Siren Song: 1999-2000 Honda Civic Si Buyer's Guide
Written by David S. Wallens
From the Nov. 2013 issue
Posted in Buyer's Guides
As the 1990s came to a close, Honda was riding a massive wave of popularity. The Integra Type R was the benchmark for every other sport compact. Swarms of modified Civics prowled the streets. The Honda brand simply dominated the import tuner scene.
And after a brief hiatus, the Civic Si was back. For the 1999 model year, the masses again had their turnkey, hotted-up Honda Civic.
The Civic Si concept was nothing new. Honda had been offering factory-built, performance-tuned Civics for decades, with the first Civic Si coming stateside for 1986.
The original Civic Si formula was simple: Take a competent chassis and punch up the performance courtesy of a horsepower hike, increased grip and bigger brakes. The Civic Si package was civil, too, incorporating a slightly upmarket interior and a sunroof. The package worked well on both road and track.
When the sixth-generation, EK-chassis Honda Civic arrived for the 1996 model year, we noticed that something was missing from the press introduction: the Civic Si. For the first time since 1988, Honda didn’t offer an Si variant of their popular compact.
So we waited.
And wondered: “Surely the Civic Si will return, right?”
When the Civic Si returned three years later, there was a big surprise. That popular two-letter logo hung off the back of a two-door coupe–and only the coupe. For the first time ever, the Si package wasn’t paired with the three-door hatchback. The coupe chassis wasn’t a consolation prize, though: It featured the same double-wishbone suspension found on the hatch.
The big news–and the main attraction–was the engine. The Civic Si received the twin-cam VTEC B16A found in the del Sol as well as countless performance-tuned Hondas not sold stateside.
Despite having only 1.6 liters of displacement and no sort of forced induction, the Civic Si boasted 160 horsepower at a dizzying 8000 rpm–and that was a few hundred rpm before the fuel cutoff. Fittingly, the only available transmission was a close-ratio, five-speed manual.
The rest of the package followed Honda’s MO. The Civic Si got stiffer springs, anti-roll bars and shock absorbers plus an upper tie brace. Four-wheel discs were also standard, although an antilock brake system wasn’t offered in the U.S. market. At the time, the only way to get a Civic with ABS was to pick the fully loaded EX model and spec the automatic transmission–or go to Canada.
Alloy wheels measuring a whopping 15 inches across were also standard. Okay, that doesn’t seem huge by today’s standards, but at the time it was the largest rim diameter ever factory-installed on a U.S.-market Civic.
The Civic Si also received a chin spoiler, side skirts and that all-important red Si badge on the tail. Unlike lesser Civics, the Si’s exterior trim–mirrors, rub strips and so on–were body-colored. Speaking of colors, only three were available: Flamenco Black, Milano Red and Electron Blue. Since the blue wasn’t available anywhere else in the Civic line, by default it became the hero color.
Interior niceties included sporty seats, an adjustable steering column and power mirrors. The glass sunroof was still part of the package. The Civic Si wasn’t as hardcore as the Integra Type R, but it nicely mixed performance and comfort.
In typical Honda fashion, no factory options were available. Buyers didn’t seem to mind, with dealers easily getting the $17,495 list price. For a little comparison, at the same time a Nissan 200SX SE-R cost $17,748. The much-vaulted Integra Type R retailed closer to $25,000, while even the slightly less potent GS-R topped $20,000.
This latest Civic Si was a sales success because it delivered solid performance at a fair price. Sure, there wasn’t a ton of torque, but at the time we didn’t know any better. The turbocharged terrors of the 2000s hadn’t yet appeared.
The gearbox was smooth. The handling was predictable. Thin windshield pillars plus a low hood line provided a great view of the road.
The double-wishbone suspension worked well in stock state, and when lowered it just got better. Dropping the Civic not only lowered the car’s center of gravity, but it added just the right amount of negative camber, too.
Likewise, the B16A was built for the enthusiast market. It revved like nothing else. It could take abuse. It responded well to mods.
Add it up, and the Civic Si became the tuner market’s favorite. Bolt-on turbos, superchargers, big brakes and more were just a phone call away.
The Civic Si quickly became a very hot commodity among the day’s younger enthusiasts–remember, this was back when getting a driver’s license was seen as an important rite of passage. If you went to any autocross, drag race or import gathering, you’d see lots of these Civic Si coupes, many in that familiar shade of blue.
The car also made a mark on the day’s professional road racing scene, with the Honda of America Racing Team as well as others campaigning the cars in the professional ranks. The Civic Si did very well in the then-new Grand-Am Cup as well as the Pirelli World Challenge series. On the SCCA Club Racing front, the Civic Si was a natural for the Showroom C class.
Another group also took note of the car: thieves. Tales of stolen Civics became common, with brazen individuals not even waiting for darkness. Sure, the Civic Si was a great car, but those bits could easily be transferred to lesser Civic chassis.
The 1999-2000 Civic Si was a successful package, but its days were numbered. Honda had an all-new Civic ready for 2001, with the Si version again taking a short hiatus. That follow-up model has its fans–and GRM even campaigned one for a while–but it lacked the magic.
That double-wishbone suspension was replaced with struts up front, while the bread-van shape wasn’t for everyone–ditto the dash-mounted shifter. Even though horsepower remained at 160, the zip was gone. Plus, the bar had been raised thanks to turbocharged cars from Subaru, Mitsubishi, MINI and even Dodge.
An era had come to an end. The Civic Si model continues to this day, but the classic models ended in 2000.
