When Honda first released the CR-X in 1984 to the United States, it was a revelation. Here was essentially a Civic hatchback with only the essentials: an engine, a stick shift, and two seats. It was the Golf GTi for Americans, the first time that staid and reliable Honda produced something solely for fun. Yet, just like the GTi Golf, it kept those Honda essentials as well, mainly reliability and fuel economy. It’s no wonder then that the CR-X sold in droves.
Still, some people wanted the fun of the CR-X without any of the limited cargo room, people room, and stigma of driving a “sports compact”. Enter the 1987 fourth generation Civic, commonly known as the EF. Bringing fuel injection, VTEC, and that low, low hoodline, the EF Civic quickly became the people’s choice for fun yet practical transportation.
While the tuner crowd was busy turning mom’s Civic’s into their little pocket rice rockets, Honda was busy turning Japan’s fancy Civics into Acuras. Thus, the Integra was born. Perhaps one of the only four-door hardtops which made it to the States despite their popularity in Japan’s Lost Decade, the Integra also quickly gathered a cult following, largely thanks to the JDM car’s hot GS-R variant, the Type-R of its day.
Fast forwards to the late 2000's, though, and Honda was not the same company it used to be. Now churning out thousands of CR-Vs instead of CR-X’s, the company seems to lack its former grace and charm. Case in point: the CR-Z. An attempt to bring back the fun and sales of the CR-X simply resulted in an overweight, underpowered Insight coupe which looked the part but dawdled along miserably.
So what went wrong? In a word: everything. In another word, nothing. While Honda may have gone mainstream and lost most of what made it great in the first place, it hasn’t lost the mentality of reliability and quality and today is one of only a handful of independent automakers to make the list of top-sellers worldwide. Add that to the company’s burgeoning enthusiast following and their recent push away from mediocrity once again, and Honda’s future looks as bright as the power of their dreams.
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