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It’s tough to appreciate the 160-horsepower, five-speed Civic Si in full knowledge that there’s a 200-horsepower, six-speed Civic Type-R already coming off the same British production line. It’s not that the Civic Si is a bad car (it’s quite good), but that there’s something better out there and that for some reason… we don’t rate it. The Civic Si will get the respect it deserves, but the Type-R would be an icon among America’s Honda-crazed youth.So Honda doesn’t trust us with the good stuff. We can handle the blow to our ego; God knows this nation has suffered worse slights than that. But how good is the pretty good stuff we are allowed?
Unlike any other Civic
The 2002 Civic Si isn’t really like any other Civic for sale in the U.S. It’s the only hatchback being sold here, it shares no sheetmetal with any other North American-market Civic and, while the Si’s basic structure, all-independent suspension and floorpan is common with other Civics, it also shares those pieces with the also-new-in-2002 Acura RSX. The Si in fact gets its 160-horsepower, 2.0-liter, DOHC, 16-valve “i-VTEC” four and four-wheel disc brakes from the base RSX and rides on the same 101.2-inch wheelbase. Since the ’99 and ’00 Civic Si was a coupe, the hatchback’s return harkens back to all the previous Civic S and Si models between ’83 and ’95 that were all hatches, and this is a nicely drawn, sweetly detailed hatchback that has the structural heft of a beryllium atom.
But the exterior’s goodness pales in comparison to the interior’s excellence. With surface textures that are more RSX-ish than Civic-like, and contemporary design details, the Si’s innards are among the best on any car at any price. The dash is straightforward and intuitive with black-on-white instrumentation and switchgear that reacts with tactile grace. It helps if you have an unwide butt when aiming it into the front seats but they provide superior support during aggressive driving and integrated side airbags are available.
2002 Honda Civic Si interiorEnlarge Photo