#10 – 2002 Honda Civic Si

From Countach to Civic: One driver’s riches-to-rags story.

At least that would have been the byline, had I last written about a Countach instead of a Gallardo. Alas, alliteration was not meant to be.

Notice my inability to take decent pictures when it’s snowing.

But while it may not be an Italian supercar, the Civic is no slouch. For starters it’s a rare European-styled hatchback, and for added authenticity it was actually made in the UK. In fact it was the first time Honda made a North American-market civic outside of the US or Canada. And on the topic of firsts, it was also the first time the Si did not share a body style with the standard Civic, and it was the first Civic to use the new engine from the Integra with 160hp from a 2.0L I4 engine.

Another fun fact about this car is that in Canada they apparently tried to mix the Si and R monikers and marketed this car as the Civic SiR. How awesome is that? If I had one I would call it Sir Civic and think I was so clever.

I really like 3-door hatchbacks, there aren’t enough of them here on American soil and it’s a shame that this body style was only offered for 2 years in the US. I don’t understand why most hatchbacks in the US seem to come in 5 door styles, as if cars are worthless if you can’t easily get a child seat in the back. I know I have no money and therefore the car manufacturers don’t give a damn about what I want, but more 3-door hatches, please. (Volvo, I’m looking at you right now. A new C30 maybe?)

You could totally fit a child seat back here, look at all this room.

The exterior styling has certainly held up well, even 13 years later, but what about the interior? A 13 year old Civic has absolutely no chance of looking good in 2015, right? Bzzt. No, it still looks good. It’s rare for any car to not look dated after more than ten years, but proper sport seats are timeless, and Honda took a conservative approach with the styling that just worked.

Chrome bits were replaced with brushed metal bits, and the (imitation) carbon fiber trim was used sparingly, though its plasticky nature revealed itself with some cracks from wear. Bound to happen after 195,000 miles of changing the radio station and adjusting the heater through these wonderful Pennsylvania winters.

The gauge cluster was also simple and easy to read and wouldn’t look out of place today, unlike that giant digital speedometer in the modern day Civics that I can’t imagine will look good in ten years. If you’re ever a passenger in a car it’s a fun game to watch how fast the Civic in the next lane is driving. Try it sometime, but not if you’re driving. Safety first!

I liked driving the Civic as much as I liked looking at it. I was initially worried about the gear shift being mounted almost vertically on the console but the weirdness is solely a visual thing and didn’t affect drivability.

Ok the Carbon Fiber Trim looks a bit odd in the pictures, it’s really not bad in person, I promise.

The shifts were smooth and even with my lackluster skills I couldn’t really mess it up, though the engine was so quiet that I constantly thought I had stalled the damn thing. At one point I even parked on a steep hill to prove to myself how awesome my skills are how nice the clutch is. And I’m sure it would have been nice, had the hill not been covered in a sheet of ice that made forward movement impossible in a front wheel drive civic without snow tires.

But in the end the most remarkable thing about the Civic is that there was nothing really remarkable about it, except maybe for it’s rarity. This is one of the hardest reviews I’ve had to write yet because I liked the car but for intangible reasons that I can’t put words to, and there was nothing that I loved or hated enough to provide some fodder for an interesting review. To take up some space I’m even tempted to talk about the fun facts that I learned on Wikipedia like how this Civic has a less-than-ideal suspension set up and gained a bit of weight over previous generations in exchange for increased torsional rigidity, but that’s not very exciting.

I’ll just end this by saying that you can’t go wrong with a 2002 Civic Si, if you’re lucky enough to find one in good condition. Kinda like this one that I just wrote about which actually is for sale. So go buy it and then tell me what you think so I can write a better blog post.

Hey, I just realized I could call this the Honda Hot Hatch review. Yes, alliteration wins out after all.

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