BY JONATHAN CROUCH
Want a small second-hand sportscar that's fast, characterful, reliable and practical? Look no further than Honda's CRX: it's affordable, fun and great to drive.
Models Covered: 1984-1992 1.6i & 1.6i V-Tec Civic CRX and CRXi 1992-1997 1.6i & 1.6i VTi CRX convertible
The CRX was originally nothing more than a coupe derivative of the little Civic 3-door supermini, albeit with a slightly more warmer 1.6-litre engine. A cult following was established after the launch in 1984 and when the Civic range was facelifted a few years later, the CRX became more of a model in its own right. A sportier V-Tec version was added to the line-up soon after with a 1.6-litre variable valve timing engine that developed prodigious power and made a glorious noise. In 1992, Honda decided to further separate the CRX from the Civic range by giving the car its own two-door targa bodystyle. Underneath however, the mechanicals were much the same, buyers choosing from the fuel injected ESi or the faster variable valve timing VTi. A fascinating option was the clever electric roof initially optional on the VTi only; stilts rise automatically out of the boot, swallow the top then retract again. It became standard on the ESi from January 1995. CRX production finally ended in 1997.
What You Get
A great affordable and very reliable sports coupe. The purists say the CRX is nothing more than a Civic with a smarter body but you won't care about that once you get one out on the open road. Probably the best buy is one of the last old-shape coupes with the V-Tec engine fitted; you won't be able to wipe the smile off your face. The newer shape wasn't as well received. If ever a car was designed around one feature (in this case, the electric fold-away roof), it's this one. The engines were more refined but not as exciting. You pays your money...
What You Pay
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What to Look For
Not much goes wrong unless previous owners were over-enthusiastic (and many will have been). Look for signs of heavy front tyre wear, possible accident damage and any kind of abuse from rallying or racing. A service history is vital.
(ex Vat - based on a 1996 1.6i Convertible - approx) A clutch assembly is around £120. Front brakepads are around £45 with rear brake shoes at £40, a full exhaust about £380, a radiator about £140 and an alternator around £265. A headlamp lens is about £155.
On the Road
All the engines are willing but, as suggested earlier, try and buy yourself into a VTEC version. At around 5,000 revs, the engine lets out a glorious wail under heavy acceleration which is addictive. This is particularly prevalent on the old-shape models. The newer coupe had more refined but less characterful powerplants. It isn't only about the engine either. The gearbox is a delight, sweet and slick, far better than most modern-day transmissions. The steering too is sharp and precise, complementing handling that enables you to place the car exactly where you want it.
Real drivers wanting affordable motoring from a great-looking reliable little coupe will find it here.