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The Legacy Of The’88-’91 Honda Civic/CRX

Consider the foundation for Honda performance officially laid.

Aaron Bonk
Jan 1, 2012

In 1987, Honda Motor Company did something terribly right, something that would forever change the way the automotive performance rank and file would view the brand. On the heels of a global car market that had shifted from thrilling albeit environmentally careless domestics to more Earth-loving yet characterless subcompacts, Honda introduced the world to the greatest trade-off yet: the fourth-generation Civic. Consider the foundation for Honda performance officially laid.

Htup 1201 01+1988 1991 honda civic crx+crx Photo 2/4   |   The Legacy Of The’88-’91 Honda Civic/CRX

The 1988 model year Civic was Honda’s sleekest to date—its hood line lowered, its glass expanse increased, its wheelbase longer. This new Civic’s aerodynamic adeptness and no-nonsense rigid structure yet light weight was something special, typically uncharacteristic of cars of its class. Fuel injection was now standard for all U.S.-bound trims, and a new-for-’88 sedan was introduced, accompanying revived hatchback, wagon, and CRX models. But if it wasn’t for Honda’s thoroughly reinvented double-wishbone suspension and all-new four-cylinder D16A6 engine, it’s unlikely any of us would be babbling on about the Japanese auto firm’s fourth-term Civic some quarter of a century later.

2018 Honda Civic
$18,940 Base Model (MSRP) 28/40 MPG Fuel Economy

To this day, few suspension configurations are as tidy, as well packaged, and as formidable as Honda’s unequal-length A-arm arrangement, also known as its “double-wishbone” suspension. The now-historically validated layout features single upper and lower A-arms (wishbones) for each front corner and a multi-link trailing-arm rear suspension that each pivot against the chassis as well as their suspension members. Compared to older Civics’ timeworn front torsion bar suspensions, double-wishbone layouts allowed for improved handling and better stiffening in factory form and yield far more options in terms of performance improvements. Honda employed its famed double-wishbone suspension on its Civic line for 13 model years until adopting its current MacPherson strut layout.

Htup 1201 02+1988 1991 honda civic crx+civic Photo 3/4   |   The Legacy Of The’88-’91 Honda Civic/CRX

Club racers immediately latched onto this alternative race car, not just because of its forward-thinking suspension, but also because of the Civic Si hatchback’s and CRX Si’s D16A6 powerplant that set the pace for more performance-minded engines that would be developed later. Honda’s most powerful, most durable single-overhead-camshaft Civic engine yet, the D16A6 was also its largest, pushing a class-leading 106hp thanks to more cubic inches, a 9.1:1 compression ratio, and a 7,100-rpm redline that was made possible from a thoughtfully configured 1.52:1 rod/stroke ratio. The Si’s 16-valve cylinder head with its redesigned water jackets provided more predicable cooling for racers and featured one of Honda’s most optimally designed intake and exhaust ports—ones that were straighter and arguably capable of flowing better than even later VTEC heads. And all of this was for the Si—a no-nonsense sporty sort of car that didn’t waste itself on accoutrements like power steering or an automatic transmission.

Honda’s ’88–’91 Civic must also be credited for the Honda engine swap revolution’s humble beginnings. Early tuners looked to the Japanese market’s twin-cam ZC engine and began transplanting those into place before the body style’s four-year life span was fulfilled. As the fifth-generation model was introduced, those same tuners began experimenting with the more complex, 150hp B16A transplant, which was also sourced from Japanese-specific trims. Those early B-series engine swaps are undoubtedly responsible for the next 20-some years’ worth of transplanting, building, tuning, and racing, all in the name of Honda’s Civic.

Htup 1201 03+1988 1991 honda civic crx+hatchback Photo 4/4   |   The Legacy Of The’88-’91 Honda Civic/CRX

Trims And Chassis Codes
'88-'91 Civic Hatchback: Std, DX (ED6), Si(ED7)
'88-'91 Civic Sedan: DX, LX (ED3), EX (ED4)
'88-'91 Civic Wagon: DX (EE2), Wagovan (EY2), RT4WD(EE4)
'88-'91 CRX: DX, HF (ED8), Si (ED9)
Engines
D15B1: Std, 70hp, 16-valve, SOHC
D15B2: DX, LX, Wagovan, 92hp, 16-valve SOHC
D15B6: HF, 72hp, 16-valve SOHC
D16A6: EX, Si, RT4WD, 105hp, 16-valve SOHC
Curb Weights (MT)
Std hatchback ('88/'89/'90-'91): 1,933/2,013/2,127 lb
DX hatchback ('88/'89/'90-'91): 1,933/2,088/2,165 lb
Si hatchback ('89/'90-'91): 2,161/2,291 lb
DX sedan ('88/'89/'90-'91): 2,039/2,147/2,262 lb
LX sedan ('88/'89/'90-'91): 2,138/2,211/2,322 lb
EX sedan ('90-'91): 2,374 lb
DX Wagon, Wagovan ('88-'91): 2,262 lb
Wagon RT4WD ('88-'91): 2,515 LB
DX CRX ('88/'89/'90-'91): 1,922/2,048/2,103 lb
HF CRX ('88/'89/'90-'91): 1,922/2,048/2,103 lb
Si CRX ('88/'89/'90-'91): 2,017/2,075/2,174 lb

By Aaron Bonk
406 Articles

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