I want a fun little car just to drive to work. Especially now: I just started a new job, as Director of Engineering for a software startup, and its way the heck across town. (Confidential to JPC: I’ll be capturing more Curbside Classics on your side of town now. Sorry, not sorry.) It’ll be the longest commute of my career. Those of you who live in places with real traffic will scoff, but I’m just a few days in and I already hate my upwards-of-an-hour drive each way through the worst traffic in Indiana. But a little car like this might put a big enough smile on my face to move the commute-o-meter needle from hatred to mere dislike.
Except that the Honda Civic CRX is so little, so low. Everybody drives hulking SUVs in the wealthy suburb where I work. They’d positively tower over me! It would be intimidating. But if I were fortunate enough to get the CRX Si, I could zoom right by them all, ducking and weaving up and down the Interstate.
Aha! Pay dirt! But then, I figured it had to be an Si even as I spotted it from afar. A non-Si CRX would almost certainly not be painted yellow.
As it turns out, yellow was available only on the CRX Si, and only through 1990. And this dashboard with the rounded gauge binnacle debuted in 1990. That narrowed this car’s year right down.
But have I buried the lede? That this car appears to be bone stock? That it could well be the last non-riced CRX Si on Earth?
Perhaps. But I’m feeling selfish today, and I’m thinking about my newly sucky commute, and how much more fun it would be in this little yellow car.
I was about to write “little yellow screamer,” but I checked myself. Because by modern standards, these cars didn’t scream. They had Honda’s 1.6 liter, 108 HP mill, which could bring you to 60 MPH in around 8 seconds. That was really good in its day, but is pretty much normal acceleration for even the most basic four-cylinder sedan today. But in such a small and light package – around 1,900 pounds – that acceleration is going to feel zippier than it actually is.
But I’m certainly falling prey to memories sweetened over time. My college buddy Gary had a first-gen CRX, the HF model with its stratospheric gas mileage, and I drove it several times. Its puny 58 HP probably brought the car to 60 MPH in around 15 seconds, but given that his HF weighed 200 pounds less than the subject Si, it felt plenty quick. But then, in those days my car was a slug-slow Renault Alliance, which got passed by bloody well everything. Every other car I drove felt way faster than the Alliance.
Gary and I took his CRX on a couple of road trips, where I learned how vulnerable one could feel on the Interstate in such a low car. We looked right into the wheel hubs of passing semis. And once we got caught in a snowstorm on I-80 in Pennsylvania. Every wind tried to blow us off the road. What a white-knuckled drive that was. Hm, my memories are suddenly not as sweet.
By the time the second generation CRX debuted, Honda upgraded the HF with fuel injection. Its gas mileage stayed in the stratosphere, but its acceleration is said to have improved noticeably. I’m sure this did nothing for the car in blowing snow. But hell, I’m still not dissuaded. I’d love to have one of these, even this HF model. I’d go two weeks on a tank of gas!
The years right around 1990 were a great time to buy a small, fun, relatively inexpensive car.
Toyota MR2. There seems to be a “CRX vs. MR2” thing in the forums for these cars, which is why I list the MR2 first. This was the first year for the second-generation car, and wow, did Toyota nail it in the looks department (this chalky example notwithstanding). They were also apparently a total blast to drive. But they started at $24,000, big bucks in 1990. The CRX Si cost half that.
Mazda Miata. Obviously. Except the CRX is a nicer place to be in the winter.
Nissan NX. Now we’re in four-seat territory. But in this and all the cars that follow, those seats are so useless that the cars might as well be two-seaters. And what a shame that this good-looking car is so often overlooked. The NX came with a 1.6 liter four as the NX1600, or a twin-cam 2.0-liter four as the NX2000. These weren’t common in my part of the world, but when I did see one it was almost always the NX2000.
Mercury Capri. Ford missed the market a little bit with this car, as it looked kind of like the first-generation Toyota MR2 which had just ended production, and came too long after the Miata to capture the sporty drop-top market.
