Automotive / Nostalgia. Honda CRX: Anti-Golf GTI

If you hear Honda today, you will surely think of motorcycles. The brand is not one of the manufacturers that we spontaneously quote when buying a car. The fault certainly with a range sometimes ill-adapted to European tastes.

But between the 1970s and 2000, Honda was often synonymous with sporty, original, high-performance and devilishly attractive cars.

In the early 1980s, Honda even offered itself the luxury of challenging the GTIs.


The stubby rear end of the first generation is a hallmark of the CR-X. Photo DR

CR-X, much more than just a GTI

“Honda CR-X – with a hyphen – bore that name for Civic Renaissance Experimental. It was also called Civic Ballade when it appeared at the end of June 1983 in Japan,” recalls Patrice Vergès in his book “My father’s Honda Civic”.

But unlike the Golf or the 205-stamped GTI, this Honda CR-X wasn’t content to be a simple sports version of a city car. She was a model in her own right. Built on the wheelbase of the hatchback sedan shortened by 18 cm, this coupe benefits from a strong personality.

With its very slim profile, the very distinctive roof drop at the rear and its sharply cut luggage compartment, it is unlike anything else on the market.

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Mini-coupe but it does the maximum

A unique profile that isn’t just there to look good. With an air penetration coefficient (cx) of only 0.33, the CR-X is particularly efficient. Helped, it must be admitted, by the machine’s reduced size.

The first generation CR-X is only 3.67 meters long, 1.62 wide and only 1.29 high! However, this Honda coupe is not to be taken lightly. Under the hood, the mechanics are nothing less than minis.

The suspensions were particularly efficient and offered the CRX a leading demeanor. Photo DR

This first generation CRX inherits a SOHC block, armed with twelve valves and an overhead camshaft, developing 100 hp. But Honda won’t stop there.

In 1986, the manufacturer, which was also a hit in Formula 1, justified its reputation as an engine manufacturer with the sixteen-valve double overhead camshaft engine that developed 125 hp. Which largely stands for time bombs.

The interior was classic, very close to the Civic sedan. Photo DR

An iconic second generation

At the end of 1987, Honda presented the second generation Honda CRX. If this new assembly loses the hyphen, it uses the same recipe as the previous one. Based on the new generation Civic, it uses the same method. A coupé profiled in the same way, even more aerodynamic (cx of 0.30) and slightly more livable thanks to higher dimensions.

The second generation CRX will be 3.77 m long and 1.75 m wide, but will lose 2 cm in height. Weighing in at 925kg, it could benefit from a very favorable weight-to-power ratio, thanks to the new skill of the brand’s engine manufacturers.

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The second generation continues to inspire Honda brand enthusiasts. Photo DR

VTEC engines

For the launch, the only engine available is a 1.6 liter, equipped with sixteen valves, developing the power of 130 hp. A very modern block for the time, especially compared to European manufacturers and which distills top performance with 0 to 100 km/h in just 8.1 s and a top speed of 205 km/h.

Despite a high price, which would rise again in 1989, from F99,000 to F107,500, the only fully equipped version of the CRX sold like hotcakes in the posh neighborhoods and to brand enthusiasts.

After a few tweaks in 1990, the CRX Coupe will continue to move forward. The goal is simple: to put the last nail in the coffin of the competition with a completely new generation of engines.

A brand of engineers

For the 1991 model year, Honda installed the new 16-valve engine. Equipped with variable intake timing, it develops an output of 150 hp. The CRX definitely enters the hearts of enthusiasts. The chassis has been reworked for more rigidity, the finish has been improved and the coupe gets new bucket seats in black leather and red stitching. The tests of the specialized journalists of the time are unanimous.

The CRX's tachometer was engraved up to 9000 rpm.  Photo DR

The CRX’s tachometer was engraved up to 9000 rpm. Photo DR

Revving is enjoyable, and with its tachometer graduated to 9,000rpm, the CRX has no equivalent on the market. Second-generation CRXs equipped with the VTEC engine ultimately remain quite rare, as they were only produced for two years. This engine, with its exceptional performance and character, will be found in other models in the Honda range, from the Civic to the NSX.

The latest generation, CRX Del Sol, changes concept to become a two-seater Targa.  Photo DR

The latest generation, CRX Del Sol, changes concept to become a two-seater Targa. Photo DR

A third generation with a different philosophy

The third CRX of the name appeared in 1992. The great era of small sports cars began to come to an end, and Honda felt the tide turning. The pure and tough sports cars have had their day and the customer base is moving more and more towards recreational vehicles.

The CRX changes the concept radically: only two seats and a removable roof that can transform it into a targa, which gave it the name “CRX del sol”. Less sporty by nature, it also loses practicality.

In Europe, sales are falling, it’s the end of the CRX. A model that marked its time and did a lot for Honda’s image in the world.

Photo DR

Data sheet: Honda CRX (ED9)

  • Engine : 4 cylinders in line, 16 valves
  • Feed : electronic injection
  • Powerful : 130 horsepower
  • Couple : 143 Nm
  • 0 to 100 km/h : 8.1 seconds
  • Gearbox : 5-speed manual
  • Weight : 910 kg
  • Vmax : 205 km/h

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