Honda CRX | CRX Si, SiR, Del Sol
The Honda CRX, also known as the Honda Civic CR-X or the Honda Civic del Sol, was a compact sports car produced by the Japanese automaker Honda between 1983 and 1997. It was a popular choice among car enthusiasts for its sporty design, advanced technologies, and impressive performance. The CRX was offered in various versions throughout its production run, including the Honda CRX Si, SiR, and del Sol, each of which offered unique features and capabilities. The CRX was eventually phased out in 1997, but it remains a beloved and iconic model in the Honda lineup. In this article, we will take a look back at the history of the Honda CRX, from its introduction in 1983 to its discontinuation in 1997, and explore the key features and innovations that made it such a beloved and iconic model.
Birth of a Legend: The Honda CRX in the 1980s
In the early 80s, Honda, at the height of its success, decided to return to the design of small sports coupes. In the 60s, Honda had made a name for itself in this field with its S series. The specifications for this new car were once again thought out in accordance with one of Soichiro Honda's beloved principles: "Man maximum, Mecha minimum", which means that the driver should be considered the essential element of the vehicle while offering the greatest possible compactness for the mechanics and suspension. In order to reduce production costs and expand its Honda Civic, it was decided to use a common base for the creation of the small coupe.
It was therefore logical that it would take the chassis and part of the engines from the Honda Civic and Honda Ballade (the sister of the Civic sedan). The designers and engineers agreed on a sporty line with a very low sloping hood, door without pillars and a truncated fastback-style rear. It was decided to affiliate the new generation of Honda Ballade, that's why it will be equipped like this one with semi-retractable headlights.
In order to make the Honda Crx lightweight as possible and to give it increased protection from the elements and corrosion, 40% of its body is made from plastics and derivatives, two of which are a new innovation in the automotive industry models filed by Honda: HP Blend (Honda Polymer Blend - modified polypropylene for the front and rear bumpers) and HP Alloy (Honda Polymer Alloy ABS and polycarbonate resin for the grille, fenders, and lower body).
The Honda Civic EJ and Honda Civic EM engines from the previous generation of Civic and Ballade are not carried over, and instead, two new 1.3L and 1.5L blocks are finally chosen to power the new range. In line with the different levels of trim of the new Ballade (1.3L CR-U, CR-B, CR-L and 1.5L CR-M, CR-M Extra and CR-i), it is decided to name the small coupe Honda Ballade Sports CR-X.
1st gen CRX: Honda Ballade Sports (1983-1987)
The Honda Ballade Sports CRX was the first car of Honda's new lineup to debut in Japanese dealerships. It was offered as early as July 83, two months before the arrival of the 3rd generation Civic and three months before the new Honda Ballade. With a compact size (3,675m long, 1,625m wide and 1,290m high), the small coupe looks like a toy, an impression confirmed inside, where ergonomics and technology coexist perfectly: electric sunroof and digital dashboard (both optional), almost-perfect driving position with a three-spoke sport steering wheel, and bucket seats.
Outside the cockpit, everything has been designed to take up as little space as possible and lower the center of gravity as much as possible, starting with the original suspension system called SPORTEC (SPace Oriented Reaction-tube Torsion-bar tEChnology/SPace Oriented Responsive Trailing-link tEChnology). In short, independent front suspension with longitudinal torsion bars, and semi-rigid rear axle with trailing arms, Panhard bar and coil springs.
Like this suspension, it shares with its Honda Ballade and Civic counterparts its new 12-valve all-aluminum cross-flow cylinder head engines. Very compact, these engines produce 80hp in the 1.3L (EV) version with a carburetor or 110 in the 1.5L (EW) version with the brand new PGM-FI electronic injection, inherited from the manufacturer's experience in F1. This latter is sequential, that is, synchronized with the intake phase of each of the four cylinders, which is rare at the time. Two types of transmissions are offered: manual 5-speed or automatic (Hondamatic 3-speed on the 1.3 AE type and 3-speed full auto on the 1.5i AF type).
Regardless of the version of Honda CRX, sensations and agility are present, helped by the lightweight of the car (800kg on 1.5i and 760 on 1.3!) and the short wheelbase of 2,200m (180mm shorter than that of the Civic hatchback). To brake it all, ventilated disc brakes are adopted at the front, while at the rear, drum brakes are used as expected.