Geo Storm / Isuzu Impulse. The press hated these cars, but people who owned them generally liked them, saying they outhandled their class. They also call these cars reliable, but given the number that went to the junkyard before 100k I’m not so sure. Perhaps the demographic that bought these new was young and looking for cheap thrills and drove them hard, to early graves.
That was probably the fate of most of these little cars. Except for the Miata, which sold to middle-agers in midlife crisis. That’s probably why so many of them of this era still roll the roads. As we all know, twentysomething men have the brain damage and have a much, much higher accident rate than those of us on the back nine of our lives. I’ll never forget turning 25 and getting a letter from State Farm announcing that my insurance was now going to cost me less by half. Apparently, I got a lot smarter on my 25th birthday.
And so to find this apparently unmodified CRX Si in the parking lot at my previous job is pretty remarkable. Given the county code in the bottom right corner of the license plate, he’s commuting from the next county over. The commute could be two miles or twenty.
Either way, it’s going to be more fun in this CRX. Just check out that glorious road rash! May the owner keep it original forever.
A 1990 CRX HF spotted by Eric703
Ben Dinger’s COAL on his 1987 CRX Si
That is quite the find, and in relatively good shape as well. Honda really got this CRX right in Si form; I’d say one of their best executed products from that era, period. Alas, I’d have to agree with you about being slightly hesitant with one of these in modern traffic. Light as a paperweight, and not only is the car itself low, that hood line would dive under most modern pickups without hesitation. Then there is the issue of theft with these cars, sadly. But what a car! In Japan you could get these with a full glass roof of all things. A/C would be a must in one, but then I wonder how much the added weight would blunt the dynamics? In any event, a modern interpretation of something like this would be kinda neat. The closest thing I can think of in recent memory is Toyota’s S-FR concept from a year or two ago, but I doubt that will ever see the light of day.
Lovely CRX but hard pass on driving one of these on your commute. Or anything with a stickshift for that matter. I know you want to make your drive as fun as possible but one of the reasons I moved over to automatics were:
1. they’re so much better than they used to be
2. manual shift modes can be good, depending on the car, and allow me to have that control when I want it
3. driving a stickshift in rush hour traffic SUCKED.
Frankly, I’d rather have something comfortable and cushy for a commute through flat, traffic-laden streets. Something with a modern infotainment system and a smooth ride and decent fuel economy.
A car like a CRX would be a weekend car for me. Like my friend who just sold his MX-5… He used it on weekends and used an Impreza for his weekly commute.
I dunno. I’ve been making my 30-minute commute in an automatic this past month since I totaled my Fiesta ST.
And I hate it.
My commute is such that I generally get to about 40 just in time to have to slow back down-just the speed for my truck to decide it needs to lock up the torque converter and hit Overdrive. So it goes: Overdrive and lockup, then unlock, over and over again until I’m at work. And on a truck ready to celebrate its 200,000th mile, it gets tiresome because it makes a big show of the fact that it can still shift into Overdrive and lock up the torque converter.
The automatic takes an already dreadful commute through the suburbs and sucks the last little bit of life out of it.
It’s kind of unfair to paint every automatic with the brush of a 200k truck that makes a “big show of shifting into OD”. Try something newer that’s not a truck and more made for a commute and it’s perfect. Most automatics these days make the actual shifts imperceptible.
I’ve driven my hubby’s automatic cars-a ’97 Town Car, a ’12 Fusion SEL, a ’13 Taurus SEL, a ’17 Fusion Titanium-on occasion through my bit of suburban hell, which is actually worse on a Saturday than on a weekday because of the shopping. It did not get better.
It’s not the shifting of the truck that’s the problem (truth be told, I should just shut off the Overdrive for the commute-I don’t ever really think of it though). It’s the zombification. I’ve had more than one day in the last month on which chunks of my commute have effectively gone missing because there’s no real engagement between my brain and the driving. It’s the thing I fear and loathe the most about driving-the zombification and automation of it.
