When Tuner Icons Become Classics: EM1 Honda Civic Si vs EK9 Honda Civic Type R
Despite its humble roots, the 1988-2000 Honda Civic is becoming the most important enthusiast vehicles ever made. Controversial take? The evidence says "no."
More than just cheap and economical compact car, the Civics of the late ‘80s and ‘90s were laced with Honda’s racing DNA and were fun to drive even in their most basic trim. And that's before you get into the potential for modification.
Tuner and track builds aside, there are two factory “halo” models of this generation that are beloved by enthusiasts and rising in value by the day—the EK9 Civic Type R and EM1 Civic Si.
Let's compare and contrast these two popular machines:
Initially debuting in 1997 and based on the EK-chassis Civic hatchback, the EK9 was the first Civic ever to wear the legendary Type R badge.
As with other Type R models like the NSX and Integra, the EK9 took the already good bones of the EK Civic and injected them with a heavy dose of Honda’s motorsport heritage—evident in its signature Championship White body color and bright red Recaro bucket seats.
The EM1 Civic Si debuted for the 1999 model year and was the fourth generation of the Si model and the first to use a two-door coupe body style (the previous versions were all hatchbacks).
The Si had always been the most performance-oriented of the American Civic lineup, and the EM1 upped the ante by using a twin cam powerpoint for the first time in the model’s history.
Under the hood of the Type R sat Under the hood sat a very special version of Honda’s B-series VTEC four cylinder engine, the B16B. It made 182 horsepower—which was an astonishing figure for a 1.6 liter naturally aspirated production engine.
The EK9’s chassis featured improved rigidity over other Civic models and was trimmed of non-essential features to save weight. It’s 8000+ RPM engine also put it’s power down through a close ratio five-speed manual transmission with a limited slip differential.
The EM1 was much more modest in its specs, but the B16A2 engine still made an impressive 160hp with the same reliability of any other Civic model.
While not nearly as aggressive as the JDM Type R model, the Si also got upgrades to its suspension setup and featured four-wheel disc brakes with 15-inch alloy wheels. A bright metallic color called Electron Blue Pearl was the EM1’s signature hue and helped make the car easily identifiable from afar.
Value & Rarity
Today, more than 20 years after they first appeared, clean examples of both cars are harder than ever to find—and the values for original versions of both have jumped massively.
Given all of its unique touches and race-ready appeal, the EK9 is a much rarer car than the EM1, with approximately 11,000 examples produced vs approximately 30,000 EM1s during its two-year run.
Both cars were often modified, the Type R often stripped out at used for circuit racing in Japan and the Si becoming one of the most popular vehicles at the peak of America’s import tuning movement.
At the moment an EK9 in Japan goes for anywhere between $15,000 and $35,000 depending on its mileage and condition, while a decent EM1 will fall into the same ballpark depending on condition. We also have to mention the 5,600 mile-example that sold on Bring a Trailer earlier this summer for an insane figure of $50,000.
Even here in the US where the Civic Type R was never sold, the EK9 became a thing of legend—inspiring numerous clone builds and being considered the ultimate version of one of the most popular tuning platforms of all time.
In fact, the rarity of the Type R only helped build up its legendary status, and now that they can the EK9 will soon be available as a legal import in the USA, it’s no wonder that its value is shooting up.
The EM1 Si on the other hand was always a much more attainable car, but the people that bought them new in North America probably didn’t imagine how sought after they would become just 20 years later.
While it didn’t have the same track-ready hardware the Type R, the EM1 Si was still the king of the mountain for North American Honda fans and features everything that made this generation of Civic so great.
While both the EM1 and the EK9 have been followed up by newer versions of the same model that are faster and more capable, they will likely always be considered the pinnacle.
In the most recent episode of my vlog series, The Auto Otaku I take a deeper look into what makes both these two models and all of the 1988-2000 Civics so special, so give it a watch and take a trip back with me to Honda’s golden era.
More From Driving Line
- Click here to watch The Auto Otaku: The Most Important Honda Civic of All Time