Things to Know
Honda seemed to flood the market with 1999-2000 Civic Si coupes, but finding a good, clean car today is tricky. Many examples were blown up, worn out or stolen away. Kelley Blue Book says an excellent example is worth about $5500 today–pretty gentle depreciation for an economy car. We have seen people asking about that much for modified, higher-mileage cars, but the stock ones are few and far between. The Integra Type R is obviously a future classic. Can this one ride those coattails?
Engine and Drivetrain
Need more than 1.6 liters of displacement? Hasport offers a full line of engine mounts designed to hold upsized H-series, later K-series and V6 engines.
Third-gear synchros can get worn out over time with a lot of track driving.
Ed Senf, dyno tuner to the stars, has run many of these cars across the rollers. “All the usual ideas apply,” he says. “B16 engines of that generation can certainly benefit from cams, header and regular exhaust upgrades.”
One odd thing, Senf adds: “The variation in stock horsepower of those cars was always baffling to me, but I never had enough interest to investigate it. Other tuners never seemed to notice, but a GS-R would always make a certain number unless it was broken, while a ’99 or ’00 Si could vary by 10-plus–not very Honda-ish.”
Senf’s favorite mod: “I would probably stick a Rotrex supercharger on one if it was my car.”
The cars like more rear anti-roll bar, but be sure to reinforce the body mounts–there’s a reason the Type R received thicker sheet metal here. The old Comptech bar and brace was a popular solution because it nicely distributed the load, but it’s no longer in production. ASR Suspension offers one that is very similar, however.
For a daily driver that will see some track use, Ground Control recommends 350 lbs./in. front springs paired with 250 lbs./in. rears. That is assuming a beefier rear anti-roll bar is in place.
Extended top hats will help maintain shock travel once a car has been lowered.
Brake rotors from the 2009-and-newer Honda Fit will fit the Si. Honda Performance Development sells updated rotors for the Fit that will work better with race pads.
Some of the Honda tuners have since closed shop, but there’s still a ton of aftermarket support for these cars. Pretty much all the usual suspects still offer upgraded springs, shocks and bars.
Body and Interior
GRM only recently dropped our 2000 Civic Si from the fleet, and it aged nicely. The sun visors came apart sooner than expected, though.
The front seats are a little flat. Back in the day, the hot solution involved swapping in the buckets from a del Sol.
The window sash–the black trim found beneath the front windows–will be cruddy by now. Honda still sells new ones, or you can refinish your old originals.
Front spoiler missing or damaged? Honda still has it in stock.
Get all the expert buying advice for the cars of our scene in your mailbox eight times a year. Subscribe now.
Parts and Service
engine mounts and accessories,
Those are great cars! A friend of mine bought one new as a birthday present for his wife. She was 70, yes 70! Sadly, a couple of years ago, someone ran a red light and totaled it. My friends were only slightly bruised. Insurance paid out handsomely.
Arguably the best Honda Civic Si we received here in the US. I would love to own one but all the ones around here are rusted to death or have been beat within an inch of their life.
I was amazed at how close one of those was to my '98 GSR sedan when one happened to park next to me. Almost identical size and dimensions. Love me some Honda B series motors. Mine suffered death by minivan, passed smog within 6 weeks of being totalled, so it ended up on the road again fairly quick with a salvage title.
Clean simple lines. Never dug the polished rims tho'. Brings out my 'Practical Classics' side.
It's like GRM knows my craiglist history LOL
My wife and I bought a blue 2000 Civic Si brand-new, and it appeared in the mag back in the day. Sadly we sold it two years ago. The car was doing just fine, but it was time for her to drive something new so we moved her into a then-new Civic Si sedan. We miss the old one but, to be honest, I like the fact that she now has side-impact airbags and a few other modern touches. The four doors makes road trips a bit easier, too. If we had unlimited space, that 2000 Si would still be with us.
Worked on mine today - put black manual mirrors of parts car on instead of the power mirrors that don`t work anyway.
Up here they were SiR, but since mine was originally a US car, we can call it an Si
David S. Wallens wrote: As the 1990s came to a close, Honda was riding a massive wave of popularity. The Integra Type R was the benchmark for every other sport compact. Swarms of modified Civics prowled the streets. The Honda brand simply dominated the import tuner scene. And after a brief hiatus, the Civic Si was back. For the 1999 model year, the masses again had their turnkey, hotted-up Honda Civic. The Civic Si concept was nothing new. Honda had been offering factory-built, performance-tuned Civics for decades, with the first Civic Si coming stateside for 1986. The original Civic Si formula was simple: Take a competent chassis and punch up the performance courtesy of a horsepower hike, increased grip and bigger brakes. The Civic Si package was civil, too, incorporating a slightly upmarket interior and a sunroof. The package worked well on both road and track.
I am 74 years old and came across 89 CRX in 1997 and put in a 94 GSR B-18 and what a car installed a Integra ls 5th gear ( 5100 rpm was a 100 mph) much better then screaming down interstate. Then added a 1992 GSR (B-17) 160 hp with 201k miles and checked bearings (no wear), put pan back on and now 10 years later it has 326k miles (Never had pan off since) worked on 3rd gear twice. Love that car and faster then a 94 gsr. lighter, Built a 71 Datsun 510 with drivetrain from Honda S-2000 (9000 rpm, 242 hp) and 700 lbs lighter then S-2000. Fast as 450 hp Vette. Love all my Honda V-techs
You'll need to log in to post.
2 days ago in News
Find out in the next issue of Grassroots Motorsports.
6 days ago in News
Now is a great time to renew or start subscribing to our magazine.