The Civic Si is a sport compact trim of Honda Civic. The Si (Sport Injected) was first introduced with the 3rd generation Honda Civic in both Japan and North America.
CarAndDriver just pitted the modern 2019 Civic Si against its 20-years old sibling to see how much Honda has evolved during all these years. The below images are of two brand new Honda Civic Si examples, yes you read it right– the blue colored 1999 Civic Si in pictures below is also an almost brand new vehicle.
It belongs to Honda North America and has been driven just 930 miles (1,496 km) in the last two decades. It lives in a state of preservation under a blanket in a parking garage at Honda’s headquarters in Torrance, California, hidden from the devastation of hot California sun and devoid of any aftermarket modifications. It’s perfectly stock, just as it left the factory years before anyone even heard of The Fast and the Furious.
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On the other hand, the Civic Si in yellow is a 2019 model with 2750 miles (4,425 km) on the odometer. It is also the most powerful Civic Si ever and the first to be fitted with a turbocharger. Driving these two back to back shows just how far Honda has come over the last two decades when it comes to the sportier compact trim of Civic. As expected, the performance gains since those early days have been significant, but according to CarAndDriver something is also lost along the way.
The engines- the power
Although the Si trim was available since the 3rd generation Civic, it was only available as a hatchback. However with the introduction of 6th generation Civic, the first Civic Si coupe came into existence but was available only in Japan. It finally arrived in the United States in 1999, powered by Honda’s B16 DOHC VTEC 1.6-liter inline-4 cylinder naturally aspirated engine making 100 horses per liter and revving to a sky-high 8500 rpm. It was so good, so on-point that it helped ignite the modern revolution of small-car, small-displacement performance that lives on 20 years later.
In comparison, the new Civic Si gets a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine under the hood and generates 205 horsepower at 5700 rpm and 260 Nm of torque at just 2100 revs.
In a time when all cars have grown significantly larger and heavier, the Civic Si hasn’t plumped up all that much in the past 20 years. The current 2019 Si weighs 300 pounds (136 kg) more than the 1999 one, and its wheelbase and overall length and width have only grown a few inches. The old car’s substantially airier cabin makes it appear taller, but it’s actually half an inch lower.
The speed- the performance
As CarAndDriver puts it, the 1999 Civic Si’s naturally aspirated 1.6-liter feels as if it was plucked from a race car. Its power delivery is all at the top of its revs coming on strong at about 5600 rpm. That’s when the VTEC variable valve timing and lift system transitions to its more aggressive camshaft profile, increasing power and cranking up the internal-combustion music. This was the first Civic Si to get VTEC for both its intake and exhaust valves. It makes 160 horses at 7600 rpm and redlines at 8000 revs. But don’t shift just yet. Hold that gear until you kiss the rev limiter at 8500 rpm. It’s no wonder this car was a sensation.
The 2019 Civic Si’s powerband comes on just off idle, but it’s slow to rev, and it’s all done at 6600 rpm, where it hits an aggressive fuel cutoff. It also decelerates slowly, hanging onto revs with every gear change, which can make it trickier to drive smoothly.
However the performance gap isn’t as radical as you might expect: Shifting the modern Si coupe’s 6-speed manual for all its worth needed 6.3 seconds to reach 60 mph and powered through the quarter mile in 14.8 seconds at 96 mph. In comparison the old Si reach 60 mph in 7.1 seconds and quarter mile in 15.7 seconds reaching 88 mph.
No contest when road turns
The performance gap between the two cars widens considerably when the road twists. With its larger tires, firmer suspension, and wider tracks, the new 2019 Civic Si offers considerably more grip. The old car however, doesn’t embarrass on mountain roads either.
Back in 1999, Honda fitted the Si with 25 percent stiffer front springs, 33 percent stiffer rear springs, and a front strut tower brace. It also added a thicker front anti-roll bar, and it was the only Civic with a rear anti-roll bar. Its four-wheel disc brakes were larger as well, as were its 195-millimeter-wide all-season tires, which were wrapped around seven-spoke, 15-inch aluminum wheels. There’s some body roll at the old Si’s handling limit, but not enough to be a problem.
You sit much lower in the new car and in a properly bolstered sport seat. The tachometer is mounted in the center of the instrument cluster, while the steering is much quicker too. You immediately notice the new car’s firmer suspension setup, but it doesn’t give up much ride comfort to the cushier classic. The stopping distance from 70 to 0 mph is just 159 feet for the new Si, whereas it was 210 feet for the old one.
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Today’s Civic Si is clearly the best Honda has ever produced, and it remains one of the premier front-wheel-drive performance bargains in the world. Still, CarAndDriver find themselves drawn to the mechanical honesty of the 1999 model. From the raw feedback and response of its B16 engine to the direct mechanical action of its gear shifter, there’s enough to make these cars eternally desirable.
1999 Honda Civic Si
2019 Honda Civic Si
A 3d animation professional with over 20 years of industry experience having served in leading organizations & production facilities of Pakistan, an avid car enthusiast and petrolhead with an affection to deliver writings to help shape opinions. Formerly written for PakWheels as well as major publications including Dawn. Founder of CarSpiritPK.com