In the 1980s, Honda was inspired by rising oil prices to build a little commuter car that got excellent gas mileage, but the company also wanted to make something unique and fun to drive. What Honda came up with was the CRX. The car was crafted by taking the foundation for the Civic and making it shorter, lighter weight, and sportier. The CRX was received well right away by critics, and it even won Motor Trend’s coveted Import Car of the Year in 1984. In 1988, the CRX Si, which is the sport version of the car and the version that everyone seems to want these days, won the award again.

Honda CRX Si

The CRX Si is an interesting little car in that it was a fuel-efficient, sporty, and, perhaps most importantly, an affordable car. It’s well loved by enthusiasts for its striking styling and fun-to-drive characteristics. Honda hasn’t come out with anything like it in years. The company tried with the del sol, but that wasn’t the same. Years later, Honda tried again with the CR-Z but the hybrid wasn’t a worthy successor and has since been killed off. The fact of the matter is that the CRX Si’s uniqueness has been unmatched since it disappeared in 1991.

A Short, Front-Wheel Drive Enthusiasts Car

CRX Si

When the CRX hit showroom floors in 1984 it was a fun little car that could sip gas with the best of them and offered comfortable seating for two. A year after the CRX’s debut, Honda introduced the sport model and called it the CRX Si. In 1988, Honda took things up a notch by replacing the car’s torsion-bar front end and semi-independent rear suspension with fully independent double wishbone suspension all around the car. This made an already fun-to-drive car even better.

crx si

The CRX Si came with a 1.5-liter 91 hp four-cylinder engine before 1988. For the1988 model year, Honda popped in a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with multi-port fuel injection that made this car the true enthusiast model people were looking for. The engine only made 105 hp and 98 lb-ft of torque, but in a vehicle that barely weighed 2,000 lbs, that was more than enough. With a 5-speed manual transmission, a good driver could do and eight and a half second 0-60 time.

While the car’s performance is a big part of the vehicle’s success, also important to note is its interesting styling. The CRX is like a short Civic with its back end kind of chopped off and made into a hatch. It looks short, squat, and ready for action. To date, there’s nothing quite like it, and the styling has held up well over the years.

A Formula That Can’t be Recreated

crx si

The CR-Z hybrid tried to use the CRX’s styling, but it failed to evoke the same kind of response from buyers. The weird little hybrid was close to the styling of the CRX, but Honda didn't let the car be what it should have been, meaning a sporty little car powered by a nonhybrid powertrain. Perhaps if its performance had been up to snuff, the car would have sold more, but the weird CR-Z wasn't the car it could have been. The bottom line is that Honda hit the market with the right car at the right time with the CRX in the1980s, and recreating that hit is probably not possible. 

CRX Si

The CRX Si is now highly sought-after because there hasn’t been anything like it since. While the average buyer’s wants and needs may be a little different now than they were in the 1980s, the CRX Si still enjoys a successful afterlife as an affordable tuner car. A nice CRX that has been unmolested is difficult to find, and while they don’t necessarily command a high price at auction, they’re still alluring to enthusiasts. Perhaps Honda will take another stab at the short, fun, front-wheel-drive car with an abruptly ending rear end, but until it does, and does it well, we'll stick to remembering the CRX Si fondly.