Honda made a move toward enthusiast interests with its fourth generation, 1988-91 Civic and CRX lineup. Known by its chassis code EF, this model underwent significant upgrade over the previous design, incorporating a double-wishbone suspension up front and in certain applications, independent suspension at the rear. More slippery body lines reduced the coefficient of drag, improving its appearance and fuel economy. The US-spec Civics came equipped with a variety of Single Overhead Camshaft (SOHC) D-Series engines which offered good fuel economy and decent performance at the time. However, within a year of its launch, this variant would soon be overshadowed by a Japan-spec version of the Civic that raised the performance bar and laid the foundation for the import performance segment.
The First VTEC Machine
What was most important about this generation of Civic was that the 1989-91 SiR model came with the B16A1, Dual Over Head Cam VTEC engine. This, along with the CR-X SiR and the Integra XSi of the same model years, were the first mass produced, VTEC equipped platforms from Honda. Although none of them made it to dealerships in the USA, their engines found their way to America and into engine bays across the country. The availability of these engines and the relative ease with which they could be swapped into USDM Honda chassis helped to launch the import performance craze that ensued in the mid 90s and beyond.