In the 90s, Japanese sports cars significantly increased their share of the U.S. market, and every Japanese company wanted to bite into as big a piece of this pie as possible. Mazda with its already cult model MX-5 (in the States it is known as Miata) achieved the greatest success in this matter, but other companies did not think to retreat. Honda also had its own plans to strengthen its position in the New World.
In 1995, the head office of the American division of Honda in California, which is also known as Honda R&D Americas, was ordered to create a concept car. The specification was quite abstract: a competitor to the Miata that would be better than it in every way. Surprisingly, in such a short time, the American office came up with something really interesting.
The concept was named J-VX (VX stands for Value X), and was tailored for Japan, offering right-hand placement of controls and metric speedometer digitization. Top management decided that first it would be nice to show the concept at home – still the same Miata and enjoyed great success in Japan. The premiere of the concept took place at the 1997 Tokyo Motor Show, and then it was taken to the U.S., namely at the Chicago Auto Show.
The car on both sides of the Pacific Ocean was warmly received – then just in the world were gaining popularity coupe hatchbacks with a boarding configuration of 2 +2. Reminding from certain angles Lamborghini Reventon concept car J-VX could boast not only bright appearance, but also ultralight body of composite materials and aluminum, and almost ideal axle weighing. The feeling of spaciousness in the compact passenger cabin was created by a large windshield. By the way, the cabin itself was inspired by the cockpits of junior Formula, so bucket seats had no adjustments – they were anatomical, molded to suit the specific driver and passenger. Each seat was equipped with four-point safety belts with integrated airbags in case of an accident.
Since Honda was already concerned about the environment in those years, the front-mounted powertrain was not only sporty but also economical. It was a “moderate hybrid” consisting of a three-cylinder direct-injection gasoline engine and Integrated Motor Assist (IMA), a small electric motor on the crankshaft which helped the combustion engine to accelerate off the ground. The exact power of the duo is still unknown. But we know that the car is economical: according to the factory data, Honda J-VX spends only 3.3 liters of gasoline 95 per 100 kilometers in the mixed cycle.
Given the appearance and technical stuffing of the original Honda Insight – the model, which became the first mass-produced Honda hybrid in the U.S. – the contribution of the J-VX did not go unnoticed. Although the Insight can hardly be called a competitor to the Mazda MX-5 or a car with little to no sporting ambition. Nevertheless, the J-VX didn’t end up being reborn as the Insight…
At the 2006 North American Auto Show in Detroit, Honda again showed the J-VX, but with a slightly updated exterior: The car had new bumpers and rims, and the steering wheel and pedals moved from the right side to the left (yes, the interior photo is already the 2006 version). During “restyling” the concept has changed its name and became known as GRX. Why was this maneuver made? Honda only wanted to show, that the idea of a compact city sports car has not changed much for 9 years. By the way, after updating, a silhouette of the future hybrid CR-Z began to be more brightly seen in the concept’s appearance.
The model GRX differed also by a power-unit – place of the three-cylinder engine was taken by an oppositional six 1,5-liter capacity which was borrowed from a motorcycle (presumably from Honda Valkyrie model). In 2015, the sports coupe was not shown anywhere any more – therefore, its life on the podium is over and the nine-year cycle of rebirth does not work anymore. But approximately from the moment of its occurrence in 1997, Honda develops a line of hybrids. Thus, the J-VX, created in a hurry, turned out to be a much more important car than it may seem at first glance.