Truth be told, the best commute is with this:
I’ve never had a problem driving stickshift Civics and CRXs in 20 years of dealing with Miami traffic. For me, both upshifing and downshifting became automatic (so to speak) and second nature so I never really had to think about it. It never seemed to become a chore.
I have memories of getting cramps in my left leg after about an hour in rush hour traffic on the 210 or the 405 in and around the L.A. area.
I used to drive a manual in heavy Washington, DC-area traffic… and I really miss it (the shifting, that is… the traffic still lives on).
Those days ended when I sold my 5-spd. Contour back in 2010, but I never looked at shifting as a chore — of course, I’m in quite a minority with this viewpoint.
To me as long as the clutch isn’t ridiculously heavy, driving a manual in traffic isn’t an extra chore at all, it’s just modulating your movement with a different pedal, and when it’s stop and go I tend to just leave it in one gear until traffic starts moving constantly, and using engine braking in that gear until then to slow the car down. It’s a much more natural connection to the car than riding the brakes the whole time in the case of an auto, and actually one of my favorite aspects of driving manual. No way to multitask, but that’s A-OK with me.
Plus when traffic finally clears up and I let off that pent up frustration by mashing the accelerator to the floor the first time, that inevitable need for me to physically upshift will usually be my cue to reel it in and not get myself into too much trouble if noticed. Unlike an auto where suddenly I rocket myself to triple digits completely oblivious to the mindless shifts.
I have to agree, but my reasoning is not the stick as much as going for comfort over something like this. I love small cars, and drive a Fiat 500 on my commute of about 40 minutes. Traffic with the stick is not the issue, but being run over is. Having lived in the northern Indy suburbs (Westfield), there is not horrible traffic, but any commute on clogged interstates ends up sucking. Having a nice cushy seat, room to breathe, and not having to worry about being invisible is worth the tradeoff. Honestly, for that commute, a used Buick would be perfect, as would a Grand Marquis or some other full sized sedan of a certain age. Pricing would be reasonable, upkeep basic and simple, and the car would be entirely disposable, so rack up the miles in comfort. Your bottom will thank you.
These cars are legends now. No oun intended. The I value today is off the charts. Its that good. I dunno about Honda today tho. I think they sorta lost the edge.
I dunno Rick… I bought a little 2016 Civic Coupe last August that I absolutely love for my commute. The current Civic (Mine’s an EX-T) gets between 29 and 41 mpg (realistically 33-34, as I have a rather heavy foot, but it’s mostly highway). It does the 0-60 sprint in 6.8 seconds (only a tad slower than my Mustang). And it handles very well when I want to take a more scenic route home through the twisties. And mine’s not even an Si (that comes out later this year). In some ways, my little 1.5L turbo charged coupe is this CRX’s great great grandchild. The creature comforts it has make my 40 – 70 minute commute (depending on traffic) very pleasurable, economical, and downright fun! Sure, it has the CVT, but this one is very un-rubber-band-like, and with he sport mode, can be somewhat manually shifted when need be. As much as I like driving a stick, my nearly 57 year old left knee does not like being stuck in stop and go traffic, but for those so inclined, the 2017 EX-T model CAN be had with a stick, unlike in my MY.
Yes Honda and to some extent Subaru are all going bland. We had a base Civic when they came out in ’84 and I’ll never forget how revolutionary that car was. I almost bought a IRS CRX but went the GTi route instead but yeah great cars.
As to a stick shift in a commute that DOES get old but I’m a purist and only drive old cars so I don’t have the benefit of the newer automatics and I only have one car. Both motorcycles are fully manual.
“Both motorcycles are fully manual” – Do they even make an automatic motorcycle?
Actually they do. Honda has an entire range of motorcycles with dual clutch transmissions that can be either manually shifted or simply left in automatic mode. In addition there are companies that adapt automatic transmissions to other motorcycles. I don’t know for a fact but I wouldn’t be surprised that some motorcycles are made with a CVT transmission.
