Honda Civic and CRX: Really as reliable as we remember?

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Oct 22, 2023 | Honda, Civic, honda civic, crx, honda crx | Posted in Features | From the May 2023 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

We lived through the ’80s and ’90s and spent a lot of time with the era’s greatest hits–drove them, raced them, even knew them when they still had that new car smell. We fondly remember shopping for Kamei air dams, Hella lamps and 14-inch tires.

But were the cars of those times really that rad? 

We wondered that ourselves, so we ditched the rose-colored glasses for a few to take a look back. Were they all winners, or did a few duds get released? Let’s slip on some Vans, break out the vinyl and take a trip back in time.

This week, we're looking back at the ever-popular Honda Civic and CRX.

[Project Car: 2019 Honda Civic Si Coupe]

Everything you’ve heard about wishbone Civics is true: tons of interior room, Lego-like interchangeability and terrific handling. They’re built to last and easy to wrench on. In the ’90s, at least, the aftermarket was on fire. 

My wife and I owned the full wishbone Civic and CRX run–EF, EG and EK–so we’re talking 1988 through 2000. Aside from a B16A-powered CRX HF, all wore an Si badge on the rear. 

The faults were few, but one possibility always loomed: Will it get stolen? Fortunately, none of ours got nicked, although someone once vandalized my wife’s 2000 Civic Si. 

We really only sold them because they’d run their course as magazine projects. At the time, we figured we could always go back, but the pool of good cars has totally dried up. My wife still dailies a Civic Si–now a 2014 sedan–but there was something magical about that B16A. 

Verdict: If I could go back in time and grab one car, it would be a wishbone Honda. In today’s market, a JDM Integra Type R might have to scratch that itch.

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BoxheadTim
BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/11/23 8:42 a.m.

Doesn't have to be a JDM Integra Type R for me, a glassroof CRX SiR would do nicely.

Placemotorsports
Placemotorsports GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
5/11/23 8:58 a.m.

Love to have my old '88 si back

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
5/11/23 9:14 a.m.

My first car was a '94 Integra–base model with the automatic.

As much fun as that thing was, I can only imagine how much more fun a Civic Si or Integra Type R is.

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/11/23 9:52 a.m.

I've said this many times before: The greatest car that I've ever owned was the 1989 Civic Si that I bought new and drove for twelve years and 300k+ miles.
 

Even after a bunch of autocrossing, I didn't replace the clutch until 212k, and it hadn't even failed yet, but I had gotten a new job and changed it just as a precaution. 
 

So, Yes -> reliable as a stone. And lots and lots of fun. 
 

If Honda was still building them, I'd still be buying them. 

MrJoshua
MrJoshua UltimaDork
5/11/23 10:27 a.m.

I bought my '88 CRX in the early 90's with a broken transmission and well over 200k miles. I replaced the transmission with a junkyard piece an proceeded to beat on the car for a couple of years. I then sold it to my sister who delivered pizza in it for a couple more years. At that point she had my buddy who was a mechanic do a tune up. He called me laughing saying the car had the original plug wires on it. He said-if they are still working at 250k miles I'm leaving them! I think my sister drove it for another year before selling it. 

wspohn
wspohn SuperDork
5/11/23 10:39 a.m.

The original Civic was not a bad package.  While everyone else was running around buying up wheels, tires, and various unnecessary adornments, a friend and I took a pair of HS2 SUs from a Midget or a Sprite and made an intake manifold for the Honda with before and after test runs.  Added 10 mph to top end.

Another Honda fan took us to task for that but I just said that the carbs were Hitachis and they should look them up in the Japanese hop-up lit.

 

jimbob_racing
jimbob_racing SuperDork
5/11/23 10:52 a.m.

The one car that I regret selling the most was the former GRM supercharged CRX. That car was the best Honda that I've ever owned.

IKR
IKR New Reader
5/11/23 12:43 p.m.

 

My new cars stay in the driveway under covers but my affinity to 1990s-2000 wishbone Hondas would never let me part with my DA Integra that stays in the garage.. I just need to send out the tranny for final drive and lsd installation along with replacement of any worn synchros. Fully built B17a is ready to go in the place of the JDM B16A smog officials didn't like. 

mblommel
mblommel GRM+ Memberand Dork
5/11/23 12:49 p.m.

