If you’re looking for an inexpensive used car that gets great mileage, it’s tough to beat the Honda Civic. They’re affordable, plentiful, and reliable – as long as you keep up on basic maintenance.
Over the years, the VX, HX, and HF models have been the most fuel-efficient conventionally-powered Civics. As wild as it may sound, the tiny 1984 Civic CRX HF was officially rated at an astounding 67 miles per gallon highway. Now some folks might not believe this today, but there are tests to prove it.
The United States Auto Club (USAC) drove a fleet of four 1984 CRX HFs cross-country, back in the day, and achieved a remarkable 71.6 MPG average for the entire fleet.
On one leg of the USAC’s testing – westbound from Flagstaff, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada – one of the cars averaged an eye-popping 86.3 MPG, with the aid of a tailwind and a largely downhill run.
If you go to the US government fuel economy website today, you’ll see the 1984 CRX HF is now listed at a relatively paltry 47 MPG … a whopping 20 MPG drop from their original rating.
What’s up with that?
Editor’s Note: Our Civic Gas Mileage Ratings Page lists the original sticker MPG numbers, not the revised EPA numbers.
Revisionist statistics aside, I’d absolutely love to have the chance to test and tweak a CRX HF to see how it would fare on the road today, given our higher speed limits and E10 gasoline.
Unfortunately, unmolested CRX HFs are very hard to find these days. Tuners love the HF because it is extremely light. They rip out the original tiny 1.3-liter engines and swap in larger and more powerful VTEC units from newer Hondas and Acuras, often imported directly from Japan.
It seems like every time I find a clean original CRX HF, it’s either on the other side of the country or I’m broke.
Often it’s both.
While clean CRX HFs may be scarce, there are plenty of Civic HX coupes out there (or CoooPAYs, as they say on the other side of the pond). These newer Civics offer a bunch of advantages … starting with a back seat.
The manual HX coupes were originally rated in the low-to-mid forty mile per gallon range on the highway. Not a bad place to start. Real world reports show those numbers to be achievable.
So we’re currently looking for a manual-equipped 1998 or newer Civic HX for our first MPG project car.
Why 1998? On-board Diagnostic (or OBD) ports can be found in all cars that are 1996 or newer. We need OBD in order to fit the Civic with advanced instrumentation and fifteen years is a good spread.
Lets get down to it … What’s this Civic Gas Mileage Project all about?
In short, we want to see if it’s possible to push a Civic HX into the 50 mile per gallon highway range with some straightforward tweaks. That means no snake oil, fart can mufflers, or dangerous highway driving techniques, like drafting.
With luck, we’ll get this project done over the summer. But we’ll need your help.
Our goal is to produce a cool little documentary series covering the process of improving the Civic’s real world fuel economy, along with its handling and in-cabin amenities.
This project will have some unique twists, no doubt about it … and we’re likely to encounter the inevitable bumps in the road.
While we’re planning a show around it, this won’t be a show car … it’ll be a driver, through and through.
So stick with us, and stay tuned. We’ll be sharing more details in the coming weeks…
– by Daniel Gray