Honda CRX Si
In November 84, Honda introduced the most powerful version, the CRX Si (type AS), which featured a 1.6L DOHC engine with 135 horsepower and PGM-FI injection. This ZC engine was developed from Honda's racing experience, and featured hollow camshafts for weight reduction. The CRX Si was recognizable by :
- Its small hood bulge
- 14-inch wheels
- DOHC stickers on the side skirts
- Flexible rear spoiler
- Larger sway bars.
Inside, it featured a unique steering wheel and seats embroidered with the CR-X logo. As a true sports car, it did not come with a radio or air conditioning as standard equipment, but both were available as options. With 860kg weight on the scale in its manual version, this CR-X had an impressive weight to power ratio of 6.37, which was very impressive compared to its main competitors. Its performance was outstanding: 0-100 km/h in 7.8 seconds, 400m standing start in 15.5 seconds, and a top speed of 198 km/h. The Japanese competitors were left behind in acceleration and handling: on a gymkhana course, it beat the Toyota MR2 AW11 by one second and the Trueno AE86 by more than two seconds.
In September 1985, Honda decided to make a few changes to the Honda CRX, including replacing the semi-retractable headlights with fixed headlights similar to those on the Civic, and slightly tinting the taillights. The interior was also given a subtle update. A new, more economical 1.3L trim was also added, featuring smaller tires and a longer gear ratio than the standard 1.3 trim. The CRX Si trim was not forgotten and received new, more aggressive front and rear bumpers that matched the body color, as well as sporty side skirts. The "CR-X" logo on the rear became red and the DOHC valve cover was slightly redesigned. In October 1986, a limited-edition F1 Special Edition (with only 400 units) based on the CRX Si trim was introduced to celebrate Honda's Formula 1 championship. This edition featured :
- White paint and wheels
- Special logos and embroidery
- Fog lights
- Original rear spoiler
- Advan sport tires
The Honda CRX, known as the Civic Coupe CRX in Europe, made its debut in September 1983 at the Frankfurt Auto Show and was available for purchase in European dealerships the following year. The compact coupe proved popular among European customers and featured front optics similar to the Civic and a standard electric sunroof. Initially only available in a 1.5i version (12-valve EW3 engine with 100 horsepower), a 1.6i-16 version (16-valve ZC1 engine with 125 horsepower) was added in 1986. Despite being slightly heavier than their Japanese counterparts, the European models still had impressive performance capabilities, including a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 9 sec and a top speed of 190 km/h for the AF and 8.1 seconds and 202 km/h for the AS. In contrast, American consumers were only offered 1.3L (12-valve 60 horsepower) and 1.5L (8-valve 58 horsepower and 12-valve 76 and 91 horsepower) engines and the American CRX was a strict 2-seater, unlike the 2+2 European and Japanese versions. The American CRX Si version (91 horsepower) was the only one to feature electronic injection.
2n gen Honda CRX: Evolution (1987-1992)
Following the success of the first generation, the Honda CRX made its comeback in Japan in September 1987. Many things had changed, starting with its name: Honda CRX (nicknamed "Cyber Sports" in the archipelago). Indeed, it leaves its belonging to the Ballade range for the simple and good reason that this range was not continued (the production of sedans ended in late 1986) and exclusively inherits the Civic 4G platform. The design has evolved a lot, with smoother curves and less pronounced edges.
The dimensions have slightly increased, with the exception of height (20mm less). The wheelbase, however, gains 100mm for more stability and habitability. Particular work on aerodynamics offers a cx of 0.30 (compared to 0.33 on the first generation), a particularly remarkable value, especially when one knows that the NSX will not equal it until its 2002 model! This feat is partly due to its "teardrop" shape, with its windshield and hatchback very inclined. On this subject, the glazed area is significant, and gains an additional vertical window at the bottom of the hatchback, a feature that will be remembered.
The Honda CRX interior is spacious and the driving position is excellent, with seats more enveloping than those of the first generation. In addition to air conditioning and the already available power sunroof, power steering and power windows make their appearance in the options range, as well as a new glass-top (glass roof) of great effect. Similarly, the chassis has been extensively revised and now has four independent wheels with double triangulation and springs at the front and rear, greatly improving the handling of the car.
Two exclusively 16-valve engines are available at launch: D15B 1.5L SOHC 105hp with dual carburetors (for the CRX 1.5X type EF6) and ZC 1.6L DOHC 130hp with PGM-FI injection (CRX Si type EF7). Traditionnaly, a five-speed manual and automatic (4-speed) are offered. Only the CRX Si is equipped with four-wheel disc brakes. Despite 20kg more than the AS Si, the EF Si still offers excellent performance (0-100km/h in just 8sec and 0-400m in 15.8sec).