Wow! A lot sure has changed since my younger wilder motorcycle riding days of yore… LOL.
Great find! These intrigued me when they were new, but even as a single guy, I was hesitant to get a 2 seater for my everyday car. But as a toy for occasional use, one of these would be fun.
But my advice for the nasty commute would be at the other end of the pool. You need a Lincoln Town Car for this. Something smooth and quiet with a good stereo for the classical music that will calm your soul.
I can’t say that the demise of our agreement for exclusive CC territories surprises me. New wife, new job, it is clear that you simply will not be contained by old boundaries.
Terrific catch! Seeing one of these intact is, like you said, quite the rare event.
While this car is quite petite, the yellow would help offset your being overlooked – goodness knows it would stick out quite pleasantly in the sea of silver, taupe, and gray.
Or so you would think Jason, regarding a bright color. The first week commuting in my new Civic, in about as bright a red as you can buy (see picture a few posts above), I was repeatedly cut off in rush hour traffic by oblivious drivers. I thought to myself, ‘ok, this car is bright red, and yet you still didn’t see me?’… I rarely got cut off in my rather stealthy black Mustang. Perhaps I was just paranoid about rock chips in the first month I had the car and left too much distance to allow an offending driver to shoehorn their way in. But this left me wondering if I was going to have a problem with being noticed in such a small car. It seems to be occurring less and less now though, so my maybe it was my new car paranoia. Maybe, because this generation of Civic was so new, people thought, ‘it’s just a Honda Civic. I don’t want to get stuck behind him.’, and now, these cars have been out for a while where people are now realizing that they are in fact pretty fast, and I don’t get cut off as much anymore. I feel safer in it now than in the beginning.
For some background; my commute is on the roads between Baltimore and Washington, which is almost always listed within the top 3 or 4 worst commutes in the entire country. Besides the fact I like the look, I bought this car in bright red specifically to make sure I was seen, having never owned a car this small.
I feel ya. I had an 03 Nissan Frontier CREW CAB LONG BED in YELLOW. THat bright yellow. And a fairly large vehicle. People seemed to cut me off MORE than my old regular cab shortbed dakota in blue. I suspect that they see you more easily and go “yeah, I can make that” and turn in front of you. I think bright vehicles are more visible and in today’s driving, it makes it easier to determine go/no go….
Wow, cannot believe there is still even one of these left! I figured for sure they’d all been modded then wrapped around some stationary object.
You forgot the Suzuki Swift GT. It’s a hot hatch but as light as just about any dedicated sports car of the time.
Agree. The Suzuki swift gti was also a winner. They also had a turbo model which I had for 3 years. Lots of fun and was reliable.
Ooh yes! Quite an oversight!
Ahh – If only to be be under 25 again!
For years, most everything I owned was a stick-shift, and most of the automatic imports I sampled were dogs. I commuted for years pumping that clutch and rowing that shifter. Admittedly my commute usually wasn’t across town or during the worst of rush hour.
Though I couldn’t afford something like a Civic Si, for ‘fun’ cars, I had a ’68 Ford Cortina GT, then a ’67 Sunbeam Alpine.
Today, my daily driving appliances are a ’90s Camry and Altima. Both with many of the usual ‘frills’ that have become a necessity today – decent automatics, power steering, power windows, power mirrors, nice stereos, cold AC, etc….
But two years ago, I got a super deal on a clean, low-miles, stripper ’96 Tacoma pickup – 5-speed, with manual windows & manual mirrors, and a dead radio.
No clock. No trip odometer, No interval wiper, NO AC!
No sports car. But a hot-rod compared to my ‘slush-box’ vehicles.
It sure took me back to my younger days!
But I’m semi retired now, and not commuting anymore.
Plus, I’ve added a nice Sony CD-radio. And last week, I just finished installing…. AC!
Happy Motoring, Mark
I feel your pain. For 5½ years I had an almost 100 mile commute. I’m retired over a week now, and don’t miss it a bit.
