The little two-seat Honda CRX was far more appealing in the PM than in the AM. That's PM as in pre-Miata and AM as in after-Miata.

CRX nearly had the two-seat field to its own at one time. Its only competition was the Pontiac Fiero, which had the same topnotch engineering that General Motors Corp. gave the Oldsmobile diesel and had only slightly longer staying power than the Cadillac V-8-6-4 engine, and the Toyota MR2, which abandoned the economy sports market when it went the supercharged route for one year before settling on turbocharging.The CRX got a double whammy in that the Chevrolet Geo Storm also competes for the attention of those who want a two-seater that looks good, not just unusual.

Cute. Fun to drive. That's Honda's way of describing the ride and handling and performance of the little critter. However, CRX loses much of its cuteness and fun-to-drive allure with Miata and Storm on the scene.

Nice car? Sure. Can it zip around in traffic while getting more than 20 miles per gallon? No question. King of the two-seaters? No longer.

We test drove the CRX Si hatchback with its 1.6-liter, 108-horsepower, 16-valve, 4-cylinder engine teamed with 5-speed. Automatic is not available in the top-of-the-line CRX.

The CRX line is Honda's most fuel-efficient. The CRX HF with its 62-h.p., 1.5-liter engine is EPA rated at 49 m.p.g. city/52 m.p.g. highway with its 5-speed manual transmission. The Si is rated at 28/33 m.p.g. with its larger engine. Very good mileage but not to be confused with the HF.

The CRX Si is quick, but then the 108-h.p., 1.6-liter, 4 only has to propel a mere 1,900 pounds. The short-throw 5-speed makes shifting relatively easy, but without automatic Honda makes it easier for those who aren't hard-core manual devotees to turn to Miata and Storm, which offer automatic.

Built on a 90.6-inch wheelbase and only 148.5 inches long, the CRX Si offers just about everything you'd want in a bigger Honda except room and rear visibility, which is reduced by the slanting roof and sharply sloped rear window that resembles an old Mustang Mach model.

Good car? Sure. Great car? Not with the competition.

Miata and Storm are much more fun to drive. Want really good fuel economy? Then the CRX fits the bill. Want really good fuel economy plus a stylish machine that's the envy of those who pass by and is a real kick to put through its paces on the twisting pavement leading out to the boonies? Then it's Miata and Storm.

Base price is $11,130.

Among the popular options, AM/FM stereo radio runs from $179 to $459 - you have to add speakers at $41 to $130 - and air conditioning costs $675 plus installation, which varies by dealership.

A common complaint among buyers is that dealers are charging $1,000 to $1,200 for air in a Honda. Shop around for price.