In August 88, the same CRX Si model will have the option of Honda's ALB system (antilock brake system). One of the most attractive limited edition models of this generation will be released in February of the following year: the CRX Si Exclusive :
- Limited to 350 units
- Featuring leather seats
- Cream-colored trim
- Leather steering wheel
- Glass-top roof and more
A restyling was adopted in September of 89, with a convex hood (the CRX Si loses its characteristic "bump" in the operation), redesigned bumpers, longer front headlights, new rear lights with a dark red central strip, a more rounded dashboard...
The Honda CR-X also gains a few millimeters in length (3.8m vs 3.755m), but above all, a new SiR version (type EF8) with a VTEC engine! The B16A 1.6L DOHC is a real revolution at the time: this high-performance engine develops 160 horsepower (100 horsepower per liter), and has a system allowing for two camshaft profiles and allows for high-revving performances exceeding 8,000 RPM! As a result, the equipment of this CRX SiR is designed accordingly:
- Manual transmission only
- Large front brakes
- New shock absorber settings
- ALB and LSD as options
- Specific rear wing
- VTEC logos
This generation was introduced to European showrooms in 88 under different trims depending on the country. In France, only one version was available at launch, the CRX 1.6i-16 (type ED9) powered by the D16A9 DOHC 130 horsepower engine (0-100km/h in 8.2 seconds, 0-400m in 16 seconds, 205km/h top speed). Electric windows, mirrors, and sunroof are standard. In some neighboring countries (such as Germany or Switzerland), the 1.6i-16 versions are catalyzed and only develop 122 horsepower (D16A8) or 124 horsepower (D16Z5).
In the Benelux, a 1.4L engine version with a double carburetor (D14A1) and 90 horsepower with power steering was also available. By the end of 1989, European customers were introduced to a slightly restyled version, similar to the Japanese models but with a few different details (such as the convex hood not being installed and the front bumper only preserving the lower part of the Japanese facelift). This version was a unique blend.
The CRX VTEC version, identical in appearance to the Japanese CRX SiR, made its grand debut in the middle of 1990 and was called the 1.6i-VT (EE8 type) and powered by a B16A1 engine with 150 horsepower. Just like its Japanese counterpart, this VTEC coupe was about 100 kilograms heavier than the standard 1.6L version, but still offered excellent performance; it could go from 0-100km/h in 8 seconds, complete a 400m standing start in 16 sec and reach a top speed of 215km/h. It also featured fully leather-covered seats, unlike the Japanese version.
In the US, Honda CRXs still only had two seats (no rear bench, but storage space instead) and a range of unique engine options; 1.5L SOHC (8-valve carburetor with 62 and then 72 horsepower, and 16 valves with 92 horsepower) and 1.6L SOHC (16 valves with 105 and then 108 horsepower). The US-spec CRX HF version, the most fuel-efficient, stood out for its record-breaking drag coefficient of 0.
Honda Del Sol : Iconic Sports Coupe (1992-1997)
The Japanese market saw the new generation of the Honda CRX relatively late. Although it was built on the Civic 5G platform, it wasn't released in dealerships until March of 92, which was six months after the release of the new Civic. This time around, the direction taken with the Honda CRX was quite different from previous models, with the 2+2 coupe being replaced by a two-seater targa coupe. Its commercial name, "CR-X del Sol" which means "of the sun" in Spanish, is quite fitting as it's intended for more leisurely use than sporty driving.
The design is quite pleasing, with more curved lines and a front end with four rounded headlights similar to the Toyota Soarer, and a rounded rear end that's quite different from previous generations. Once again, all the dimensions have increased, except for the height, which has decreased by 15mm. There are two levels of trims available, with manual or automatic transmission:
- CRX Del Sol VXi (type EG1) with a 1.5L D15B SOHC VTEC engine producing 130 horsepower
- CRX Del Sol SiR (type EG2) with a 1.6L B16A DOHC VTEC engine producing 170 horsepower (155 in the automatic transmission)
- Both with PGM-FI fuel injection, electric windows and power steering are standard, while driver airbags, ABS and LSD (as well as a rear spoiler) are offered as options on both models.
