“Type R” and “Si” are both words/abbreviations synonymous with Honda’s front-wheel drive performance history. Both of these badges have rightfully earned a significant following in the car community, based on their combination of precision handling and power for the money, but these cars are very different. The Type R is the serious precision track star, while the Si is basically the car that every seventeen year old with a fart can tries to convince themselves is a pseudo Type R. Don’t get it twisted though. The Si is no slouch, but it just isn’t a Type R. Let’s take a dive into some of the differences between these two FWD icons.
The Type R
We’re gonna start things off with Honda’s performance crown jewel. While the Type R originated on the NSX, it was popularized to the masses by what is now known to many as the hot hatch pinnacle: the Honda Civic Type R. It was actually third in line to receive a Type R badge (following the NSX and Integra), but the Civic Type R is what most people think of when they hear “Type R” whispered at JDM meets.
The Type R is the top tier of Civic performance. Production of the now iconic hot hatch began in 1997 as a JDM exclusive and received performance engineering to make it the most powerful Civic ever made at the time. The Type R received a hand-built, specially tuned 1.6L B16B engine putting out 182hp at 8,200rpm, an improved chassis (EK9 designation), stiffened body, upgraded brakes, improved suspension, and a limited slip differential. Honda also took the same route they took with the Integra Type R and put the Civic on the race car diet plan, dropping the car’s weight faster than a prom queen with an eating disorder. These performance upgrades added up, and really meant that the Type R wasn’t just race inspired; it was a racing car built for the streets.
Since then, Honda has continually improved on the Civic Type R; adding more power and improving handling as time went on (at least with the Japanese versions anyway…). This has culminated in the fifth generation Civic Type R, the FK8. The newest addition to the Type R family is outfitted with all the bells and whistles that made all the previous Type R models, and comes with the added bonus of looking like the end result of a RICEr’s Type R fan-fiction (Big wing and fake vents for days!). The FK8 is powered by a 2.0L turbocharged K20C1 engine, putting out 306hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful Civic Type R to date.
The Type R was, and continues to be, pure FWD racing pedigree, but now with just a dash more of “boy racer” cosmetics
In the U.S., this was our top of the line Honda for a long time (excluding the Integra Type R that we got for three years). We didn’t have regularly available Type Rs to buy, so these were our next best thing. And this wasn’t your mom’s Honda! this was the “Sport Injected” model! It looked kinda hot, it handled well, and it was… pretty f@#king slow.
The Si was introduced to the U.S. in 1985 in the form of the CRX Si. One year later, the Si badge was brought over to the Civic hatchback. Both the CRX Si and Civic Si were putting out a whopping total of 91hp at 5,200 rpm, so they weren’t exactly what you’d call powerhouses by any stretch of the imagination. But while they didn’t have monstrous horsepower, they did stay competitive with other hot hatches of the time and cement their place as a hot hatch icons.
And this trend of the Si being the best Civic option continues until it’s hiatus in 1995. After the introduction of the Civic Type R in 1997 and reintroduction of the Civic Si in 1999, the differences in the platform really began to show. Unlike its brother, the Si didn’t receive any of the special treatment that the Type R did. It still had sport upgrades, such as improved suspension and chassis over the lower trim Civics, but not to the level that the Type R had. The Si is by no means a bad car, but it isn’t the dedicated performance platform that the Type R is.
While the Si is still a fun little performer, it doesn’t live up to the hype of it’s race pedigree younger brother. The newest 2018 Si is putting out a humble 205hp and acceptable 195 lb-ft of torque out of a turbocharged 1.5L four cylinder engine and comes with a number of performance goodies not usually found on the lower trims. It is still not as good as the Type R, but not absolutely tragic garbage either. The Si sits in that happy medium between “dedicated performance machine” and “boring commuter car”, and it does it fairly well.
While I could have went into extensive detail on the differences on each car, with charts and graphs to show performance, cosmetic, and comfort changes throughout every generation of Type R and Si, I wanted to keep this short and sweet. So, let’s wrap this up quick.
Civic Type R – This car is a FWD performance machine and arguably the best modern hot hatch on the market for the money. It is meant to be driven like a race car, because that is more or less what it is. This is the true performer of the Honda brand. If you’re all about that track life and looking boy racer as f@#k, then this is the car for you!
Civic Si – The Si isn’t nearly as powerful or race oriented as its younger brother, but it still holds up in terms of fun for the money and smiles per gallon. This is the natural progression of the Si badge born in the 80’s; a humble amount of power, but the excellent in terms of precision handling. As boy racer as the Type R looks, this is the car boy racers will probably end up getting. Not because it’s better, but because it’s $10,000 cheaper. Fart cans and gaudy Lambo doors don’t grow on trees, you know.