In June of 2007, Mark J. McCourt for Hemmings, did this nice spot on the first generation CRX:

Where have all the runabouts gone? You must remember them... inexpensive, sporty two-seaters that were both economical to run and a blast to drive. It's a niche that was brimming with interesting and fun vehicles 20 years ago, but in the past 10 years, has virtually disappeared. Contesting Toyota's mid-engine MR2 for the title of king of the pocket rockets was Honda's perennial hot hatch, the Civic CRX Si. The CRX sold in big numbers, and because of its noted build quality and reliability, plenty are still around. Although its costs may be cheap, the Civic CRX Si's blend of performance, practicality and economy is priceless.

Honda established itself as a force to be reckoned with when the Civic debuted in 1973. Following the BMC Mini's lead, the Civic combined a transverse front engine, front-wheel drive and small wheels to offer great interior volume for its size. The introduction of the 1975 Civic CVCC, whose stratified charge engine's Compound Vortex Controlled Combustion design allowed the car to meet emissions standards without need for a catalytic converter or unleaded gas, cemented Honda as a first-rate innovator. The Civic would grow in size and power with each redesign, and in 1983, the last year of the car's second generation, a sporty Civic 1500S arrived with a firmer suspension and rear anti-roll bar, wider tires, a tachometer and red accented trim.

1975 Civic CVCC  -  Photo courtesy of

That Civic 1500S foreshadowed the next generation of enthusiast-biased Civics that would arrive for 1984, the most enthusiastic new version of which was a two-seat fastback called the CRX. The Civic CRX, as it was badged, used an abbreviated 86.6-inch wheelbase (other Civics rode on a 96.5-inch wheelbase) and came in two trim levels. The standard CRX engine delivered economical 60hp from a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine, while the uplevel CRX 1.5 employed a single downdraft-carbureted, three-valve-per-cylinder, 76hp 1,488cc engine; both versions were available in Victoria Red, Greek White and Baltic Blue, all with silver lower body cladding and a pedestal rear wing spoiler.

1983 Ballade Sports CR-X (JDM)  -  Photo courtesy of

During their 1984 Import Car of the Year instrumented testing, Motor Trend magazine found that the 1.5 returned 44.55 mpg; this was possible due to its excellent aerodynamics (0.32 drag coefficient) and featherweight 1,802 pounds. In addition to lacking the heft of a rear seat and multiple power accessories, the Civic CRX 1.5 featured new-tech plastic body panels for the front fenders and "header" panel between the headlamps. The basic CRX was lighter at 1,713 pounds, and even stingier at the pumps, earning a remarkable 51 city/67 highway mpg.

This newest Honda was an instant hit with the public and press alike, but a good thing would get even better midway through 1985, when the Si (Sports, injected) model appeared atop a range that included the ultra-miserly 1.5-liter, carbureted eight-valve CRX HF and mid-range 1.5-liter, carbureted 12-valve CRX. The Si enhanced the 1.5-liter engine, which had a 74.0mm bore and 86.5mm stroke, with a new Honda-developed multi-port 'Programmed Fuel Injection' system. This combination made 91hp at 5,500 rpm and 92.9-lbs.ft. of torque at 4,500 rpm. Motor Trend found that this upgraded engine, when lashed exclusively to the five-speed manual gearbox, added greatly to the CRX's fun factor:

"Instrumented data is even more illustrative of the increased performance of the Si. Zero to 60 acceleration has been cut from last year's 11.26 sec to a very quick 8.5 sec. That's faster than the V-6 Fiero, Toyota's MR2 and the Mitsubishi Mirage Turbo. The quarter mile for the Si is accomplished in a nifty 16.20 sec at 84.5 mph, compared to the '84's 18.02 at 72.8."

In addition to the fuel-injected engine, the Civic CRX Si gained stylish 13-inch aluminum alloy wheels running 175/70-13 tires. These wheels were kept upright by front and rear anti-roll bars and suspended by torsion bars and struts in front. Coil springs, semi-trailing links, gas shocks and a Panhard rod held up the semi-independent, tubular-beam rear axle. With its nicely weighted manual rack-and-pinion steering, this setup allowed the 1985 Si to pull .80-g on the skidpad.

