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Honda Civic Si Through the Years: History of the Front-Drive Sport Compact

Anticipating the 10th-Gen 2017 Honda Civic Si

Anticipating the 10th-Gen 2017 Honda Civic Si

Now in its 10th generation, the mainstream 2016 Honda Civic will be joined by the sporty Civic Si and new-to North America. Civic Type R variants. A North American-spec Civic Type R concept was shown at the 2016 Paris auto show in September, and the 2017 Honda Civic Si debuts at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show. In preparation for its debut, we take a look back at the history of the Civic Si in North America.


1984 Honda Civic S / 1985-1987 Honda Civic (CRX) Si hatchback

1985 Honda Civic CRX Si hatchback front three quarters

The Civic Si arrived during the model’s third generation. Japan got a 122-hp Honda Civic Si with a 1.6-liter ZC (similar to the D16A1 in the North American-spec 1986-1987 Acura Integra) four-cylinder engine in 1984, but North America got an 85-hp Honda Civic S with a carbureted 1.5-liter EW1 four-cylinder engine. In 1985, the Civic CRX Si arrived in North America followed by the 1986 Civic Si hatchback. The 1985–1987 Civic CRX and Civic Si models featured a 91-hp 1.5-liter fuel-injected SOHC I-4.

The Honda Civic CRX was the Motor Trend 1984 Import Car of the Year (the award was later phased out, with Car of the Year covering all cars).


1988-1991 Honda Civic (CRX) Si hatchback

1988 Honda Civic CRX Si front three quarter

As with the previous generation, the first Si for the fourth generation was the 1988 Civic CRX Si with a 105-hp 1.6-liter D16A6 port-injected 16-valve SOHC I-4. The Civic Si hatchback returned for 1989 sporting 108 hp. Notable standard features included a five-speed manual, a larger exhaust, front and rear stabilizer bars, a tachometer, a power moonroof, a passenger mirror, bucket seats, and color-matching rear bumpers. An A-arm suspension at all four corners improved handling over the previous car’s semi-independent rear beam suspension with coil springs.

Just like the first CRX, this CRX Si was a well-liked car, earning the golden calipers as the 1988 Motor Trend Import Car of the Year.


1992-1995 Honda Civic Si hatchback

1992 Honda Civic Si Hatchback side

Power for this generation of the Honda Civic Si hatchback came from a 125-hp 1.6-liter SOHC D16Z6 VTEC engine mated to a five-speed manual transmission. (The same drivetrain was used in the Civic EX coupe.) Unique standard features included rear disc brakes, ABS (1994–1995), a power moonroof, cruise control, a 9,000-rpm tachometer with a 7,200-rpm redline, rear speakers (1994–1995), and body-colored mirrors (1993–1995) and door handles.


1999-2000 Honda Civic Si coupe

2000 Honda Civic Si coupe front side

The 1999–2000 model years marked a few firsts for the Civic Si. It was the first time the Si badge was used on the coupe body style and the first time the North American-spec Si featured a DOHC engine. Power for the 1999–2000 Honda Civic Si coupe came from 1.6-liter B16A2 DOHC VTEC I-4 making 160 hp at 8,000 rpm and 111 lb-ft at 7,000 rpm. A five-speed manual backed the high-rpm engine. The Civic Si coupe featured four-wheel disc brakes and rode on a fully independent suspension with stiffer, progressive-rate springs, stiffer front and rear stabilizer bars, and strut tower braces. Visual changes included 15-inch alloy wheels with low-profile tires, a chin spoiler, painted side sills, and Si badges.

In Motor Trend testing, the 1999 Honda Civic Si coupe reached 60 mph in 7.2 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 15.7 seconds at 88.4 mph (142.3 km/h). The Civic Si pulled 0.80 g on the skidpad and averaged 65.5 mph (105.4 km/h) in the 600-foot slalom. Braking from 60 mph took 150 feet.


2002-2005 Honda Civic Si

2002 Honda Civic Si hatchback front three quarter in motion

Honda returned to the hatchback body style for this generation, which rode on a completely different platform than the standard Honda Civic sedan and coupe. The 2002–2005 Honda Civic Si hatchback was powered by a 2.0-liter K20A3 DOHC I-4 engine making 160 hp at 6,500 rpm and 132 lb-ft at 5,000 rpm backed by a five-speed manual transmission with a dash-mounted shifter. That engine is the same as in the base Acura RSX, but the Acura RSX Type-S featured a 200-hp K20A2 or 210-hp K20Z1 and six-speed manual. MacPherson struts replaced the A-arm suspension up front.

