• Column: Halley Prabhakar EP-18

Bliss or Dilemma?

I’ve lived with my Honda Civic aka Bliss for almost five years and it’s been with me at a time when I most needed a daily driver. It all began when I moved back to Bangalore. The only car at home at the time was Dad’s Chevrolet Beat. It was a fun little car for town use but I always wanted something more special. Having lived with two first-gen Honda City VTECs the obvious choice was to get another one, but Bangalore has always had very few VTECs that are on sale and even if they do pop up, the asking price is always way more than other cities. This and the fact that the car will be driven in town and long drives too meant I had to look for a car that also offered a better safety kit. This is where the Civic won over the City and I was lucky to find a well-kept, low mileage, manual Civic with a good service history.

The FD1 is probably one of the most capable and best-handling front-wheeldrive cars ever produced and with a low drag coefficient, the body and chassis deserve an equally impressive motor. Unfortunately, India received the more efficient R18 motor. While the SOHC i-VTEC unit was advanced for its time, it lacked the poke I was used to with the more old-school and hardcore B15C2 unit from the City VTEC. To make it more challenging, the R18 motor even features a unique exhaust manifold that’s built into the head of the engine, so instead of four sweet pipes one usually finds in any four-cylinder motor, the Civic here gets a single outlet that basically reduces emissions and connects directly to the catalytic convertor.

The first mod then was to better the intake system by using a performance filter and removing the catalytic convertor to replace it with a simple downpipe with provisions for the two oxygen sensors. These changes were immediately apparent and the intake roar was good enough to keep me engaged. The next mod planned was to improve the stiffness as the car sits on a softer, comfort-oriented chassis for India. But then, I decided not to play around with the springs as they would lower the car even further and the lovely ride quality, especially on broken and undulated roads would be lost. The Civic feels like that magic carpet over Bangalore roads and hence I decided to not let it stay.

The Civic also happens to be a great looker and I slapped on a Mugen RR body kit that included the large spoiler. The 15-inch wheels were replaced by lovely looking 17-inch OZ rims running on Michelin PS4 rubber. Well, it did kinda become a ricer effectively, but to me, she is the best of both worlds, as the car looks smashing while the ride is close to stock which makes it very comfortable in town and on the highway. Push it around corners and the PS4s stick very well to hold that perfect line too. Despite this being the ideal Civic to me, I’m now tempted to swap it for a hatchback, one that is 'TURBOCHARGED' (of course!) and can be frugal too! After all, it’s going to be my daily. The dilemma begins!

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