My 2012 Impala was/is a great highway-runner, because my commute was mostly highway and easy cruising. I went around town on the west side I-275 loop here in the Cincinnati area. Going cross-town through Indy? I’m sure that’s a different story.
Keep your fun car for weekends if you must, but you will thank yourself by driving a nice, comfy car with an auto tranny. Anything you can do to reduce your stress level will be of great benefit.
You can thank me later. Happy Trails!
Wow, can’t remember when I’ve seen one of these, and no rust behind the rear wheels, that would’ve happened in 5 years around here.
Good luck with the commute, I had a one hour + each way commute for a while, but I only lasted 10 months, what a colossal waste of time. I could’ve been looking at photos of old Hondas online 🙂
I’ve mentioned before that I bought a new blue CRX 1.5 5-speed in 1984 and owned it for 10 years. Very much like the car in the picture except mine didn’t have a pinstripe. I absolutely loved it. Every outing was an adventure.
A very nice find, especially in your part of the world!
Congratulations on the new job! A few months of that commute and you’ll be crossing over to the autonomous dark side soon :-). After a couple of decades of the Bay Area commute across the bay in all manner of vehicles, I found the key to be something like this CRX in the garage for when I get home but something roomy, comfortable, and very automatic for the actual commute part of the day. And the fun (or at least a different) car can still be used infrequently to commute in just to break things up.
I made the mistake of watching a few crash test vids comparing old cars to new models. For daily use, I am now firmly in the new car camp. I increased my life insurance too. Funny what being a husband and dad will drive us to do……
I’m a big fan of new cars, especially after totaling my 2014 Fiesta ST. I mean, that car wasn’t exactly the best rated for crash-worthiness. Yet, I did this to it and walked away without a scratch. All four doors opened and closed smoothly afterward. And knee airbags are great! I’ll never scoff at the idea of a seemingly random airbag again! A seating position that put my knees two inches from the dash, and I didn’t even have sore knees the next day!
As for the subject CRX? I’m sure it’d be a hoot to drive, but I’ve always suspected that getting into a crash in one would be a huge money-saver for the family-just dig the hole and throw in car and deceased-no need to bother trying to separate one from the other. I cannot imagine any scenario in which, even brand-spanking new that a CRX would perform better in a crash than my 4-star-rated (being fair, 5-star for driver) FiST did.
+1 on newer cars and glad you are OK. A friend has spent months recovering from being pancaked between two cars on the freeway and breaking a knee cap in an older Civic (accident caused by a kid texting and slamming on the brakes while so doing – fortunately a cop in the adjacent lane saw the whole thing happen).
Jim you’re right by me now! (I’m at a unnamed Agri-Chemical company right by MOBI). Unheard of to see a clean, un-rusted, unmolested CRX of any year round our way it seems. I assume you live up near Carmel/Fishers?
MOBI is actually the company I just left – I work in Fishers now! I live in Indy, inside 465 on the Northwestside.
Ah, well at least you get to do a reverse commute in terms of the crazy traffic coming south/west from Fishers/Noblesville on I69 onto 465. Ever since I got my little 4cyl ’97 Ranger, I’ve been avoiding the morning slog on 465 and taking Michigan/71st into work on NW side.
Jeez, you guys are making me feel bad. My northeast Indianapolis commute is 1 mile and 2 traffic lights. If I didn’t have to cross Binford Blvd. I would probably walk or bike. If I had a plug-in hybrid, I would seldom buy gas.
J P I went from having a really relaxing 7 mile commute coming from the “Anson” (I65 Exit 130) NW corner outside the loop into work, to commuting I-70W->I-65N->465N from the East Side (rented a house in Little Flower), to finally commuting from Broad Ripple where we bought a house. Coming from a pretty small town in Central NY, I thought I’d never get used to the concept of a 15+ minute commute (let alone 30) at highway speeds, but here I am! I will say avoiding 465 and doing secondary roads has made the drive less stressful.