“The result is the most Euro-feeling Honda ever,” we said in our Euro-spec 2002 Honda Civic Si First Drive. “The 160-hp ’02 Civic Si feels quick on the streets and autobahns of Germany, where we got our first taste of it (Honda’s European engineering R&D facility is near Frankfurt). But like the tach-punishing S2000, the Si feels more at home at high revs and unlimited speeds than it will in the land of low-end torque. Its power doesn’t get serious until you’re past 4,000 rpm.”


2006-2011 Honda Civic Si coupe and sedan

2006 Honda Civic Si coupe front three quarter

The all-new eighth-generation Honda Civic lineup won the 2006 Motor Trend Car of the Year award, and that included the Honda Civic Si coupe. The hatchback model was no more, and the standard Civic was now available in sedan and coupe body styles. The first North American-spec Honda Civic Si sedan was introduced in 2007. Power for the 2006–2011 Honda Civic Si coupe and sedan came from a 2.0-liter K20Z3 DOHC i-VTEC I-4 engine making 197 hp at 7,800 rpm and 139 lb-ft at 6,200 rpm. The engine was backed by a six-speed manual transmission with a helical limited-slip differential. The 2009 model year brought a mild styling refresh.

“Honda heard from enthusiasts and got the message: The high-performance Civic needs to be extra fun to drive,” we said in our 2006 Honda Civic Si First Drive. “Let the standard sedan, coupe, and hybrid handle commuting chores and max fuel efficiency—a true Si requires ’tude. This new one does the Si badge justice, and, if it comes in at just under $20,000 USD as planned, it will be one sweet deal.”

In testing, the 2006 Civic Si Coupe reached 60 mph in 6.3 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 14.9 seconds at 94.7 mph (152.4 km/h). It lapped our figure eight in 26.8 seconds at 0.64 g average and pulled 0.89 g average around the skidpad. The Civic Si coupe stopped from 60 mph in 117 feet.

“Everything about the Si illustrates Honda’s pursuit of advanced technology and high performance,” we said in our 2006 Honda Civic Si vs. 2006 Volkswagen GTI Comparison. “It invites you in, grabs you by the senses, and doesn’t let go. The Si can make a jaunt to 7-Eleven exciting. Sure, it may look like the boy-racer of the pair, but from behind the wheel, it’s that persona we find so addictive at the end of the day. Whether you want to race, the Si delivers an adrenaline shot—exactly what the ultimate street fighter should do.”


2008 Honda Civic Mugen Si sedan

2008 Honda Civic MUGEN Si front three quarter in motion

Just a year after the Civic Si sedan hit the streets, the automaker revealed the limited-production 2008 Honda Civic Mugen Si sedan, which featured some track-oriented upgrades. Just 1,000 examples were built, and all were finished in Fiji Blue Peal exterior paint. Modifications included a sport muffler, stiffer (8 percent front, 24 percent rear) lowering (0.6-inch) springs, larger 18-by-8.5-inch forged allow wheels shod in stickier low-profile 215/40ZR18 BFGoodrich g-Force KDW tires, and an aerodynamic kit featuring a redesigned front bumper, side skirts, a rear bumper with an integrated diffuser, and an adjustable rear wing. Although the Mugen Si was fun to drive at the Streets of Willow, we questioned if it was worth the $8,000 USD premium over the base Civic Si sedan.


2012-2015 Honda Civic Si sedan and coupe

2012 Honda Civic Si sedan front three quarter

Changes to the ninth-generation Honda Civic were milder than ever before. The 8,000-rpm 2.0-liter was replaced by a 7,000-rpm 2.4-liter K24Z7 DOHV i-VTEC I-4 engine making 201 hp at 7,000 rpm and 170 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm. The six-speed manual and helical limited-slip differential sent power to the front wheels.

“Were the 2012 Civic Si a great car, it’d be easy to overlook the slight loss of soul and its relatively minor shortcomings,” we said in our 2012 Honda Civic Si coupe First Test. “As it turns out, it’s merely a good car. The engine switch is too similar a move from the famous free-revving fourth-gen coupe of the late 1990s to the largely forgettable hatchback of 2002. The upside of that is that in three years, we may see the return of the free-revving Si once more. In the meantime, some guys from Wolfsburg have this thing called the GTI.”