Still miss both of my CRX's. Such a great little car.

bmw88rider
bmw88rider GRM+ Memberand UberDork
5/11/23 1:55 p.m.

Always a lot of fun. Just sold my Integra sedan but was a great car for the time and place. There may be a replacement at some time in the future after the current mirage has run it's course in my garage. 

Qaaaaa
Qaaaaa New Reader
5/11/23 4:13 p.m.

My current track car is an 89 CRX Si. It handles nicely, but even with a D16Z6 swap, man is it slow down the straights. Needs turbo.

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy MegaDork
5/11/23 4:24 p.m.

In reply to Woody (Forum Supportum) :

I know your looking for a new Si - maybe you're chasing down the past Si.

I too want a new Si but I enjoy the size of my Silverado - banged my head twice in that Frontier I rented this week.  

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/11/23 9:43 p.m.
Datsun310Guy said:

In reply to Woody (Forum Supportum) :

I know your looking for a new Si - maybe you're chasing down the past Si.

That is absolutely what I'm doing.

Aluiso62
Aluiso62 New Reader
5/12/23 1:42 p.m.

Back on 1988, I bought a brand new black CRX-Si and paid $10k.  I used to order parts (headers and other) from Mugen.  Then, got married and had to sale it after my first son (now he is 33).  I wish to have it again.

Woody (Forum Supportum)
Woody (Forum Supportum) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
5/12/23 2:10 p.m.

In reply to Aluiso62 :

My 89 Civic Si was $10,225 plus another $1000 to add a/c. 

Tom1200
Tom1200 UberDork
5/12/23 2:52 p.m.
Qaaaaa said:

My current track car is an 89 CRX Si. It handles nicely, but even with a D16Z6 swap, man is it slow down the straights. Needs turbo.

You have no clue what you are talking about; your car is a F*&ing rocket compared to my 80whp Datsun..........LOL.

Love CRXs would have one in a heartbeat.

frenchyd
frenchyd MegaDork
5/12/23 3:11 p.m.

My wife's CRX  is a decade old with only one  minor repair. 
    The early Honda Civics  I sold were cars that changed the automotive landscape. Due to the low price  reliability was astonishingly unexpected.  Handling and sporty ness was another unexpected bonus.  

PT_SHO
PT_SHO New Reader
5/12/23 8:59 p.m.

I facilitated my brother buying a heavily used autocrosser, believe it was an '86 Si, from friends who were changing cars.  He loved it but so did the lowlifes who variously stole it three times.  One time they left the "jacked against the floor holding the brake pedal up" anti-theft device in place and just drove it with the parking brake.  The next gen Si's were very capable autocross cars as well, and could be raced in at least three different classes by then-SCCA rules.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/13/23 8:18 a.m.

Like the rest of you, I also miss our wishbone Hondas. 

CanadianCD9A
CanadianCD9A New Reader
5/14/23 4:15 p.m.

Rust and mice finally got my 1995 Civic CX hatchback at 425,000 km in 2013. Original engine, transmission, clutch, axles, pretty much everything. It just needed oil changes, timing belts, the occasional bushing. I ran it on 13" winter tires year-round, 100,000 km on them and the rears still had half their tread. My brother has near half a million km on his 1997 Civic DX coupe, though it's had some rust repair, burns a lot of oil, and hasn't had overdrive for the past 50,000. If Canada didn't have rust, we'd all still be driving 1990s Hondas.

Qaaaaa
Qaaaaa New Reader
5/15/23 10:44 a.m.
Tom1200 said:
Qaaaaa said:

My current track car is an 89 CRX Si. It handles nicely, but even with a D16Z6 swap, man is it slow down the straights. Needs turbo.

You have no clue what you are talking about; your car is a F*&ing rocket compared to my 80whp Datsun..........LOL.

Love CRXs would have one in a heartbeat.

I mean, it's really fast compared to my 1963 Sprite! 

DocRob
DocRob Reader
5/15/23 10:51 a.m.

Yes, they were all amazing. The '92 Accord LX I had 2.2/5spd was an amazing car. I sometimes (like twice a week) dream of finding a clean 4th Gen Accord Wagon and prepping it for Honda Challenge. 