I lived near Broadripple before and for a little while after getting married, on Indianola Avenue just south of 61st street. I really liked that neighborhood. It is not, however, great for Interstate access.
JP we’re right by your old stomping grounds then, by 60th and Ralston. Small world!
I absolutely love these cars, and in my opinion this is the best commuter car ever built.
Around 1990, my father seriously considered buying a CRX Si for his torturous daily commute — he really would have too, but a two-seater with a family wasn’t terribly practical.
I remember driving a CRX Si, as well as a Prelude Si from around the same time, and thought that those cars had the most harmonious engine/transmission matchup of any car I’d driven. I still long for the feel of that buttery transmission and that smooth, revvy engine.
Enjoy! I look forward to hearing updates
I have a funny story about a CRX of this generation. My 19 year old nephew bought one about 12 years ago, and drove it out from the East Coast to his new Coast Guard post on the Columbia River. He came down to Eugene to visit, and he bought a new cat-back exhaust for it (aka “fart can”). He took me for a short ride in it, and I was a bit uptight about sitting so low and looking up at the undersides of all the big pickups and SUVs. I did not feel safe, even though I drive a ’66 F100.
Sure enough, some girl in a Grand Cherokee did some illegal move (I can’t remember right now exactly what), which essentially forced my nephew to hit her in the back end (it was not his fault, although he probably could have avoided it with more caution). The CRX was not damaged much; but it reinforced my anxiety about that car. I was glad to get home.
Maybe it was my nephew’s driving skills more than the CRX, but I’ve never been drawn to one ever since. It feels like you’re in a wedge that’s guaranteed to go under another taller car or truck. I’d much rather drive my old Ford truck, even if it doesn’t have any safety equipment.
I’m thinking this particular CRX is lowered, these are low(as are most 1980s cars compared to now) but I don’t remember them that low, so not totally stock. Still refreshing to see, it gives me the impression that this car, if modified, is modified with substance in mind and not flash, just it’s clean stock aesthetic is all it needs to stand out, and it does that very well compared to the amorphous blobs surrounding it.
You could be right about that.
I daily drove a 91 Miata for years, my commute to the various jobs I had while owning it ranged from a couple miles, to a stretch of 55 miles, each way. In the winter I used snow tires (Nokians) and a hard-top ( I swear, the heater in that thing must have been the same one they put in 929’s or something, I was NEVER cold, even though I lived in Minnesota). In the summer, if it was above 40(F) the top was down. (Colder than that, and the top fabric got stiff and could split if I took it up or down) Anyway being a foot below all the other cars didn’t bother me, I’ve been cut off just as much now in my minivan as I ever was in the Miata and nothing beat top-down driving to keep me awake after a 12-hour shift. I have a MUCH harder time staying awake now in my highly insulated van… I guess what I’m trying to say is, try commuting in a little car, maybe see if you can rent a Mazda2/Fiesta for a week to see if you like it… I really dislike my 2-hours-a-day in the van now, but back when I had the “fun car”, every trip to work was an adventure and I never minded it. Oh, and with the Miata, if it was raining, I could have the top down and as long as I was going more than 30mph or so, the rain just blew over the top of me, and I stayed dry. I got lots of “interesting” looks from other drivers when I did that. 🙂
Way back in the late 1980s or early 1990s, as a CRX owner I was invited to a consumer marketing clinic for what would turn out to be the Mazda MX-3. We were to comare the MX-3 against the CRX, the Nissan Pulsar NX, and the Toyota Corolla Sport coupe.
The Corolla Sport Coupe and the MX-3 were probably more directly competitive with the CRX than the MR2 and the MX-5 Miata.
My 64 passenger 1959 Crown school bus is a lot of fun to “toss around”!
Get a tidy Miata and ab after market hardtop for the winter? You’ll never look back
My family had a 1989 Civic LX sedan…amazingly well built cars for that class is all I can say, and definitely a cut above the Toyota Corolla of the same vintage that we also owned.