In testing, the 2012 Honda Civic Si coupe and sedan hit 60 mph in 6.4–6.5 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 14.9–15.0 seconds at 92.3–94.8 mpg (2.6-2.5 L/100km) and stopped in 121–122 feet. The cars also lapped the figure eight in 26.4 seconds at 0.66 g lateral average and pulled 0.88–0.89 g around the skidpad.

“The Si sedan encapsulates the same things we enjoy from the coupe (and the things we aren’t particularly fond of) without diminishing any of the performance” we said in our 2012 Honda Civic Si sedan First Test. “Understeer at the limit and rev hang notwithstanding, the Si sedan still delivers the driving satisfaction we’ve come to expect from the badge.”

After a year with a 2012 Honda Civic Si sedan in the Motor Trend Garage, we said: “So did I get the full Civic Si ownership experience? Absolutely. I drove it with vigor, never letting an open freeway on-ramp or curvy road go to waste. Through it all, the Civic was utterly reliable, never requiring unscheduled service. Sure, the 2012 model has a few faults, but when it’s this much fun to drive, who cares?”

The ninth-gen Civic got an emergency refresh for the 2013 model year, and although the Si coupe’s spec chart was unchanged, it was faster than before: 60 mph came in 6.1 seconds and the quarter mile in 14.6 seconds at 95.6 mph (153.9 km/h), and it stopped in just 109 feet. Handling numbers were on par with the 2012 model (figure eight: 26.5 seconds at 0.66 g; skidpad: 0.87 g).

 

“In many ways, the Civic Si is the same as ever was. We’re happy you can still get it with a high-revving, naturally aspirated engine; we’re happy it’s still quick and fun to drive; and we’re happy those traits haven’t changed, even though the car has grown larger and more capable,” we concluded in our 2013 Honda Civic Si coupe First Test. “And yet you have to wonder about the segment, which is changing and growing rapidly more competitive. Entrants such as the Civic offer many features, but others combine those features with more power and more aggressive handling. And while the Civic is adequate at going quick, you have to wonder if that’s enough to sway buyers from the assault of the Focus ST, or the anticipated refinement and speed of the upcoming GTI.”

A new exhaust and revised ECM brought a slight power increase to 205 hp and 174 lb-ft for the 2014 Honda Civic Si. Acceleration times fell in line with the 11 Civic Si sedan and coupes we tested from 2006 to 2014. We concluded after our 2014 Honda Civic Si Coupe First Test: “No matter how heavy the next Civic Si is, no matter whichever engine and transmission ends up beneath its hood, we’ll keep looking for it to inject fun sportiness into our lives.”


2017 Honda Civic Si

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Touring front side 1
The non-Si 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback in Sport Touring form is shown here

Although the mainstream 10th-generation Honda Civic arrived for the 2016 model, we are still anxiously awaiting the return of the 2017 Honda Civic Si. The automaker has shared most details on the upcoming new-to-the-North American Honda Civic Type R hatchback, but information on the new Civic Si is still forthcoming. Spy shots of a prototype indicate that the 2017 Honda Civic Si will initially be offered as a coupe, but sedan and hatchback models could follow.

Power for the Civic Type R comes from a new 2.0-liter turbocharged K20C1 direct-injected DOHC VTEC dual-VTC I-4 making 305 hp at 6,500 rpm and 295 lb-ft at 4,500 rpm. A six-speed manual with a helical limited-slip differential sends power to the front wheels. We expect power for the 2017 Honda Civic Si to come from either a modified version of the mainstream Civic’s new 1.5-liter turbocharged L15B7 direct-injected DOHC VTEC I-4 or a detuned version of the engine in the new Civic Type R. The 1.5-liter turbo makes 174 hp 6,000 rpm and 162 lb-ft from 1,700 to 5,500 rpm in the standard Civic and 190 hp and 179 lb-ft in the 2017 Honda CR-V crossover.

Regardless of the engine under the hood of the 2017 Honda Civic Si, we expect it to make somewhere around 220–230 hp. This will also mark the first time a turbocharged mill will be used in the Si.