Fuel economy and reliability are both profound (as is expected), but the model year difference is where you should pay attention. The ’90 and ’91 models are going to be your best bet because, after some minor restyling, Honda decided to give the CRX four-wheel disc brakes and new wheels, which can make a world of difference as far as handling is concerned.
A fuel-injected four-cylinder mill capable of 135 horsepower out of the box, they can be built for way more than that and are known to last for hundreds of thousands of miles if properly maintained.
The 22R and 22RE used engines can be scavenged from just about any 1980s or 1990s Toyota light truck, or 4Runner. Good luck finding someone who wants to part with one though, because these used engines are gems and so are their cars.
The Japanese manufacturer’s cars are efficient and fun to drive mostly thanks to their revolutionary SkyActiv-G engine technology. Mazda isn’t resting on its laurels, though, and is preparing a whole new generation of SkyActiv-X powerplants. These new engines will be able to use extremely lean fuel mixtures like the homogeneous-charge compression-ignition engines.