In 2002, The Civic Si returned to the lineup on an all new platform and a number of key changes. The 6th generation model's beloved double wishbone front suspension was replaced with a MacPherson Strut setup. It would be an understatement to say this was a controversial decision on Honda's behalf. The suspension was just the beginning. The body style reverted to a hatchback configuration, and the gear shifter migrated to a dashboard mounting location, in the style of past rally cars. However, the most important part of the car became another source of controversy. Honda fitted their European-designed 2002 Civic Si with the only K-series motor in the North American Civic range. This is the K20A3 engine, a DOHC i-VTEC motor producing a respectable 160HP, but topping out at a paltry 6800 rpm redline. Though the 160HP rating matches the output of the B16A, the reduced redline forces a 2-3 shift before 60MPH. The two redeeming qualities of the K20A3 are its silky smooth operation and its abundance of torque, available from right off idle all the way to the top of the rev range. In addition to its broad useful range, it produces 20 ft-lbs more peak torque than the B16A.
As if there wasn't enough controversy already, the Civic Si's styling hasn't been warmly received, with detractors panning it for having too-plain looks, undersized wheels and tires ('02 and '03 models rolled with 15's on 4-lug hubs, '04's finally get 16's on 5-lug hubs, which should help) with some even likening it to a minivan. Then there's the price. With an MSRP of nearly $20000, people who are quick to judge are also quick to dismiss it as overpriced. What they're missing is a supremely refined package, with superb chassis dynamics. If there's an upside to this situation, the decided lack of enthusiast demand of the new Si has resulted in bargain-basement pricing and special financing deals. In October 2002, I purchased my Si for $17K out the door in Pittsburgh, PA. Similar deals were advertised around the country and are still available (see the current promotion on the TOV's dealer network!). Honda has delivered a great car that's now selling for an amazing price, yet many are still in the dark when it comes to understanding the new Si. We highly recommend that you really drive the Si before passing judgment on it.
The TOV has a long heritage of sharing opinions and information with other car enthusiasts. The Temple of VTEC began in 1994 when Jeff Palmer started collecting facts and rumors on Honda and Acura products and posted them on his personal web page. Meanwhile, Tuan Nguyen also started the Integra Performance Page in 1994. The Integra Performance Page was a collection of articles written by Tuan and submitted by enthusiasts. One of the TOV's other founders, Shawn Church, was a key technical contributor to the Integra Performance Page. It wasn't long before the Temple of VTEC and the Integra Performance Page combined forces to form the collective TOV.
This article continues in our tradition of bringing you scientific and unbiased technical articles. It begins the first in a series of articles chronicling our 2002 Civic Si project car. The goal of this project is to take the street capable car and make it road course worthy, yet still pass California smog rules, for under $10K. Parts 1-5 will cover bolt-on performance applications. We will analyze AEM's V2 Air Induction system in Part 1, then continue with Hondata's standard Civic Si reflash program in Part 2. Next we look at DC Sports Stainless Steel header and a mid-pipe replacement in Parts 3 and 4. For Part 5, we plan to examine the fully programmable ECU from Hondata and discuss tuning your K20Ax motor with it.
Before we begin, we need to thank AEM for providing us with an AEM V2 intake. A special thanks goes to David Salvaggio for showing us around AEM's warehouse and manufacturing center and to Jon Gleason for helping us install the V2 intake. Dyno runs were provided by Shawn at Church Automotive Testing in Torrance, CA.