The little two-seat Honda CRX was far more appealing in the PM than inthe AM.

That`s PM as in pre-Miata and AM as in after-Miata.

CRX nearly had the two-seat field to its own at one time. Its onlycompetition was the Pontiac Fiero, which had the same top-notch engineeringthat General Motors Corp. gave the Oldsmobile diesel and had only slightlylonger staying power than the Cadillac V-8-6-4 engine, and the Toyota MR2,which abandoned the economy sports market when it went the supercharged route for one year before settling on turbocharging.

The CRX got a double whammy in that the Chevrolet Geo Storm also competes for the attention of those who want a two-seater that looks good, not justunusual.


That`s how Honda describes its two-seat CRX.


That`s Honda`s way of describing the ride and handling and performance of the little critter. However, CRX loses much of its cuteness and fun-to-driveallure with Miata and Storm on the scene.

Nice car? Sure. Can it zip around in traffic while getting more than 20miles per gallon? No question. King of the two-seaters? No longer.

We test drove the CRX Si hatchback with its 1.6-liter, 108-horsepower,16-valve, 4-cylinder engine teamed with 5-speed. Automatic is not available inthe top-of-the-line CRX.

The CRX line is Honda`s most fuel-efficient. The CRX HF with its 62-h.p., 1.5-liter engine is EPA rated at 49 m.p.g. city/52 m.p.g. highway with its 5- speed manual transmission. The Si is rated at 28/33 m.p.g. with its largerengine. Very good mileage, but not to be confused with the HF.

The CRX Si is quick, but then the 108-h.p., 1.6-liter, 4 only has topropel a mere 1,900 pounds. The short-throw 5-speed makes shifting relatively easy, but without automatic Honda makes it easier for those who aren`t hard-core manual devotees to turn to Miata and Storm, which offer automatic.

Built on a 90.6-inch wheelbase and only 148.5 inches long, the CRX Sioffers just about everything you`d want in a bigger Honda except room and rearvisibility, which is reduced by the slanting roof and sharply sloped rearwindow that resembles an old Mustang Mach model.

Good car? Sure. Great car? Not with the competition.

Miata and Storm are much more fun to drive. Want really good fueleconomy? Then the CRX fits the bill. Want really good fuel economy plus astylish machine that`s the envy of those who pass by and is a real kick to putthrough its paces on the twisting pavement leading out to the boonies? Thenit`s Miata and Storm.

Base price is $11,130.

Standard equipment includes power sunroof; rear wiper/washer; tintedglass; 5-mile-per-hour impact bumpers; bodyside moldings; dual remote outside mirrors; adjustable steering column; quartz, digital clock; trip odometer;rear-window defroster; intermittent wipers; double-wishbone, independentsuspension; gas-pressurized front and rear shocks; 14-inch, perfo rmance,radial tires; power brakes; and a host of hidden compartments to store smallitems.

Among the popular options, AM/FM stereo radio runs from $179 to $459-youhave to add speakers at $41 to $130-and air conditioning costs $675 plusinstallation, which varies by dealership.

A common complaint among buyers is that dealers are charging $1,000 to$1,200 for air in a Honda. Shop around for price.