The Honda del Sol is yet another car that was universally maligned by enthusiasts in its time, but is now endearing and legit. What octane-blooded driver today wouldn’t sacrifice a finger or two to have a car like the del Sol back on the market? It revs, is quick, handles well, is packed with clever touches that immerse you with the open road, and doesn’t require a second mortgage to own. If Honda sold something like this today, we’d be singing its praises from the mountaintops. Sadly, it was mostly panned because Honda marketed it as a replacement for the beloved CRX.
To be clear, the CRX is the superior driver’s car. But we wouldn’t kick a del Sol out of bed for leaving brake dust in the sheets. In 1993 the Si trim’s 1.6-liter D16Z6 made 125 horsepower when Motorweek conducted their review. That was good enough, when paired with a 5-speed manual, to hustle up to 60 mph in just 8 seconds and cross the quarter-mile marker in 16.3 seconds at 84 mph.
As we all know, 0-60 was never a Honda’s raison d’etre. That would be handling, and in that department the del Sol just wasn’t as razor sharp as the CRX. That was owed to its 300 pound heavier curb weight working in conjunction with a softer suspension. However, These differences are only heightened because the CRX was so brilliant. By reading contemporary reviews one would think the del Sol is some kind of land yacht, but that’s not even close to the real story. In the grand scheme of things del Sols are far closer to the Miata end of the handling spectrum than an Oldsmobile.
Plus, when you take advantage of all its features it can be quite the blast. The aluminum targa top is easy to remove and store. The trunk even has an ingenious compartment for it, which folds away to reveal a larger cargo space. The rear glass can roll down like a Toyota SUV, providing fresh air and a party trick.
Best of all, the del Sol was a bargain, starting at just $13,700 for the base model and $15,000 for Si. The easiness on your wallet extended into ownership as well, with an estimated 22 city mpg and 33 highway (Motorweek got 32 in real world testing) and Honda durability.
If all this sounds good, the package was made even better in 1994 with the debut of the Honda del So VTEC. Equipped with a 160-horsepower B16A3 engine, it absolutely ripped. Honda should’ve never positioned the del Sol as a CRX successor. Taken on its own, it’s a compelling little sports car. It’s a shame the world was so quick to dismiss the del Sol, but it also means that today del Sols command only a fraction of the price of a Civic Si. That won’t last forever, so if you’ve ever been curious about the del Sol, now’s the time to grab one.
The only Del Sols I see anymore are rust buckets with fart cans on them. They were never a successor to my beloved ’88 CRX Si. My SCCA friends that had CRXs, and we were legion, never took the Del Suck seriously. It was, and is, a bloated, ill conceived, attempt by Honda to expand the customer base for the CRX, and instead it crashed the segment.
To put a finer point on it, the Del Sol was the beginning of the end of Honda as a serious maker of enthusiast cars. Now look at them, NSX is dead, Integra is a shadow of it’s former self, and the Civic SI is only available as a freaking four door sedan.
How the mighty have fallen.
You forgot the S2000.
I have to disagree with your last paragraph, at least a little. At the same time that new Del Sols were prowling the streets Honda released the truly special 1G NSX. No sooner had the Del Sol model been discontinued, Honda followed up with the really good EM1 Civic Si (1999-2000), the highly focused Integra Type R, and the fantastic S2000. Sure, things got quiet after that, as the later Civic Si’s were generally disappointing and the S2000 disappeared in 2009. But Honda did continue to offer some impressive manual equipped Accord V6s and turbo fours, And in 2017 North America finally got the Civic Type R, the latest version of which offers much improved looks to go with some pretty impressive performance.
Honda hasn’t completely lost its way. While its mainstream offerings follow market trends toward SUVs, direct injection, CV transmissions, numb and over-assisted power steering, and other abominations, there are still a few options to be had by the enthusiast driver at your local Honda dealer, if you can stomach the mark-ups.
