In the US-spec, the CR-X was marketed as an economy sport hatchback, having room for just two passengers. EU-spec, however, received a ZC 130 hp (97 kW) engine and 2+2 seats. Redesigned in 1988 and produced to 1991, the CR-X was popular for its performance, nimble handling, and good fuel economy. In the US its performance model, the Si (with the SOHC (D16A6) not the equally-sized JDM Si 1590cc (ZC) DOHC engine), was a favorite. Honda's 1992 CRX del Sol was marketed as a CR-X in some markets.
The original 1.3 liter car (chassis code AE532) and the later 1.5 liter American-market CR-X HF (High Fuel economy) model (chassis codes EC1 and AF) could reliably achieve very good gas mileage, more than a decade before gas-electric hybrids appeared on the market, and at no price premium over the base model; the 1.5 liter is rated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (under the new rating system) at 41 miles per U.S. gallon (5.7 l/100 km; 49 mpg-imp) city and 50 miles per U.S. gallon (4.7 l/100 km; 60 mpg-imp) highway. The Japanese Si and European 1.6i-16 models came with a 1590 cc DOHC engine putting out 135 bhp (101 kW; 137 PS) in the UK-spec model and 140 bhp (104 kW; 142 PS) in the JDM model. Though similar versions of the same engine, the Japanese Si engine was stamped ZC, whilst the European engine was stamped D16A9.
The chassis was significantly changed in 1986 from its original torsion bar front and semi-independent rear, to fully independent wishbones all around in line with its sister Civic/Ballade models. Outside of North America, this generation 2 CR-X was available with a 1495 cc sohc or an updated version of the 1590 cc DOHC ZC engine. Many of these were fitted with fuel injection as standard.
In September 1989 Honda also added the 1595 cc B16A VTEC engine to the lineup outside of America. The VTEC engine used Variable Valve Timing to provide increased power in the high rev range, while still allowing low fuel consumption and better idling at low RPMs. The B16A produced 150 bhp (112 kW; 152 PS) in the European 1.6i-VT model (where the engine bore the designation B16A1) and 157 bhp (117 kW; 159 PS) in the JDM SiR model. The CR-X was the second car to receive a VTEC engine, shortly after the Integra, although the CR-X was more popular and common.
The VTEC-equipped models also received a makeover, with updated bumpers, lights, bonnet/hood, brakes, suspension and dashboard design amongst other things. Additionally, some of these design changes were added to the concurrent non-VTEC models.
One of the options for the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) CR-X was a glass roof, a fixed glass panel which stretched from the top of the windshield to the top of the hatch opening. Relatively common in Japan, these are sought-after models in other markets. Second-generation CR-Xs in the US could choose between three different trim levels: The standard (unlabeled, sometimes called the "DX") with the 16-valve 1495 cc "D15B2" engine and Dual-Point Fuel Injection (DPFI), the HF ("High Fuel efficiency") model with the 8-valve 1495 cc "D15B6" engine and Multi-Point Fuel Injection (MPFI), or the Si (Abbreviation in debate) model with the 16-valve 1590 cc "D16A6" engine and MPFI. "DX" models were available with an automatic transmission, all others had five-speed manuals. The Si models all came with a power sliding moonroof.
In 1992, Honda replaced the CR-X with a new, Targa topped, Civic-based model called the Honda Civic del Sol, otherwise known as simply the Honda del Sol. The del Sol was also badged as the CR-X del Sol in some markets, and known as simply the CR-X in others. It is because of this that the del Sol is generally considered the "3rd Generation CR-X" among enthusiasts, although it was arguably a very different car and Honda had seemingly quite different design goals when they built it. In the United States, the del Sol came in three trim lines: S (VXi in Japan, later VGi), Si (ESi in Europe), and VTEC (SiR in Japan and VTi in Europe) ; the 1994-1997 models featured a 160 hp (120 kW) DOHC VTEC-engine. Production of the del Sol ended in 1997, and thus, the CR-X line was retired. Articles on the CR-X have compared its appearance to that of the Honda Insight.
Previous rumours of a CR-X comeback involved the Honda REMIX concept, which was presented at a Los Angeles International Auto Show. Designer Ben Davidson denies that any design elements were taken from the CR-X and Honda also claims there are no production plans for the REMIX; it was simply a design exercise.
The CR-X was Motor Trend's Import Car of the Millenium for 1990. It also made Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 1985. The redesigned CR-X was on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 1988. The CR-X Si was Motor Trend's Import Car of the Year for 1988. The 1988 CR-X Si was named one of Road & Track's 10 Best Cars of All Time.
In Australia, the 1988-1991 CR-X was assessed in the Used Car Safety Ratings 2006 as providing "significantly worse than average" protection for its occupants in the event of side impact. On the other hand, both versions of the CR-X got good safety marks (5 and 4 stars) in the NHTSA Crash Test Results For 1997 US NCAP The U.S. version of the second generation CR-X employed the use of side impact door beams on some models. These models can be identified by the mounting position of the safety belts. If the belt is mounted in the door, the beams are present. If the belt is mounted in the body, there is no additional reinforcement.
Like the Civic, due to the wide availability of parts, the CR-X is popular for motorsport usage. In the United Kingdom, there was a one-make series dedicated to the series 2 of the CR-X which soldiered on a few years after the series 3 was introduced and was popular for showroom stock racing series. Nowadays, the car is popular for drag, autocross, and road racing events.