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A Short History of the Honda Civic Type R

William Maley
by William Maley
June 11, 2015
3 min. Reading Time
2016 Honda Civic Type R Hatchback at the 2015 New York International Auto Show ・  Photo by Megan Green

2016 Honda Civic Type R Hatchback at the 2015 New York International Auto Show ・ Photo by Megan Green

Honda made some big announcements earlier this year at the New York Auto Show. First was the introduction of the Civic concept, which previews the next-generation model due out later this year. More intriguing for Civic fans, however, was Honda's confirmation that the Civic Type-R would be coming to the U.S. in the near future. This piece of forbidden fruit has been one of the cornerstones of high-performance, front-wheel drive vehicles - and previously off-limits to North American buyers. The latest version packs a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder with 305 horsepower and purportedly clocked a 7:50 lap time at the famed Nürburgring racetrack.

The journey to the Civic Type R was a long and arduous one. In celebration of its impending arrival, we're taking a look back at its gradual evolution. 

1984 Honda Civic Si

Our journey begins with the first sporting Civic, the 1984 Civic Si. Built for the Japanese market only, the Honda took the third-generation Civic hatchback and dropped in a 1.6L four-cylinder engine producing 122 horsepower. Considering that, at the time, many compact cars made less than 100 horsepower, the Civic Si was revolutionary. It should also be noted that this was the first time the Si badge was ever used on the Civic.

 Photo by Wikimedia user Morio

Photo by Wikimedia user Morio

1985 Honda CRX Si

The U.S. wouldn't get its first taste of a sporty Honda until 1985 with the introduction of the CRX Si. Taking a 1.5L four-cylinder, Honda engineers fitted the CRX Si with a new electronic fuel-injection system and intake manifold. This increased power from 76 horsepower and 84 pound-feet of torque to 91 and 93, respectively. While those numbers may seem small, keep in mind that a CRX only tipped the scales at 1,953 pounds. Road test figures showed that the CRX Si hit 60 mph in 9.1 seconds.


1988 Honda CRX Si

1988 saw Honda introduce a second-generation CRX Si. Power came from a 1.6L four-cylinder pumping out 108-horsepower, paired to a five-speed manual transmission. The sprint from 0-60mph only took about 9 seconds. Wearing a set of 14-inch wheels and grippy tires, the CRX Si was a very capable car in the corners.


1989 Honda Civic Si

A year after the CRX Si was first introduced to the U.S., Honda followed it up with the Civic Si hatchback. Compared to the standard Civic hatchback, the Si got a number of changes such as a lowered chin spoiler, roof-mounted spoiler, and 14-inch wheels. Much like the CRX Si, the Civic Si used a 1.6L four-cylinder with 108 horsepower and 100 pound-feet of torque. Paired with a five-speed manual transmission, the Civic Si could hit 60 mph in 9 seconds flat.


1990 Honda Civic SiR

In Japan, Honda made a big leap with their performance Civics with the introduction of the 1990 SiR. This model saw the introduction of the B16A four-cylinder. For those not up on their Honda nomenclature, the B16A was basically a 1.6L engine with dual overhead cams and Honda's VTEC technology that produced 158 horsepower. It was an impressive number, especially when you consider that the Civic SiR weighed just a hair over 2,000 pounds.


1992 Honda Civic SiR-II

Two years after the introduction of the SiR, Honda introduced the EG generation Civic Hatchback which smoothed out the styling of the previous hatchback. With a new look, Honda introduced a hotter Civic named the SiR-II. Using a newer evolution of the B16A engine, the SiR-II punched an impressive 167 horsepower and 115 pound-feet of torque. This came paired with a five-speed manual.

 Photo by Wikimedia user Morio

Photo by Wikimedia user Morio

1998 Honda Civic Type R

1998 saw Honda give the Civic the full Type R treatment. Finished in white with red Honda badges and 'Civic Type R' decals, the model boasted the B16B four-cylinder engine. This 1.6L engine pumped out 182 horsepower. An impressive number when you take into consideration the Civic Type R only weighed around 2,400 pounds. Standard equipment included a limited-slip differential, Momo steering wheel, and a set of Recaro bucket seats.

If you wanted to extract a little bit more performance, you could opt for the weight-loss package, which removed a number of items, including the air conditioner and radio.

 Photo by EK9.org forum

Photo by EK9.org forum

1999 Honda Civic Si

Many Honda enthusiasts in North America consider the 1999 Civic Si a high mark in hot Civics sold domestically. Using the Civic coupe as a base, Honda dropped in the B16 - a 1.6L four-cylinder producing 160 horsepower at 8,000 rpm. This was quite a watershed moment since many mainstream automakers were not offering vehicles that either produced 100 horsepower per liter or featured an 8,000 rpm redline.

Aside from the engine, Honda also made improvements to the suspension, tires, and bodywork.


2001 Honda Civic Type R

The second-generation Honda Civic Type R was a humdinger of a car. Built in England, the model boasted a 2.0L i-VTEC four-cylinder with 200 horsepower and paired with a six-speed manual. The Type R boasted improvements to the vehicle's chassis, transmission, and brakes. The Japanese-market Civic Type R got a more powerful version of the 2.0L with 212 horsepower and a limited-slip differential. No matter which version of the Type R you got, the run to 60mph took around 6.4 seconds.

In 2004, the Civic Type R was treated to a refresh with new settings for the suspension, improved steering, a lighter clutch, and new headlights.


2007 Honda Civic Type R Sedan

Our history lesson on the Civic Type R ends with one of the most unique models ever built. In 2007, Honda took over the Japanese-market Civic Sedan and gave it the Type R treatment. Wearing an all-white treatment and large wing, this Civic Type R boasts a 2.0L four-cylinder with 222 horsepower and a six-speed manual. Other items for this model included a limited-slip differential, larger brakes, and sticker tires.



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