The tenth-generation Honda Civic is just around the corner and it can’t come soon enough.
Many feel the current Civic has lost its edge and the new car hopes to change all that. With new-found style, substance and the addition of turbocharged engines, the next generation Civic is poised to do big things for Honda.
There’s also a good chance that the new Type R will be the best Civic ever made. With a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 305 HP, this front-wheel drive hatchback is claimed to have lapped the Nürburgring racetrack in just seven minutes and 50 seconds.
But there have been plenty of other great Civics since its birth more than four decades ago.
Although there were some sporty versions of the Civic early on, it was in 1984 that Honda got serious about the Civic’s performance. Only available in Japan, the Civic could be had with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that made 122 HP, which was very impressive for its time. This was also the first time that the Si designation was attached to the Civic.
1985 Honda Civic Wagon/Wagovan
A Civic Wagon may not seem all that exciting, but the Wagovan was way ahead of its time. Wearing a taller, five-door hatchback body, the 160-inch-long Civic Wagon could be had will all-wheel drive and seven inches of ground clearance. Sound familiar? That’s because this is the basic formula being used today in the super-hot subcompact crossover segment.
1990 Honda Civic SiR
In late 1989, the Civic took a big leap in terms of performance. This was the year that the legendary B16 engine was stuffed into the EF Civic SiR. For those not up on Honda acronyms, this basically meant the Civic hatchback received a 1.6-liter engine that incorporated VTEC to make 158 HP. For a car that didn’t weigh much over 2,000 lbs., that’s a good amount of grunt. And of course, the Civic SiR had the handling prowess to back up this power.
2002 Honda Civic Si/SiR
The seventh-generation Civic didn’t include a conventional Si model in North America, so one was imported. Built in England, the Civic Si (SiR in Canada) featured a hatchback body called the EP. Its interior and exterior differed from the regular Civic as did the powertrain.
Under the hood was a KA20 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 160 HP. With a larger engine compared to the previous generation Civic Si, the new car had more torque. But it was also significantly heavier and ultimately slower in a straight line. The car also lost some of the handling magic found in the Civics from the 1990s.
Worse still for North Americans, there was a hotter version of the EP hatch, the Civic Type R, available in other markets.
1999 Honda Civic Si
In 1998, North America finally received a properly-hot version of the Honda Civic. Carrying the Si nomenclature and available only in a coupe body style, the new sporty Civic came with a B16 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that made 160 HP at 8,000 RPM. At that time, mainstream manufacturers were not offering North Americans cars that produced 100 HP per liter or a redline that high.
More than just an engine, the Si also received wheel, tire, suspension and bodywork upgrades to make it a proper budget enthusiast machine. The Si could rocket to 60 MPH in just 7.1 seconds
2006 Honda Civic Si
For the 2006 model year, Acura was no longer selling the RSX in North America and the Civic benefited by receiving the 197 HP version of the K20 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Other upgrades included a limited slip differential, stiffer suspension, larger brakes and lower profile tires.
Having become woefully outgunned by the competition in the early 2000s, the 2006 Civic Si coupe brought respectability back to the sporty Civic. As usual, there were hotter versions of the Civic in Europe and the Japan, but at least the car in North America wasn’t a slouch anymore.
1992 Honda Civic SiR
The Honda Civic EG hatchback has become a massive cult favorite around the world. And the king of the EG hatchbacks were the Japanese market SiR-II models. Using a B16 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, the little hatchback pumped out an impressive 167 HP. This car, like many Civics, became a darling of aftermarket tuners. Consequently. finding a stock example anywhere in the world is quite the feat.
1973 Honda Civic
It would be hard to make a list of the best Civics of all time without including the original. Taking full advantage of the booming small car market fueled by the oil crisis, the Civic cemented itself as a practical, yet enjoyable small car.
When it came on the scene in 1973, the Civic had a handling and fuel economy advantage over a lot of its competition. But more importantly, it proved that Honda was serious about building small cars designed for worldwide consumption.
While North America finally got a near 200 HP Civic Si in 2006, Japan and Europe were getting ready for something a little more special. Once again called the Type R, the hot Civic arrived as a hatchback in Europe and a sedan in Japan.
The Japanese model was the more special Type R as a 222-HP version of the 2.0-liter four-cylinder K20 engine was stuffed under the hood. As had come to be expected in a Type R Civic, all the go-fast upgrades were included like a limited-slip differential, larger brakes and grippier tires.
1998 Civic Type R
Topping this list is the original Type R Civic – the 1998 model. Based on the EK three-door hatchback, the Type R came with a frantic B16B 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that put out an incredible-for-its-size 182 HP.
Weighing around 2,400 lbs, the Type R included a limited-slip differential, a strengthened body structure, a Momo steering wheel and Recaro seats. There was even the option to order a Type R without weight adding devices like air conditioning, power windows, power steering or the radio to save weight.