1999 Honda Civic Si new car reviews

When the current-generation Honda Civic came out as a 1996 model, we were far from impressed: weight was up, horsepower remained the same, and the much-loved Si performance model had been dropped from the lineup. As performance enthusiasts, we didn't find much to love.

Despite its lackluster performance, four years later the new Civic has become one of the most popular street performers ever, as a slammed Honda fitted with big rims and a large-diameter exhaust has come to typify the ideal for the average twentysomething car enthusiast. In response, Honda has finally gotten themselves back into the game with the reintroduction of the Civic Si.

While a lot of younger enthusiasts may think that the Civic Si is a new idea, most of us in the know have been playing with these cars since their 1986 introduction. In fact, GRM built up and campaigned a factory-backed Civic Si in 1986. So it should come as no secret that around the GRM offices, the original 1986-'87 Civic Si is revered as one of the best all-around cars ever made.

These cars offered incredible performance, handling, innovation, economy and practicality. Well, the mid-'80s Civic Si is now second on our list of favorites, behind the new Civic Si. Why? Because the new Si offers everything the original cars offered, but with two major additions: an unbelievable powerplant (with real performance) along with a much more sophisticated suspension system.

Like the original, the new Si also offers a great value. For $17,500, you get a brand-new car that does 0-60 in the mid seven-second range and handles the turns with the best of them. You also get air-conditioning, cruise control, power windows, power locks, central locking from the key fob, power moon roof, AM/FM/CD sound system, alloy wheels and more. Essentially, you get everything you need for a great practical daily driver and weekend autocrosser, along with a healthy dose of Honda reliability and quality.

So enough on the value offered by this car; what's it like to drive? In a word, it's sweet. This car has all the precision, comfort and nimbleness that made Honda a world leader, (cont. page 20) coupled with a genuine performance engine. The 1.6-liter, all-aluminum, twin-cam VTEC engine redlines at 8000 rpm and cranks out 160 horsepower and 111 ft.-lbs. of torque. While the torque number is a little low, the 4.40 final drive makes the car quite sprightly around town.

Unlike the original 1986 Civic Si, with its front torsion bars and rear beam axle, the all-new Si features Honda's standard four-wheel independent suspension via double wishbones. The Si version of the new Civic has spring rates that have been increased by 25 percent, along with a slightly stiffer front anti-roll bar, rear anti-roll bar (not available on any other Civics) and shocks that feature a little more damping. A set of 15x6-inch alloy wheels (some love them, others don't) and four-wheel disc brakes round out the package.

Despite all of the positives, we did find two items to nitpick. The car's weight is a little too much at 2601 pounds, and in general the car's look is a little boring. However, all the new comfort, safety and emissions equipment fitted to the average car make it nearly impossible to keep weights below 2500 pounds these days.

As for the looks, we're guessing that Honda purposely left the car looking pretty stock with 15-inch wheels and a very subtle body kit, both to keep the price down and because they realized that the type of people who would buy this car will want to personalize it themselves.

We got a chance to spend a lot of quality time with this car, including some time on the autocross course. The Celica may be a better contender in SCCA E Stock competition, but we have a feeling that most of the Si purchasers will be making mods beyond what's allowed by the rules. Based on our experience, most driving enthusiasts will want to upgrade to a good set of shocks at their earliest convenience. As far as road racing, the Si has already proven itself as the dominant car in Showroom Stock C racing and has done well in Motorola Cup action.

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Comments

View comments on the GRM forums
Shaun
Shaun HalfDork
4/3/12 3:24 p.m.

I had the sense to convince a friend to buy a blue one in 2000. What a fantastic little daily driver! Tearing around secondary roads in Sonoma County Cali on a couple occasions in his bone stock car was an absolute blast- not REALLY that fast or furious, but it felt and sounded wondeful. A taller 5th gear would have been nice! A++

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/10/13 12:00 a.m.

When the current-generation Honda Civic came out as a 1996 model, we were far from impressed: weight was up, horsepower remained the same, and the much-loved Si performance model had been dropped from the lineup. As performance enthusiasts, we didn't find much to love.

Despite its lackluster performance, four years later the new Civic has become one of the most popular street performers ever, as a slammed Honda fitted with big rims and a large-diameter exhaust has come to typify the ideal for the average twentysomething car enthusiast. In response, Honda has finally gotten themselves back into the game with the reintroduction of the Civic Si.

While a lot of younger enthusiasts may think that the Civic Si is a new idea, most of us in the know have been playing with these cars since their 1986 introduction. In fact, GRM built up and campaigned a factory-backed Civic Si in 1986. So it should come as no secret that around the GRM offices, the original 1986-'87 Civic Si is revered as one of the best all-around cars ever made.

These cars offered incredible performance, handling, innovation, economy and practicality. Well, the mid-'80s Civic Si is now second on our list of favorites, behind the new Civic Si. Why? Because the new Si offers everything the original cars offered, but with two major additions: an unbelievable powerplant (with real performance) along with a much more sophisticated suspension system.

Like the original, the new Si also offers a great value. For $17,500, you get a brand-new car that does 0-60 in the mid seven-second range and handles the turns with the best of them. You also get air-conditioning, cruise control, power windows, power locks, central locking from the key fob, power moon roof, AM/FM/CD sound system, alloy wheels and more. Essentially, you get everything you need for a great practical daily driver and weekend autocrosser, along with a healthy dose of Honda reliability and quality.

So enough on the value offered by this car; what's it like to drive? In a word, it's sweet. This car has all the precision, comfort and nimbleness that made Honda a world leader, (cont. page 20) coupled with a genuine performance engine. The 1.6-liter, all-aluminum, twin-cam VTEC engine redlines at 8000 rpm and cranks out 160 horsepower and 111 ft.-lbs. of torque. While the torque number is a little low, the 4.40 final drive makes the car quite sprightly around town.

Unlike the original 1986 Civic Si, with its front torsion bars and rear beam axle, the all-new Si features Honda's standard four-wheel independent suspension via double wishbones. The Si version of the new Civic has spring rates that have been increased by 25 percent, along with a slightly stiffer front anti-roll bar, rear anti-roll bar (not available on any other Civics) and shocks that feature a little more damping. A set of 15x6-inch alloy wheels (some love them, others don't) and four-wheel disc brakes round out the package.

Despite all of the positives, we did find two items to nitpick. The car's weight is a little too much at 2601 pounds, and in general the car's look is a little boring. However, all the new comfort, safety and emissions equipment fitted to the average car make it nearly impossible to keep weights below 2500 pounds these days.

As for the looks, we're guessing that Honda purposely left the car looking pretty stock with 15-inch wheels and a very subtle body kit, both to keep the price down and because they realized that the type of people who would buy this car will want to personalize it themselves.

We got a chance to spend a lot of quality time with this car, including some time on the autocross course. The Celica may be a better contender in SCCA E Stock competition, but we have a feeling that most of the Si purchasers will be making mods beyond what's allowed by the rules. Based on our experience, most driving enthusiasts will want to upgrade to a good set of shocks at their earliest convenience. As far as road racing, the Si has already proven itself as the dominant car in Showroom Stock C racing and has done well in Motorola Cup action.

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