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Honda Civic 4th generation | Civic 1988-1991 History

The 4th generation Honda Civic was introduced in Europe at the IAA in Frankfurt Germany in September 1987. It was a very technical advanced car for its time, 4 valves per cylinder, double wishbone suspension front and rear and VTEC for the top model hatchback. It was available as 3 door hatchback, 4 door sedan, wagon (shuttle) and 3 door coupe (CRX). Rover build their 200 and 400 series on the Civic base.
A wide variety of engines was available for the 4th generation Civic. From a 1.2L SOHC to the 1.6L DOHC VTEC. 4WD was an option on the top models Sedan and Wagon (shuttle).

Base model of the 4th generation Civic was the 1.2L SOHC. This single carbureted engine was not available on the Japanese and American market. Some European countries listed the 1.2 SOHC as the base model, other European countries had the 1.3L SOHC single carbureted engine as the base model. This model was sold as 1.3Luxe (DX for the United Kingdom). On the Japanese market it was sold as 23L/23U.
Next engine was the 1.4L (GL) which was not available in the USA and Japan. This 1.4L SOHC dual carburetted engine was available in most countries only in 1988 and 1989. It was replaced with the 1.5i GL and GLX in 1990. In some countries however the carburetted engines were also sold after 1989.  
The 1.5L SOHC engine came in a wide variety, dual-point injection, single carburetted and dual carburetted. Those engines were available in the JDM 25X/25XT, USDM DX and the USDM STD model (USDM base model), EDM 1.5i GL and GLX. The only difference between the EDM GL and GLX is a different standard equipment and a different Final Drive Ratio.
Next in line was the 1.6L SOHC. Simply 1.6i for the European market and Si for the American market (USDM top model). (not to be confused with the JDM Si which is a 1.6L DOHC)
Second highest model was the JDM Si. It was equipped with a 1.6L DOHC (ZC) engine and produced 130ps. The EDM 1.6i GT and 1.6i-16 (depends on country) had a ZC like 1.6L DOHC engine and had a stock 124hp (D16Z5) or 130hp (D16A9). All DOHC engines are equipped with Honda's multipoint fuel injection system (although there seems to have been a 1.6L DOHC non-VTEC with dual carburetors for the 4th gen. Not much is known about that engine).
Top model of the hatchback was the Japanese SiR with the 160ps B16A engine. In Europe the SiR was called 1.6i-VT and had a similar B16A1 engine. These top models of the 4th generation Civic were one of the first Honda's that were equipped with the famous VTEC system (the NSX was the first, the JDM 90/91 Integra XSi/RSi also had a B16A). See the SiR / 1.6i-VT chapter below for more info.


In 1990 the 4th gen Civic had a light facelift. Things that changed were the front bumper design, the front corner lights no longer had the two screws on the outside, the gauge cluster cover shape slightly changed, tail light units design changed and USDM models got door mounted seatbelts (88-89 had frame mounted seatbelts).

4th Generation Honda Civic sketch 4th Generation Honda Civic sketch 4th Generation Honda Civic sketch 4th Generation Honda Civic sketch
Original 4th generation sketches ( )

SiR / VT

Top model of the 4th generation Honda Civic was the JDM (Japanese domestic market) SiR (EF9). It is equipped with the 1.6L DOHC VTEC engine (B16A) that delivers 160ps @ 7600rpm. The VTEC system is tuned for optimal performance unlike some later VTEC engines like the 5th gen. EDM (European domestic market) VEi, SOHC VTEC, tuned for fuel-efficiency and the VTEC-E(conomy) models (VX).

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1991 JDM Honda Civic SiR

The B16A was a very technical advanced engine for its days and still is today. It is a short stroke 4 in-line that delivers its max. hp at 7600rpm and the redline is at a astonishing 8000 rpm. Later generations B16A's can be found in the later generations Civics and in the Del Sol (CRX for Europe). Compared to the other 4th generation Civics the SiR has a completely different front-end. It has different headlights, a different bumper and the hood is bigger to accommodate the larger B-series engine. The different front end however is not exclusively for the VTEC models, the special models of the JDM 23L and 25X and the late models of the JDM hatchbacks have a similar front-end. More visual differences between the ‘normal’ models and the VTEC models: The roof spoiler is bigger (SiR only), the VT and SiR have 'side skirts', rear bumper lip, the center plate between the tail-lights is red and says CIVIC VTEC and the SiR has a different gauge cluster.

Europe's equivalent of the SiR was called 1.6i VT (EE9). Although it was also equipped with a B16A engine (B16A1) and the same SiR front-end there are many (small) differences. For one the EDM version ‘only’ has 150hp (SiR 160ps). The exact reason for this is not very clear, the head is the same but the VT does not have a knock sensor. A theory is that the EDM VT has a different ignition timing and is detuned because of Octane ratings (JDM 98RON, EDM 95RON).
The VT has slightly different gear ratio's, also the SiR has the speedometer in the center of the gauge cluster, the VT has a standard layout. The biggest difference is that the SiR is right-hand drive and the VT left-hand drive (except for the UK and Irish VT models).
Both the SiR and VT have rear disk brakes and larger ventilated disks in front. The suspension also improved and is (compared to the other 4th gens) different in many ways.
The B16A engine was also available in the JDM CRX (EF8) and EDM CRX (EE8). Again the CRX 1.6i VT and SiR have a different front-end and different suspension (among other things). Again the VT has 150hp and the SiR 160ps. Compared to the EDM 1.6i-16 (1.6L DOHC) the VT adds more standard equipment, such as full leather seats, power windows, power mirrors, low fuel indicator light etc.

JDM Japanese Domestic market
EDM European Domestic market
USDM United States Domestic market
Si Sports injected
SiR Sports injected racing
DX Deluxe
SOHC Single overhead cam
DOHC Double overhead cam
VTEC Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control System


 Civic history:
1st generation: July 1972 - July 1979
2nd generation July 1979 - September 1983
3rd generation September 1983 - September 1987
4th generation September 1987 - September 1991
5th generation September 1991 - September 1995
6th generation September 1995 - September 2000
7th generation September 2000 - September 2005
8th generation September 2005 - September 2011
9th generation 2011 (different models for Europe / USA / Japan with different introductions)

For engine codes, chassis codes and specifications see the SPECS section.