We have this idea that things become somehow “better” as they evolve, but all they generally do is get more suited to the task at hand. The blue whale isn’t any better than whatever little dog-seal thing went back into the sea a few million years ago; it’s just bigger because, until we started building ships, there wasn’t anything out there that could eat it.
In the Sixties, Honda made these tiny little S500 and S600 Roadsters, and we mean tiny. They were 1,600-lb cars with output in the 50-horsepower range, and their tiny little engines revved to 9,500 rpm. But they were Hondas. And there’s nothing about today’s Hondas that are objectively better. More fuel-efficient and safer, yes, because those are the things we want right now. As cars, particularly as fun-to-drive cars, I don’t think there’s anything about the sportiest car in the lineup, the Civic Si, that’s sportier than an Si from 30 years ago.
And HondaPartsOnline.net has the graphic to prove it. The site has compared the 2015 Civic Si Coupe with the 1985 CRX Si, one of the sweetest little performance hatchbacks of all time. Despite its 91 hp, the tiny CRX stacks up amazingly well, posting a quarter-mile time 1.2 seconds off the ‘15. (They quoted the sedan, but the coupe’s times are identical.) It loses out in the zero-to-60, but absolutely crushes it in economy, the CRX returning 27/34 mpg to the Civic’s 22/31. And anyone who’s driven a CRX at length can tell you that there’s another 10 mpg in the tank if you featherfoot it.
But the biggest discrepancy is, well, bigness. There’s no power anything in the CRX, no heavy sound-deadening materials, no side-curtain airbags—all of which eliminates hundreds of feet of heavy wiring, switches, actuators and motors. The luxurious Civic tops 3,000 lbs. For perspective, that’s what a Toyota 4x4 weighed in the mid-Eighties. The CRX is 1,100 lbs less, which is akin to removing an Ariel Atom from beneath the Civic Si’s seat cushions.