The real appeal was a
0-60 time below nine
seconds, quicker than a Porsche 944
By the end of the fuel-crisis-plagued 1970s, Honda and its Japanese counterparts had all but beaten the American auto industry into submission with legions of cheap and highly efficient pint-sized sedans and hatchbacks.
American muscle was out. Econo-boxes were in. As the big three continued to downsize, by the mid-1980s performance and sportiness became virtually non-existent.
Against this backdrop, Honda introduced the two-seat CRX coupe in 1984, a sporting offshoot of the humble Civic. A year later, the hot Si version appeared, powered by a fuel-injected 1488-cc four-cylinder, a 12-valve design (two intake, one exhaust) that made 91 hp and 93 lb-ft of torque. This new model was anything but boring, being both a perfect commuter and great weekend racer.
Its hatchback design gave it loads of cargo space despite its diminutive size, and fuel economy was above 30 mpg. But the real appeal was a 0-60 time below 9 seconds, quicker than a Porsche 944. The CRX's handling was impressive as well, combining a short 86.6-inch wheelbase, a curb weight under 2,000 pounds, rack-and-pinion steering, and stabilizer bars front and rear.
The Si's looks differed from its econobox siblings only by body-colored aerodynamic cladding. Paint colors were limited to silver, red and black. Honda's famously friendly ergonomics were present, and for such a tiny car, the CRX felt enormously roomy. The seats were mounted low to the floor and offered both comfort and the requisite side bolsters for go-kart-like driving. Every Si also had a large sunroof that opened above the roofline, assuring no loss of headroom. Looks improved markedly in 1986 with the installation of flush headlamps, monochromatic paint, and smoother aerodynamic pieces.
Even though tens of thousands of CRX Si's were produced, finding a clean, low-mileage example can be quite a task. These cars were reliable enough to last for well over 150,000 miles, and many were handed down to younger family members for use as "maintenance-free" transportation.
Though the mechanicals are typically bulletproof Honda, cosmetic issues abound. Many of the plastic parts, both inside and out, get subjected to the twin ravages of sun and parking lots. Cracked fascias and aerodynamic skirts are expensive to replace.
As with many mid-1980s car, rust can be an issue with the CRX. Minor annoyances include squeaks and rattles from the rear hatch area. Bent subframe and suspension components caused by hard driving are not unusual and worn-out struts are common. Because of its "pocket rocket" nature, the clutch may have seen better days; give it a thorough test. Luckily, mechanical parts are usually cheap, and as near as your local AutoZone.
Spend some time snooping around under the dash for shoddy rewiring. These cars predate the mobile audio boom, and many have had later aftermarket stereos unprofessionally grafted onto their stock electrical systems.
Today, the CRX is just another used car, though it offers great bang for the buck. You can buy #3 condition cars all day long for under $2,000, some for even less than a grand. Even the nicest CRX Si shouldn't cost more than $4,000.
Because of its Honda Civic lineage, some new CRXs were sold to unlikely owners. There are low-mileage "little old lady" cars out there, and they are often as affordable as more well-used examples.
The CRX Si is currently far from collectible, though there is at least a marginal chance that prices might appreciate. With its popularity among The Fast and Furious enthusiasts, it may be just a matter of time before the first-generation CRX Si commands auction prices like early Camaro SS models do today. But that's a longshot. My advice? Don't treat this as an investment. The Si is short on costs but long on fun, making it a perfect affordable classic.