While you weren’t looking, the last Honda Civic hatchback sold in America has become the best economy performance bargain on the market. From its 2002 introduction until now, you, along with the automotive media and buying public, wrote it off for its insulated driving experience and honey-I-shrunk-the-minivan looks. Even though it was designed to address the previous EM1 Civic Si’s shortcomings: too loud, too peaky, too darty, and as a coupe, too impractical. The car market is indeed a moving target. If your goals have shifted from “How can I outrun Brody’s Eclipse GSX from a 60 roll” to “What car won’t make me the laughing stock of water cooler conversations?” and you’re not quite to “Will this impress Debra at our 30-year high school reunion?”, then the EP3 is your moving target’s new bullseye. Find this 2004 EP3 Honda Civic Si for sale in Dover, NJ for $3,800 via craigslist.
Last week, Honda made headlines when it announced the return of the Honda Civic Type-R to America. This EP3 generation also had a Type-R. Its new K-series engine displaced two liters, revved to 8,100, and generated 200 horsepower thanks to an evolved, intelligent form of VTEC. But that engine never made it to the states. The UK-built body and suspension did, along with the dash-mounted shifter (don’t knock it until you try it) and bolstered seats with Alcantara suede, but the engine bay was saddled with the K20A3, a variant with lower compression, less aggressive cams and cam timing, and “true VTEC” only on one cam. The result was a useful bump in torque and tractability over the previous model, but a paltry 6,800 redline. More importantly to the enthusiast community, no dramatic VTEC kick. It also weighed about one passenger more than the outgoing Si, and lacked the excellent double-wishbone front suspension. It was hardly the same car.
Think of this Civic Si, then, not as a Civic Si, but as a base Civic. Its 15.9-cubic foot trunk, before folding the seats down, shames the 11.9 feet of the EM1. As a standalone body style, not much of it is compatible with lower Civics, so the chance of theft is theoretically reduced. Plus (and this is a big one for bargain hunters), you don’t need premium fuel. Assuming an average of 15,000 miles a year and gas at $2,39/gallon for regular and $2.79 for premium (according to FuelGaugeReport.com), that’s an annual savings of $200.
For all its subtlety, there are three reminders that this is indeed still a Civic Si. 1. Car guys know it’s an Si. You will be revved at. 2. Most examples have been riced or stanced into oblivion. 3. Insurance costs are still relatively high. Your individual results may vary. Even with relatively high miles, this EP3 comes with a clean title, no rust, no modifications, and 2004’s mid-cycle updates for under $4k. But heed this warning: your pizza delivery guy with the stanced pre-EF hatch may disapprove.
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