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article details
Author JeffX
Categories TOV Road Test, All Honda/Acura, Honda Car Specific, Civic
Create Date January 23, 2002 23:37
Last Update March 02, 2005 09:46
Introduction
Seattle - 16 October 2001 Upon its arrival last fall, the 7th generation Civic was greeted by Honda enthusiasts with a lack of enthusiasm that bordered on contempt. Always endeared for its combination of sportiness, racing-derived technology, economy, and reliability, the new Civic seemed to be thumbing its nose at its time-honored winning formula. Perhaps the most significant departure from tradition was the new MacPherson Strut front suspension setup, which replaced double wishbones. This seemed to elicit the majority of the jeers, with most thinking that Honda was sacrificing the excellent ride/handling combination offered by double wishbones in the name of cost savings. Life-long fans were beginning to wonder what could possibly be going on behind the scenes at the command center. For years Honda and Acura have extolled the virtues of their four-wheel double wishbone suspension setup, always referencing it in their current and past racing successes. Apparently this propaganda was successful. Whether or not the double wishbone suspension offered a true real-world advantage, it was something with which the sportcompact crowd could identify, and a distinguishing feature when making comparisons to other compacts. So obviously, people were disappointed to learn of this change. Then, when it was confirmed that there would be no Si for 2001, the collective mood soured further.

With the long awaited replacement for the Acura Integra still seemingly an eternity away, loyalists were wondering if Honda had forgotten about them altogether. (You may be thinking to yourself: "The S2000 epitomizes sportiness", but while many in the sport compact scene admire the roadster, it is considered by most members of this group to be out of reach. Indeed, with dealers in the hottest markets still demanding large markups over MSRP for the S2000, it is out of reach for some of its intended audience as well.) Meanwhile, product planners at competing manufacturers have long taken notice that Honda's Civic and Integra practically defined and dominated the category. The early attempts of other car makers to break Honda's stranglehold were not particularly successful. The products were usually dismissed for being too pricey, too slow, too mundane, too flashy, or some combination thereof. Follow-up efforts (i.e. WRX, Celica GT-S) were better executed, and combined with the level of uncertainty surrounding Honda's product plans for the sport compact market , people were beginning to pay a lot more attention to the competing alternatives.

The result is that Honda now finds itself in a somewhat unusual position. In the past, the sporty variations of the Civic and Integra practically sold themselves, despite relatively puny marketing budgets. This strong demand may be a thing of the past, as Honda now needs to again convince the public that they are serious about performance, and to further convince them that the new hardware is "for real". A new generation of enthusiasts raised on Gran Turismo and Sega Rally is now salivating over WRXs, Celicas, Jettas/Golfs, and Honda's own Type R models (which can no longer be purchased here).

If you're an active reader of the Temple of VTEC Rumours and News section, you probably know the rumour mill was brimming with reports of a Civic Type R or Si model coming our way. But the remaining questions were: 'Which would it be?', 'When?', 'How much?', and 'Would it still be worthy of its badge?'. The answers are: Si (160hp 2.0L, though it borrows heavily from the Type R version), March 2002, about $18-19k, and YES!

I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to drive one myself and I think most people will think the wait was well worth it.

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