Innocuous little Japanese saloon car that looks like Grandad's Sunday runabout, but goes like something off a hot shovel.
158 bhp might not sound like much by today's standards, but in just 1100kg it's good for 0-60 in around 7 seconds, and 130 mph indicated with a little in reserve. In other words, pretty much a match for the current Civic Type-R. Except this has no bodykit to speak of (cheesy boot spoiler apart), naff looking five spoke 15" wheels and it's old. This makes it perhaps the perfect tool for winding up 3 series drivers - anything less than a 330i is fair game.
Honda's double wishbone suspension gives superb handling, although the steering is overlight and lacks feel. Wet grip when the VTEC switches the cam profiles over can be a problem in the lower gears too, but nothing you can't live with.
Had a small rear end shunt about 6 months after I got it which was sorted on the insurance. However, I asked the bodyshop to leave off the little Civic VTi sticker from the boot lid. Unless you are a real car nerd, it's now virtually impossible to tell apart now from the 1.5 cooking model. This just adds to the fun at the lights.
The engine has virtually no torque low down, so it does need working hard. However, once the rev counter needle climbs towards 5,000 RPM you steady yourself. A little metallic click makes its appearance known from somewhere under the bonnet. The engine note hardens, the rear squats and it takes off like a bat out of hell, pulling all the way to 8,000 RPM with an offbeat metallic snarl that is pure heaven. Even at 119,000 miles it goes as hard and sounds as sweet as ever. The gearbox is slick, light and has a reasonably short throw.
The interior is drab and has loads of brittle, pale grey plastic, but has proven quite hard wearing. Build quality is faultless, and only the odd little creak gives the mileage away. Insurance costs are high considering the inoffensive looks (thieves totally ignore it) but considering the performance on tap, I suppose it's to be expected. Fuel economy is good when driven sensibly, but can easily drop into the low 20's if you keep the engine buzzing in the VTEC zone.