1996 Honda del Sol
1996 Honda del Sol

By Bob McHugh

Picture this – a warm sunny day, a traffic-free road ahead and the confines and stress of the city behind – far, far behind your open-roof sports car. Driving with the top-down can be motoring at it’s best, but buying and owning a sports car is generally an expensive proposition – unless the car is a used Honda del Sol.

It looks like a mid-engine sports car, however the del Sol has a conventional drivetrain with the engine up front and drive to the front wheels. Based on the dependable and economical Civic, Honda sold the del Sol in Canada from 1993 to 1997.

The two-seater del Sol replaced the sporty CRX, another favourite of mine, in the Honda product line when introduced for the 1993 model year. A lightweight removable roof panel fits into a holder inside the trunk and there’s still another 237 litres (8.4 cu ft) of space left for cargo.

Initially the del Sol was offered in ‘S’ and ‘Si’ trim levels. The base ‘S’ version has a 1.5 litre 16-valve engine that generates 102 horsepower. The ‘Si’ comes with a high-output 16-valve 1.6 litre engine that pumps-out 125 horsepower. Both were offered with either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed automatic, with ‘low-hold’ feature for downhill engine braking.

In 1994 a passenger side air bag option and a high revving (7,600 rpm) DOHC 1.6 litre VTEC engine version were added to the del Sol line. This high compression engine produces an additional 35 horsepower and uses premium fuel. It also came in a package that included anti-lock brakes, a sport suspension and better wheels and tires.

The base ‘S’ version was deleted in ’95. A new front fascia and a bunch of minor upgrades came in ’96 and there were no changes in ’97, the final year of del Sol on the market. Another casualty of the shrinking market for compact sports cars.

All Honda engines use a valve timing belt and it’s really important to replace it every 80,000 to 100,000 kilometres, check the owner’s manual for details. If this belt should slip or break, major damage can occur inside the engine. An oil feed problem that causes the engine to sound noisy when cold, is a common problem with the 16 valve engine. And the ’93 del Sol was recalled for loose or lost shift cable retaining clip on the automatic transmission shift lever which may cause it to show the wrong gear position.

The Honda del Sol is a fun summer runabout and a reliable and efficient fuel user. However, when the sun shines and temperatures soar, so do used del Sol prices.

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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