In a time when the hot hatch was king, Honda sought to take on the establishment by producing its own interpretation of a nippy car for the masses – the CRX.
Taking performance that could live with the fast hatchbacks from VW, Peugeot and Ford, Honda added to the mix with sportier, mini-coupé looks and a low-slung driving position.
The original CRX was launched in 1984 with a 12v ohc 1488cc engine that, in 1986, made way for a sprightly 16v twin-cam 1600.
In December ’87, the early car’s chiselled, straight-edge styling made way for curves and the car came fitted with a more powerful version of the Mk1’s 1.6-litre engine, but it is the sparkling VTEC, which was introduced in 1990 that remains the enthusiast’s choice.
Its rev-hungry variable valve timing added an extra dimension to the car, with the limiter not cutting in until a heady 8400rpm. Even more impressive was that the VTEC combined this with unburstable reliability, which means that a well-maintained engine should be as smooth with 150,000 miles on the clock as it is with 50,000.
Rust is the CRX’s biggest enemy, and is an issue that is not helped by a lack of pattern panels. Finding a rot-free example is imperative and problem areas include the wheelarches, A-posts, sills, door bottoms, sunroof aperture, rear footwells, spare-wheel well, bumper mounts and the rear hatch.
To guarantee the engine’s longevity, check that the cambelt has been changed every 36,000 miles and inspect the ignition system for red dust (a sign of a failed bearing), while early cars’ ECUs, which were stored under the driver’s seat, can suffer from damp.
Finally, ask when the gearbox oil was last changed – it should be every 24,000 miles. A ’box that jumps out of reverse and fifth is a warning of imminent failure.
We failed in our hunt for a standard facelifted car, but at £2000 this example is ripe to be returned to its former glory. Or you could just leave it and benefit from the extra power made available by the numerous mods.
This £3500 coupé is a lot more appealing, though. It’s a first-generation, completely original car that was fully restored in 2005 and has been garaged ever since. It comes with just 59,829 miles on the clock and a 13-stamp service history.
With its cool coupé looks and racy driving position, not to mention its robust build quality, the CRX has few direct competitors and, with numbers dwindling, they are only going to get rarer. Use our free Buyer’s Guide to pick up a good one and you could land a car that combines style and performance, with cheap running costs and reliability that is second to none.