Tom1200
Tom1200 UberDork
5/15/23 10:53 a.m.

You bastards................I caught myself window shopping CRXs this past weekend.

L5wolvesf
L5wolvesf Dork
5/15/23 1:05 p.m.
Tom1200 said:

You bastards................I caught myself window shopping CRXs this past weekend.

If I'm gonna be called a bastard I would like to at least earn it . . . 

https://phoenix.craigslist.org/nph/cto/d/glendale-1984-honda-civic-hatch/7619748603.html

EDIT no linky so . . . 

 

Andy Hollis
Andy Hollis
5/15/23 6:28 p.m.

Since 1988, I have always had at least one EF in my garage.  Mostly CRXs...one bought new.  Sometimes as many as three.  Right now, two.  One K-swap, and one B-swap.

I did a bone stock '91 Civic Si to 200,000 miles with oil changes and brake pads and one set of wheel bearings.  and my commute home at that time required a 100mph blast just to remember I was alive.

crankwalk (Forum Supporter)
crankwalk (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
7/2/23 8:22 a.m.
frenchyd said:

My wife's CRX  is a decade old with only one  minor repair. 
    The early Honda Civics  I sold were cars that changed the automotive landscape. Due to the low price  reliability was astonishingly unexpected.  Handling and sporty ness was another unexpected bonus.  

frenchy

Where did you find a 2003 CRX?!

P3PPY
P3PPY GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
7/2/23 2:05 p.m.

I took this yesterday at a RallyCross. Some ppl are still enjoying theirs :)

RallyCaddy
RallyCaddy GRM+ Memberand New Reader
7/3/23 7:56 p.m.

A club member sold me a riced 91 CRX some years back. It was a lot of work to put it all back but worth it. It's a backup DD now and also my backup RX car. It won the SCCA RX Nats in 2022 in PF. Always getting WTB messages. I almost never see one on the road. Loving it. Keeping it. A/C is still cold.

Nitroracer (Forum Supporter)
Nitroracer (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
7/4/23 10:06 p.m.

I enjoyed my GS-R for years and did a lot of different Motorsports with it as it became less and less of a daily driver.  Shouldn't have sold that one!  I still pine for high revving fun engines like that B18.

k20a2DC2
k20a2DC2 New Reader
10/22/23 11:31 p.m.

I've never owned anything but Honda Acura's I never got to race any but my last one was my plan to race unfortunately my 1996 Acura Integra k20a2 swapped car was totaled last Saturday evening. I was to have it painted and the cage installed and painted in the process. So now I'm stripping it down salvaging what I can to swap into another Integra shell that was one of my buddies whose parents gave to me as he was in an accident with a motorcycle and passed away a year ago. SO im build it to his specs that I remember and make it the best track car I can.  I do have a 2002 Acura RSX Type-s I'm trying to get going which is my new street car. and 2008 Civic sedan as well. 

jmhonnold
jmhonnold New Reader
10/23/23 12:33 a.m.

A little late to this party, but I thought I would chime-in.  I bought a CRX Si from the showroom in 1990, and I still have it.  It has about 155k miles, and replaced the timing belt multiple times.  Still on the original clutch, but it is showing signs of wear.  I don't drive it much since I am afraid someone might steal it, but it is still fun and has been very reliable.  No rust as of yet since it has been garage kept most of its life.  I have thought about selling it, but thus far it has been difficult to part with.

CrustyRedXpress
CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand Dork
10/23/23 6:55 a.m.

In reply to k20a2DC2 :

Yikes! Glad you're OK. I'm curious about the safety of the DC2-do you know how fast your were going when impact occured? Any thoughts on how the car took the hit?

jddeadfuelpumps
jddeadfuelpumps New Reader
10/28/23 12:57 p.m.

In reply to Placemotorsports :

Same here, my friend. Although mine may have been a 1990-I'm not sure, but I think they're exactly the same. I even had the budget engine swap: the twin cam 1.6 without VTEC. For a short time I had another EF, but it was the range topping (ex?) 4 dr Civic. A different thing, but still so sublime to live with and use. We'll never see anything like them again, and I gave them up way too flippantly.

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