Other Si-exclusive equipment included standard dual remote exterior mirrors, a rear window wiper and ducktail spoiler for the hatch, and an innovative power sunroof that tilted and slid outside of the car to preserve headroom. Red and blue paint remained available on 1985 CRX Sis, while black was a new addition; the bright silver lower body cladding from the previous year was replaced by charcoal gray and accented with a red band. Air conditioning was a dealer accessory, while power front disc/rear drum brakes were standard.

Honda added to the Civic CRX Si's mojo in 1986, the year that the four-seat Civic hatchback got its own fuel-injected Si range topper. On the outside, flush glass headlamps and a redesigned front bumper/air dam gave it a sterner face, while single-tone paint in red, white or black covered flared rocker panels and a new flush-mounted rear spoiler. The funky new four-hole alloy wheels were a size larger, supporting 185/60-14 tires. The 1987 CRX Si was a virtual carryover, with white replaced by silver in its palette.

By 1987, Honda's two-seat sportster had made the record books, according to Road & Track magazine: "When they get around to listing the top good-time inventions of the late 20th century, we're willing to bet that right up there with the hang gliders, ultra lights, sailboards and jet skis you'll find the Honda Civic CRX. And we're willing to bet that the CRX won't be at the bottom of the short list--particularly if the CRX in question is an Si."

1987 CRX SI  -  Photo Courtesy of

Los Angeles native, 35-year hobbyist mechanic and 'CRXpert' Scott Harris further explains the differences between first-generation CRX Sis: "Although the 1984-'87 CRX is mostly unchanged through the model run, Honda changed the electrical connectors on the 1986 and later cars. Almost all the electrical parts on the '86 and later cars do not plug into the earlier car's wiring harness. If you are handy with electrical stuff, this is not a big deal, but it's something to know. All 1985-'87 Sis use the same engine, although the '85 has the different electrical connectors and valve sion is geared slightly shorter; combined with 13-inch wheels and slightly lower weight, the '85 Si is a bit quicker off the line."

Scott offers an enthusiast's perspective on Honda's sporting classic: "There are many CRX clubs throughout the country and the world, but most of them exist as virtual clubs on the Internet. Rather than having physical structure, they are more akin to a group of enthusiasts who keep in touch via the Internet, and occasionally gather for informal meets. The single best Web site for 1984-'87 CRX fans is This is an active and enthusiastic group of people who range from serious SCCA racers to weekend wrenchers," he explains. The Internet is a great resource for people looking to increase CRX Si performance, and they'll find tips on engine, brake, suspension and wheel and tire upgrades, both stock appearing and individually modified.

It's common knowledge that Honda Civics are the darlings of the import tuner scene, and CRX Sis are a favorite platform for those who like to kick it 'old-school.' Their popularity in for-show modification is matched by the esteem in which CRXs are held by a small and enthusiastic crowd of SCCA racers, autocrossers and even drag racers. Further reducing their numbers is the fact that, like many pre-1990 Japanese cars, CRX Sis have a tendency to rust in winter-salted areas of the country. Don't let a six-digit odometer reading frighten you; Honda's sterling reliability and excellent mechanical parts accessibility mean that high-mileage examples treated with obvious care and maintenance are just as desirable as those with unusually low mileage.


Engine: Inline-four, single overhead belt-driven cam, three valves per cylinder, cast-iron block and aluminum head, 1,488cc (

Horsepower: 91 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque: 93-lbs.ft. @ 4,500 rpm
Induction system: Electronic fuel injection
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
0-60 mph: 8.7 seconds
Top speed: 115 mph
Length: 147.8 inches
Width: 63.9 inches
Height: 50.8 inches
Curb weight: 1,978 pounds
Drag coefficient: 0.32
Fuel economy, city/highway: 32/36 mpg


Honda Civic CRX: Total U.S. sales

1985 - 57,152
1986 - 64,106
1987 - 48,355

Additional 1st gen specs, links and FAQ can be found here on

Article courtesy of Hemmings