Honda Civic 1.6i-VTEC – 8,000 rpm and low seat provide an extra speed experience

Variable valve timing on Civic and CRX

Honda Civic 1.6i-VTEC

They had already had sixteen-valve engines at Honda for a long time, because the CRX and the Civic had been making waves with them for years when the brand took the next step in 1989. With the arrival of VTEC technology, the 1.6 16V was boosted even further and Honda achieved power from the block that other brands needed a two-liter. The second generation CRX became best known for it, but you could also get the 150 strong 1.6i-VTEC in the normal Civic three-door. Was that a competitor for other hot hatchbacks to take into account? We go back in time and try one of those fast Civics.

Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control. What sounds like a random collection of English catchphrases is the formula for the next phase after four-valve technology: variable camshafts. It works as follows: above each pair of valves, for example the two intake valves of a cylinder, three camshafts rotate: two ‘tame’ ones on the right and left and a ‘sharp’ one in the middle. During normal driving, the two outer camshafts operate the valves, while the single one in the middle rotates without doing anything. One intake valve opens over a distance of five millimeters, the other over a distance of eight millimeters, so that the fuel-air mixture circulates properly. The advantages: relatively high torque and low fuel consumption (average 1:13.5). However, if you keep the accelerator pressed firmly, the sharp camshaft goes to work: the three rocker arms between the cam and the valves mesh, so that the sharp cam now operates the valves. They now both open 10.4 millimeters further and are also open longer. This means that a larger amount of fuel-air mixture flows into the combustion chamber and then flows out again as exhaust gas, because the exhaust valves are also controlled in this way. The advantage: higher power.

Honda Civic 1.6i-VTEC

Renault had yet to present its first 16-valve (19 16V) when Honda already took the next step with VTEC technology on the Civic and CRX.

VTEC runs from 1.6 to 8,000 rpm

Depending on the position of the accelerator pedal, the VTEC system switches between 5,300 and 6,000 rpm, after which the engine can reach up to 8,000 (!) revolutions. The result: for a maximum power of 150 hp, the Honda does not need two liters of engine capacity – like Opel, which also has a top engine with the C20XE for the Kadett GSi 16V – but only 1.6 liters. Or almost 100 hp per liter, which in 1989 was enormous for a standard naturally aspirated engine. However, the twenty percent smaller engine capacity is noticeable in the torque, which means that the VTEC lags far behind the GSi 16V. On the other hand, 90 percent of the torque is available between 2,100 and 8,000 rpm.

Honda Civic 1.6i-VTEC

In this generation Honda Civic you sit ultra low.

Only comes alive above 4,500 rpm

How does that feel? Not very powerful at first, but that becomes a different story from 3,000 rpm, with a slight dip between 4,000 and 4,500, after which it happily continues. The engine just sounds rather lethargic. From 6,000 rpm there is no brutal extra punch as in later Honda’s Type R, but the sound takes on an aggressive tone. The gear lever with its short stroke is also nice. And you sit as low as in a sports car. You therefore spontaneously get the feeling that you are driving twenty kilometers faster than in the normal hot hatchbacks of that time, some of which you recently saw on this site. The steering and the noticeably soft-tuned chassis match the unobtrusive appearance. This is a car that you can easily give to your aunt to drive to bingo night, but which is also entertaining for experienced drivers.

Honda Civic 1.6i-VTEC

You can recognize the Honda Civic with VTEC engine by the wider headlights. And the special VTEC wheels.

Honda Civic 1.6i-VTEC

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