these reasons, CRX still failed to match MR2 for overall driving satisfaction. Anyway, for a Civic spin-off, I suppose it had exceeded the expectation of most people. Few car makers had succeeded to build a "Pocket Rocket" so good. Even Honda itself failed to repeat the same magic in the third generation CRX called Del Sol.


CRX (Mk1)
CRX 1.6i-16 (Mk1)
CRX 1.6i-16 (Mk2) CRX 1.6VTi (Mk2)
Year of production
No. produced
? units ? units
? units ? units
Size (L / W / H / WB) mm
3675 / 1625 / 1290 / 2200 3675 / 1625 / 1290 / 2200
3755 / 1675 / 1270 / 2300 3755 / 1675 / 1270 / 2300
Layout, Gearbox
Front-engined, Fwd, 5M
Front-engined, Fwd, 5M
Front-engined, Fwd, 5M Front-engined, Fwd, 5M
Inline-4, sohc, 3v/cyl
Inline-4, dohc, 4v/cyl
Inline-4, dohc, 4v/cyl Inline-4, dohc, 4v/cyl, VTEC.
Engine capacity
1488 cc
1590 cc
1590 cc
1595 cc
100 hp
125 hp
130 hp
150 hp
96 lbft
103 lbft
105 lbft
112 lbft
825 kg
880 kg
900 kg
1010 kg
Top speed
112 mph*
122 mph*
121 mph*
130 mph**
0-60 mph
8.5 sec*
8.0 sec*
8.0 sec*
7.5 sec**
* Tested by Autocar
** Tested by Fast Lane

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