I ALMOST got a Del Sol awhile ago. What should be looked into is that the JDM-only Del Sols with the automatic roof receding into the trunk, like the Mercedes-Benz 230 SLK Kompressor or Chrysler 200. These are now importable. The mechanism may be a few lbs more but, tweaking the motor and heavier suspension mods should do that up right. I appears to me that the epitome of cool would be to press a button to have the trunk open up straight up and have the roof slide back into its slot under the trunklid then, close.
I wonder what the reaction of the motoring press and the enthusiast public would have been if Honda had led with the B16 Del Sol, maybe with a slightly stiffer suspension.
I’m a naysayer. I have driven and been driven in a number of Del Sols and I found them to be meh. Yes the handling is very good but everyone had pretty bad cowl shake when you ran over railroad tracks or hit big potholes. I know the phrase is not PC today, but the Del Sol was derided by most of my male car nerd friends at the time as a secretary’s car. I also disagree that it replaced the CRX. Honda killed the CRX and oddly made this car instead. It was never a replacement.
A big plus one to all of this speedie. I will never understand why Honda replaced the very successful CRX with that thing. The CRX was a phenomenon, it’s sales cut across all demographics, young and old, male and female, Sunday driver to track fiend. What a colossal failure on Honda’s part to dump it, I’d still be buying them if they had kept it in production.
The reason(s) were quite simple.
1. CRX was an acronym for Civic Renaissance X (Roman ten) to mark the tenth anniversary of the Civic. The car that MADE Honda.
Note that later JDM & UK/EU 1st gen cars came with the twin cam D16/ZC16 engine.
Due to incredible demand, the allocation for Australia never made it. We had to wait until 1988 with the ED9 chassis. Honda addressed many criticisms of the original car by prolonging the party until 1991.
2. Mazda in general, but for this point, the Eunos 30X. Name escapes me, but their spokesman at the time made no secret of benchmarking the ED CRX, and feeling they’d eclipsed it.
The 1.8l V6 was not quick enough to account for the soggy handling and steering. The market agreed.
3. Miata. Honda saw the writing on the wall, but in trying to blend niches into one car, they incorporated too many compromises into it. They went halfway between Miata and Nissan (called Exa here, Pulsar-based coupe with targa panels) and IMO, ended up with something unfocused.
Sucked a wee bit for those of us in the CRX club, as the Del Sol was named CRX here. To be fair, there were Civics, Tegs and an NSX there too.
“Second mortgage” Ha, I’ll never afford a house.
My dad and I are just about through phase 1 of a multi-year Del Sol project. We found a lady down the street from my grandparents’ home that had one just sitting in her driveway. Original owner who bought it brand new in 1993 in lime green with a 5-speed. We just finished up the K24+6-speed swap and gonna drive it around for the summer. Next year we’re putting GSR brakes and gonna try to find some period correct wheels for it and finish it off with a full interior restoration and fresh paint job. Love that little car even with the D16.
I had two of these, the second provided by Honda under the Indiana Lemon Law. My first one, a ’93, leaked in rain over the top of driver’s A pillar….not nice. Honda redesigned the seals several times and my first one got the “second gen” replacement seal: still leaked! After a third try at a proper seal that still didn’t, I got the new ’94 from Honda.
Unfortunately when I got the replacement ’94 it leaked, too! However, by then Honda had again created another new seal design and I had it installed on the ’94. That finally stopped the leaking in the rain! Both of mine were the eye searing radioactive froggy day-glo green; certainly would not lose them in a blizzard.
It was a fairly fun lil front driver, but certainly could not compare very favorably to the Miatas I had later for Fun To Drive!!! However, the solid aluminum roof panel was much nicer than the Miata convertible tops for durability and being weather proof……once you had third gen seals that is… 🙂 DFO
I will never understand why Honda replaced the very successful CRX with that thing.
As long as someone doesn’t refer to it as CRX Del Sol I’m fine with it. I had a CRX, i’ve driven extensively Del Sol and it is just an insult. It’s fine as separate car with its own legacy