2005 Honda Civic

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2002 Honda Civic Si

This 2002 review is representative of model years 2001 to 2005.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

A civilized hot rod Honda mostly for younger drivers.
Pros:
  • Fastest Civic
  • Roomy
  • Well-equipped
Cons:
  • Odd styling
  • Choppy ride
  • Fixed rear windows

The special new Honda Civic Si is a genuine hot ride, unlike other Civic models.

The Civic line is unchanged this year, except for the Si and the early 2003 hybrid gasoline-electric Civic.

The Si is aimed mainly at the escalating number of young male drivers who like small, fast cars that don't cost an arm and a leg. It's also for those who like to modify used Japanese economy cars such as the ones in last year's hit movie, "The Fast and the Furious."

Many such cars are used Civics because they're cheap and readily available, especially on the West Coast.

Major Rivals
Civic Si rivals in the new car market include the Ford Focus SVT and the GTI from Volkswagen, which started the whole small hot car scene in the early 1980s.

The Si has a rather cutesy shape with its stubby nose, soft edges and tall roof. It's still the least attractive model in the above-mentioned trio. However, none will win styling awards because small cars with decent utility all come out looking much like eggs or boxes.

Most Expensive Civic
The $19,000 two-door Si is the most expensive Civic and is the only Civic hatchback trim. Other Civics are coupes or sedans, costing from $12,810 to $18,060.

The Si is reasonably priced for a well-equipped high-performance trim. The only factory option is $250 side front airbags, which are a good idea considering the small size of the Si.

Well-Equipped
Standard items include air conditioning, AM/FM/CD sound system, power sunroof, keyless entry, split-folding rear seat and power front windows and mirrors.

Honda says the Si plays "two relatively small but important" roles in the Civic line by meeting consumer demands for a hatchback and the return of the Si.

The Civic is the car that put Honda on the map in America. It's been popular since its introduction here in the early 1970s, just in time for the gasoline crunch.

Performance History
Honda periodically has sold Civic Si hatchbacks since 1986, although the Si's performance history goes back to the 1984-85 Civic S hatchback. Honda, which only began producing cars after World War II, has a strong high-performance heritage. It even competed with sophisticated Grand Prix cars in the 1960s, when it was unknown to most Americans.

The last Si offered in this country was the 1999-2000 version, which had a conventional coupe body. While fast, the car's 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine was a screamer that called for lots of revs and constant shifting. You really had to be a dedicated car buff to enjoy it.

Easier To Live With
On the other hand, the new Si has a larger, more relaxed 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a wider powerband and more mid-range punch typically used in U.S. driving. It is much easier to live with on a daily basis and doesn't call for nearly as much shifting.

Regular 2002 Civics have 4-cylinder, single-overhead-camshaft engines that generate 115-127 horsepower, so they're not in the same performance league as the 160-horsepower Si.

The front-drive Si's low-emissions engine has dual overhead camshafts with such things as a continuous valve phasing system. It's a smoother version of the base engine in Honda's more expensive, upscale Acura RSX sports coupe.

Complete Package
To accompany the hot rod engine, the Si has such things as a sport suspension, wider tires, large anti-lock disc brakes and a close-ratio 5-speed manual gearbox with a rally style shifter that juts from the center dashboard close to the steering wheel.

The shifter is perfectly placed for fast, easy upshifts and downshifts—and allows freed-up floor space for such items as beverage containers.

No Automatic Transmission
No automatic transmission is offered for the Si because it is a serious driver's car, despite all the comfort and convenience features.

The Si is quick, hitting 60 mph in 7.6 seconds. It's also pretty economical, delivering an estimated 26 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway.

Choppy Ride
The innovative variable-assist electrical power steering is quick, and handling is very responsive. But the stiff suspension causes the ride to get choppy on rough roads and wavy pavement. Stops are short, thanks partly to an electronic brake distribution system.

Honda says the assembled-in-England Si has "European hatchback styling." The high curvature rear end and low, wide tailgate allow maximum utilization of interior space and easy cargo loading. The cargo area is fairly big, and is impressive with the rear seatbacks folded forward.

Roomy
There is decent room for four 6-footers in the quiet interior. Gauges can be quickly read, and radio and climate system controls are large enough for easy use. However, rear side windows are fixed.

All Civics are highly reliable and have good resale value. However, a used Si probably wouldn't have as large a buying audience as conventional pre-driven Civics because of its manual gearbox and general hot-rod personality.

A faster, slicker 200-horsepower Civic with a 6-speed manual transmission and wider tires is sold in Europe and Japan, but Honda says there currently are no plans to import it. The Si will have to do for now in America—not that this is a hardship.

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BB03 - 7/24/2014 8:36:57 AM