Although Honda offered the Prelude coupe, in 1983 it wasn’t enough for them and they got away with the small sports model CRX. At least that’s what we call it in Europe, for the Japanese it’s the Honda Ballade Sports CR-X. The three letters are said to stand for Civic Renaissance Experimental.
On the Civic platform, this name hides a handsome and sporty small coupe with frameless windows in the front doors, which had a rejuvenated design and more aerodynamic headlights from 1986. The entire design was based on the Alfa Romeo GT Junior Zagato, which the author of its curves owned. Not every car had a spoiler, but it suits a fairly small coupe (even though I have it in the mirror exactly halfway up the window), as well as fourteen-inch wheels. However, I would not install any other non-original tuning on the car at all.
In the US market only the two-seater version was sold, in Japan and Europe we have this 2+2 variant with an emergency rear bench, but I wouldn’t really call it a seat. Although there are belts, it’s actually just some kind of leather seat and a folding backrest that allows you to enlarge the relatively small luggage. In addition, you will have a hard time finding a place for your head in the back.
However, it’s a different story at the front. Although I have only a few millimeters above my head, there is enough space for my legs and I can immediately find the ideal position in the low-anchored seat. In addition, its shape and lateral guidance, Honda simply managed it perfectly. The equipment is also not in vain and includes electric mirrors, windows and sunroof. When you open everything up, it’s pretty cool in the car even on a hot summer day. The shapes of the interior are quite retro, but the sporty three-spoke steering wheel fits perfectly in the hand.
The all-in-front concept can be a lot of fun
The particular car is one of the new exhibits of the Retroautomuzea Strnadice. The three-door coupe has a front engine and front wheel drive. The EC1 borrows its technology and platform from the sensible regular Civic, although as its fans know, the Civic has always been one of the better-driving hatchbacks. The CRX is even better, because it drives absolutely perfectly. And it is also light, even in the heaviest version it weighs only 860 kilograms.
Under the hood, there were engines ranging from 1.3 to 1.6 liters, and the largest one with a five-speed manual is also in this car. The 16-valve DOHC four-cylinder engine is tuned for 135 hp (101 kW) at 7,500 rpm, 144 Nm at 6,500 rpm, and excels in its absolutely immediate response to the gas pedal.
It’s a little lethargic at lower revs, but when it wakes up, it revs up to 8,000, lets out a beautifully raspy venomous sound, and then gives you goosebumps. Then you shift, the Honda blasts the exhaust and the whole concert starts over. You will pass 100 km/h in less than 8 seconds and you can continue up to 208 km/h.
The engine is supported by a fantastic chassis
At the same time, the engine should be able to run on about eight liters of fuel, but few could tickle the CRX. And it’s not just the engine, the clean undistorted steering without power steering and strong and sensitive disc brakes on all wheels are also excellent. Also, the chassis is fantastically tuned, but works better on quality asphalt, where McPherson simply does not jump. Cornering is incredible in the CRX. You want to go through them fast and you want to keep the CRX at the limiter and squeeze the most out of it. I’m so excited about this car you can’t even imagine.
At the limit, the nimble CRX feels less understeer than the second generation, but it slides all the more playfully when you take your foot off the gas in the middle of a curve. Sure, it can be treacherous in some cars, but Honda makes it clear and sensitive, so you’re always in control. You can directly feel the weight transfers during acceleration and deceleration and you quickly start playing with the car and testing how fast you can go into a corner.
The Honda CRX is so precise and sharp that it takes your breath away. But all this applies to more experienced drivers and enthusiasts. Owners often compare the CRX to a go-kart, which is such a hackneyed phrase for cars, but in this case, I kind of get it.
The successor was even better, the third generation disappointed the fans
The first generation remained on the market until 1987, and Straman converted several of them into convertibles. In 1988, the second generation appeared, which I already wrote about in our magazine. Production ended in 1991 and Honda introduced the open CRX del Sol. A new and small coupe returned to the offer only after many years in the form of the hybrid Honda CR-Z, which was said to be the spiritual successor of these amazing cars.
If you’re after an original model, you’ll have trouble finding an unmodified example. Prices range from one hundred to 250 thousand crowns, and I wouldn’t recommend the cheapest ones at first glance. For 150,000, you can already find a piece in neighboring Germany that will torment all the iconic hot-hatches from the competition. Sure, Soichiro Honda was long gone from running the automaker by the time it was developed, but I think the CRX embodies all of his ideas about a simple, fun, playful sports car.
When keeping your CRX running, you may find that some body parts are not the easiest to find. After a longer period of time and higher travel, which is the case with most CRXs, you will have to replace the half-axles and CV joints. Due to the style of driving most people do with the CRX, regular oil changes and oil checks are essential, which you will likely need to top up, as well as timing belt changes.
Unfortunately, the CRX is also – like most Hondas of the era – prone to bodywork corrosion and doesn’t stand out for a great deal of passive safety. Corrosion also attacks the exhaust pipe, parts of the body covered with plastic parts and the floor. Consumption could be around eight litres, but it depends on the driving style. At a sharp pace, he can go for fifteen. However, the reliability is, on the contrary, a big plus.