The Honda Del Sol SiR also has TCS (traction control system) as an additional feature, always offered as an option. Two types of retractable roofs are offered, one is manual and the other is electric (transtop). Both have a housing located in the trunk. Initially reserved for the Honda Del Sol SiR, this famous transtop will be available from September on the VXi. The weight gain compared to the previous generation is significant, since the basic 1.5L version weighs 1030kg without any options (approximately the weight of the previous SiR with air conditioning and ALB!), reaching 1140kg for the 1.6L transtop with air conditioning and ABS.
No surprise in terms of chassis, since it retains its four independent wheels and double triangulation, even if the shock absorbers have become more flexible. Unlike the Del Sol SiR, the Del Sol VXi must be content with rear drum brakes and 14-inch wheels at all four corners (15 on SiR).
In September 94, new colors were offered for the interior of the Honda CRX, and in October 95, the Japanese discovered a more pronounced facelift. Indeed, the bumpers are replaced by slightly more aggressive versions and the two characteristic small round fog lights disappear from the front. The whole looks undeniably sportier and gains 10mm in length. A new VGi (type EJ4) version replaces the Del Sol VXi with a slightly more torquey 1.6L D16A SOHC VTEC engine of 130 horsepower. The last Honda del Sols will be sold at the end of 97 on the archipelago.
In Europe, the car is sold under two finishes: Del Sol ESi (type EH6) and VTi (type EG2). The first is powered by a D16Z6 (or D16Y8) SOHC VTEC of 125 horsepower (0-100km/h in 9.3 seconds, 190km/h maximum), while the second is a B16A2 DOHC VTEC of 160 horsepower (0-100km/h in 8.1 seconds, 210km/h maximum). These two engines are once again from the European Civic range, like the previous generations.
Initially available with only the manual roof in France, the CRXs will quickly receive the electric transtop version. In the course of 1996, the CRX ESi versions increase to 127 hp with in 97, it is the arrival of the 25th Anniversary series:
- Leather upholstery
- CD changer
- 14 inch alloy wheels (trims on standard ESi)
- Rear disc brakes.
Two limited series, Honda Del Sol Daytona and Del Sol Motegi Edition will be introduced in 98, just before the end of sales of the model on European soil. We finish the small overview with the North American versions, which curiously lose the CRX denomination, Civic del Sol then del Sol in 95, and the transtop option.
At the time of release of the model in 93, two engines are available (1.5L SOHC of 102 horsepower and 1.6L SOHC VTEC of 125 horsepower), completed in 94 by the DOHC VTEC of 160 horsepower version. The lucky ones will have the opportunity to see a facelift very similar to the Japanese versions in 96, and will take advantage, among other minor changes, of a 1.6L SOHC of 106 horsepower replacing the previous 1.5L. Production will stop in 97 in the United States.
Honda CRX Racing: Legacy of Versatility and Performance
Even though they were absent from the big Japanese competitions like JGTC, the Honda CRX are still excellent bases for many types of sporting events. These include versions used in Gr.N and SCCA championships in the 80s, as well as Honda CRX entered in rallies (especially the first generations), time trials, autocross, gymkhana, or drag racing. These are the two categories where the most demonic achievements are found: for example, the CR-X 1G Backyard Special with a tubular chassis powered by a 4AGE (Toyota) in a mid-rear position for gymkhana or Honda CRX packed with horses by NSX blocks that have been turbocharged for acceleration races... and many more!
This is what makes the model strong, its potential for preparation and the abundance of performance parts available on the market (for "2G" and VTEC engines in particular). At the time, kits and preparations were available, whether from Mugen in Japan or Schneider and ME Edition in Europe. More recently, renowned tuners have focused on these extremely manageable coupes, such as J's Racing, JUN, Top Fuel, or SS Work's. Supercharging and engine swaps are also common on these cars.
Therefore, they are very well represented in the "underground" scene, especially in CRX street racing, and particularly in the United States, where street racing is a true institution. They even interest manga authors, such as in King by Keiichirō Shinmura CRX, in which the hero drives a "MR" bodybuilt CRX, powered by an Impreza engine on touge!
The story of Honda's popular CR-X comes to an end. Unfortunately, it does not have a true successor. The CR-Z may share some similar design elements and a fondness for advanced technology, but its philosophy is different. As a fun fact, the name of the CR-X is not entirely new or insignificant. The final versions of the Ballade sedan that were released in September 1985 were also named CR-Z.
The Yankii Garage team thanks you for your reading, it's an article that took us a lot of time to write between research, engine codes and Japanese magazine translations! 🤯 So if you liked the article, feel free to let us know as a comment or on our Instagram, and don't hesitate to share our article! 🏁