1997 Acura 1.6EL
1997 Acura 1.6EL Sport
Photos courtesy Andrew Barcellos ELeMENTAL’s Acura 1.6EL

By Bob McHugh; photos courtesy Andrew Barcellos

Built in Canada and sold only in Canada, the Acura 1.6EL was certainly a smart and somewhat plucky move by Acura. The small luxury sedan market can be a risky one, as the forgettable Cavalier based Cadillac Cimarron could testify. However, with the highly-successful, and highly-dependable little Honda Civic as the donor vehicle, the Acura 1.6EL wasn’t as big a gamble.

First introduced as a 1997, the 1.6EL came in Base, Sport and Premium trim packages. Air conditioning and anti-lock brakes were some of the added features included in Sport and the top-line Premium package also gave it leather upholstery and a power moonroof.

EL’s high-output 1.6 litre VTEC (variable valve timing and electronic lift control) engine is not available in its Honda twin, the Civic sedan. This free-revving little motor hits the red-line on the tachometer just shy of 7,000 rpm and produces a hefty 127 horsepower. Predicted fuel economy is excellent as an EL should only use 8.1 litres/100 km in the city and 6.3 litres/100 km when out on the highway.

Bigger and better wheels and tires, a beefier front stabilizer bar and better shocks also give the 1.6EL an edge over Civic in the handling department. The brakes are a bit disappointing. It has discs up front, but only drums in the rear and the anti-lock system is just a three channel system.

1997 Acura 1.6EL
1997 Acura 1.6EL

In ’98 the base version got a low windshield washer fluid warning light and new floor mats. Sport got a leather-wrapped steering wheel and heated front seats were added to the Premium package. The ’99 model year brought a new chrome surround on the front grille, a leather-wrapped gear shifter knob and the base version was re-named SE. The only change for 2000, the final year of the first generation EL, was a leather-wrapped steering wheel in the SE.

There’s just one safety recall associated with the Acura 1.6EL. An improperly assembled airbag, in the ’97, may not deploy correctly and causes an increased risk of injury for the front passenger.

If content is more important than size and good fuel economy is a must, the small but luxurious Acura 1.6EL is a natural. Resale values are on the high side, which is not too good when you’re the buyer. Then again, as those people who always seem to know better always say, “you get what you pay for!”

Used Prices: Acura 1.6EL (July 2001)

Year Model Price today Price new
1997 4-door Sport $13,500 to $16,500 $21,400
1998 4-door Sport $15,900 to $18,900 $21,935
1999 4-door Sport $17,500 to $20,500 $23,112
2000 4-door Sport $19,000 to $22,000 $23,112

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

A senior member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), Bob McHugh is a regular contributor to numerous automotive publications as well as Senior Technical Advisor at the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA).

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