1991 Honda Civic CRX
1991 Honda Civic CRX

By Bob McHugh

It’s hard to believe that Honda made it’s first real car, the Civic, less than thirty years ago. It’s simply amazing how far this company has come in such a relatively short period. A combination of innovative designs, advanced technology and, most important of all, quality products have made Honda a market leader. In the small car segment Honda Civic is the car that others now use to measure their products.

A second generation of Civic arrived in 1980, and since then a four year product redesign cycle has become the norm at Honda. The little hatchback had already grown a trunk and stretched into a ‘tall-body’ wagon during its third stage of development and a little two seater sporty version, known as the CRX, was also added to the Civic line.

A good little car became a great little car in 1988. The fourth generation Civic was billed as stronger, roomier and more aerodynamic and it elevated this small car beyond its economical mini transporter roots. Its long wheelbase cab-forward design, a double wishbone suspension and a fuel injected, four valve all-aluminum engine were performance enhancements previously reserved for more expensive vehicles.

The ’88 Civic came in four body styles: 2-door hatchback; 4-door sedan; a 2 or 4-wheel-drive, 4-door wagon and the CRX, a 2-seater fastback. Hatchbacks with a vehicle identity number (VIN) that starts with ‘2’ were built at the Honda assembly plant in Alliston, Ontario and a ‘J’ indicates that it was made in Japan.

Even the base 2-door DX offers sports car like handing and is capable of zipping from 0 to 100 km/hour in about 9 seconds. It is also an extremely fuel efficient vehicle and with a 5 speed maual transmission, it’s rated at 7 litres/100 km (40 mpg) in the city and 5.6 litres/100 km (50 mpg) on the highway. A 1.5 litre engine was standard on all models except the CRX Si and the 4WD Wagon, which came with a more powerful 1.6 litre engine.

Wearable components like brakes and exhaust always need checking when buying a used car and the Civic is no exception. However, an engine valve timing belt replacement is a particularly critical long term maintenace item on a Civic. The normal timing belt service life is 96,000 km. If not replaced the belt could slip or break, pistons hit valves and the engine is toast. The under-body should also be checked for structural corrosion problems, especially if it’s spent time in area where road salt is used during the winter months.

Overall the Honda Civic is a mechanically sound and durable little car that retains it’s value quite well on the used car market. So, yes, expect to pay more for a nice used one – it’s worth the added investment.

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.

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