Project Bucket: EP3 Honda Civic Si

by Mike Kojima

What, I said, your brother in law wants to sell his Civic Si for $500?  I was speaking to one of my friends who thought I might be interested in this deal.  What's wrong with it? Does it run? Has it been wrecked?  Is it stolen?  No, my friend said, it's in great shape and runs fine with about 100k miles on it.  Everything works, he just doesn't want it anymore.  What's the catch? I asked. I dunno said my friend, it's a 2003 Si.

Ugh I thought, this was an EP3 Civic, the Civic that was universally panned by enthusiasts. Although the body was a pretty attractive hatchback, the car is saddled with the lamest of the otherwise awesome K family, the K20A3.  This engine is low compression and only has VTEC variable cam timing on the intake side.  The VTEC is also tuned more for combustion enhancing swirl at lower rpm and load and not for high RPM volumetric efficiency. Because of this, the K20A3 has been pretty ignored by the performance aftermarket. 

To make matters worse, Honda's engineers were on drugs when they designed the suspension geometry and created the only front suspension with more bump steer than a Nissan Sentra.  I mean the steering rack is on the firewall with long silly tie rods that don't even come close to following the paths of the control arms.  The front suspension also lacks caster and camber gain under roll.  The suspension is like an old SE-R Sentra but worse.

The rear suspension is also wonky.  It is a multi link but the upper link is very short so there is an extreme gain in negative camber.  There is also a big migration of the rear roll center under roll with the roll center taking a drive and the roll couple increasing, nice...  The rear suspension also tends to toe out under roll, just the thing for nice trailing throttle oversteer, maybe to counter the grinding understeer the front end will be prone to.  To finalize the weirdness the rear motion ratio of the suspension is very high which should mean strange spring and damping rates.

Honda must have been on drugs or something when they designed the suspension of this series of car.  The EP3 was part of the beginning of Honda losing their way.  Well we at MotoIQ are always up for the challenge, can we improve the much maligned EP3 without breaking the bank?  We're not sure but we got the Nissan Sentra to work pretty good so we will give it a shot!

To read more about Project EP3 check here!

Unfortunately, our $500 dollar wonder car was located in San Francisco.  None of us wanted to go there to pick it up but Jeff drew the short straw and took a commuter flight to SFO to pick the car up.  Even when you consider the $80 dollars it took for the plane ticket and $30 bucks in gas the car was still a great deal.  We had purchased it sight unseen and figured if it really sucked we could make it into a Lemons or ChumpCar entry.  We were pleased to find that the car really was in great shape and the previous owner smogged it for us to be nice.  The paint had a few dings, chips and scratches but was still shiny and the interior was clean with no rips or stains.  Everything also worked.  This was one of the nicest used car we have gotten for anywhere close to the price.
The EP3 has a really weird shifter which sticks high out of the dash like a video game joystick. Surprisingly it still works decently and its high position is sorta like a rally car in case you want to pretend you are Ken Block in a Honda.  It is also a good place to stash a banana peel.  Jeff always leaves his trash everywhere.
One thing the K20A3 seemed to do okay was get good mileage.  Jeff reported that it seemed to get about 30 plus MPG on his way back from Northern California.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2015 10:46 PM
Seriously Mike, $500? I wouldn't complain about the suspension geometry even if it had swing axles in the front and a twist-beam rear :-p

It's a better deal than my $600 NA, that's for sure...


-Chris aka CFlo
Wednesday, November 25, 2015 2:32 AM
Unfortunately, this is the only Civic I actually loathe to look at. Obviously it looks better with mods, but for some reason I think Honda just missed the boat with the body on this car. That engine, ugh! The crank isn't even fully counterweighted from what I remember and VTEC only on the intake cam.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015 4:20 AM
I'm not a Honda person, but the EP3 version of the Type R was a good handling car according to my Honda friends. That doesn't mean much, but I am wondering if any significant changes were made.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015 5:10 AM
Ahhhh the EP3. I was looking at these for a while, but on the East Coast they are way over priced. I've always thought this car had a lot of potential with an engine and trans swap and some suspension help. I never knew the suspension was so messed up on them, but hopefully MIQ can sort it out. Maybe help justify the $7,000 people on the East Coast want for these things. Hot hatches are awesome and the fact Honda doesn't sell any in the US is the crime of the century.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Wednesday, November 25, 2015 7:52 AM
We made a Sentra handle good so....
Wednesday, November 25, 2015 11:27 AM
Seriously, like 8695Beaters said, it's stupid expensive on the East Coast... Even though I live in Canada, they are expensive AND rusted AND/OR slammed to the with some chinese coil-overs...

But I still think the EP3 Civic looks good!

It would be nice to have a comparaison between the EP3 and the Fiesta ST: Poor multilink against twist beam.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015 11:28 AM
*slammed to the ground with some chinese coil-vers...*
Wednesday, November 25, 2015 1:13 PM
One of these won STF at Solo Nationals this year, David Whitener set it up and drove it. Pretty crazy setup too, it was slammed to the ground with a huge rear ARB and super high rear spring rates. I was working course when it was driving and it didn't roll at all, just hopped through the corners... Transitioned insanely well though, probably due to the spring rates. 15" BFG Rival S tires.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015 9:44 PM
Well, if you run some insanely high spring rates I guess that would cure the bump steer!

I'm up for any solutions for the bump steer! AFAIK, it has the same rack as the RSX.

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Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Thursday, November 26, 2015 10:04 AM
$500 Civic SI? $600 NA Miata? You people who live outside the rust belt annoy me sometimes. Be interesting to see how you solve the geometry issues.
Jeff Naeyaert
Jeff Naeyaertlink
Thursday, November 26, 2015 11:20 AM
I think we know where to sell this thing when we're done though!
Friday, November 27, 2015 8:19 AM
To an MIQ stablemate for $500 as a cheater LeMons car?
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Friday, November 27, 2015 11:04 AM
This car is too nice for that.
Saturday, November 28, 2015 6:46 PM
This is the chassis RTR successfully lobbied for a fully re-engineered rear suspension on for their RSX in whatever series they are in. You guys are screwed with a capital F! I am definitely keeping my eyes on this one.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Saturday, November 28, 2015 11:17 PM
From my first look, the front is really screwed too. For a reasonable budget we can only make it ok, sorta like a Sentra. If you don't do it right, this car can go to crap pretty good.
Monday, November 30, 2015 8:28 AM
No idea how you picked this up for $500. Everyone in Southern CA wants boatloads too much money for them despite knowing how crappy they are (compared to other Si's).
Wednesday, December 02, 2015 9:12 AM
that is REALLY clean for $500
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