Car reviews - Honda - CRX - 2-dr targa coupe
Ace VTEC engine, well finished, easier to drive than before
Room for improvement
Controversial styling, chassis not as sharp as before
18 Jun 2003
THE 1990s saw something of a return to fun motoring with a raft of new convertibles - led by the Mazda MX5 and Ford Capri in 1989 - hot hatches, coupes and "Targa" tops.
The original Honda CRX two-door coupe was introduced in 1987. It was a true coupe, with no provision for removing the roof, but proved popular as a sporty performer with advanced features and a good finish.
The second-generation CRX was released in 1992 with the main new feature being a removable "targa" roof, which was a Porsche design from the early 1970s named after its Targa Florio race car.
The Targa roof features a large panel that could be taken off and stored in the boot to give true open-air motoring.
This design gave the best of both worlds - a stiff body structure with the rear section forming a strong "hoop" and a non-fabric top which would not deteriorate with exposure to the elements.
The CRX is based on the Honda Civic platform and has a 1.6-litre engine driving the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox.
The engine features the Honda VTEC variable valve timing system developed during the company's Formula One heyday and revs effortlessly to 8000rpm, with a surge of power from 6000rpm upwards.
The engine is silky smooth, even up to maximum revs.
The chassis is also well engineered with independent suspension all round by double wishbones and coil springs at the front and rear. Healthy 195/60 tyres on 14-inch rims contribute to the outstanding road holding.
The brakes are power-assisted discs all round, ventilated at the front, with ABS, while the steering is power-assisted rack and pinion.
Styling of the CRX is dominated in side view by the rather awkward B pillar which rises to form part of the roof line with the targa top. It is pretty with the roof on but a little unbalanced with the panel removed.
From the front, the car has an aggressive appearance with the squinting headlamps and inset fog lamps giving a wide, stable look.
Inside, the CRX is outstanding.
The interior exudes quality with easy to read instruments centrally located in a binnacle and logically placed controls and switches. A thick rimmed steering wheel and short, positive gear lever give a true sports car feel.
The seats provide plenty of grip and support. Luggage space in the boot is surprisingly good, even with the Targa top stored in its place. There are two lockable storage bins behind the seats.
The CRX is well equipped with anti-lock brakes, alloy wheels, central locking, metallic paint, power mirrors/steering/windows and four-speaker radio/cassette player standard. In 1994 a driver's airbag became standard.
On the road, the CRX is a gem. The ride on all surfaces is supple but well controlled with little of the scuttle shake characteristic of soft-top cars.
The car handles uneven surfaces at speed with great stability. Handling is brilliant with great response right up to the limit.
The throttle can be used to control the car in fast corners and lifting off in this situation causes no anxiety.
Based on the well proven Civic, the CR-X is reliable with no recurring faults.
Parts can be expensive but this should not be a problem until the car gets older.
The Honda CRX is a brilliant compromise between civilised comfort and wind-in-the-hair motoring. It has great performance and handling, a superb interior, a great engine and high quality of finish.
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