Project Bucket: EP3 Honda Civic Si

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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