In 1987, the Honda Civic was significantly redesigned for model year 1988. The suspension had a radical re-configuration with double-wishbone suspension in the front and an independent suspension in the rear, wheelbase was increased to 98.4 inches (250 cm), and the body was redesigned with a lower hood line and more glass, giving less drag. The front suspension incorporates an extended hub carrier, so the upper arm is relatively short. The rear suspension is a multi-link trailing arm suspension with upper and lower lateral control links (with the spring/damper strut carried on the lower link) near the axle line and a short lateral link for toe control ahead of the pivot of the main trailing arm.
The base model of the fourth generation Civic had a 1.2 L SOHC, this single carbureted engine was not available for the Japanese and American markets. In Japan the base version received a 1.3 L SOHC single carbureted engine with 82 PS (60 kW), thus equipped it was called either 23L or 23U. This engine, in the same state of tune, was also available in the commercial version of the Shuttle, sold simply as the “Honda Pro” initially.
The 1.5 L SOHC engine came in a wide variety of models, dual-point injection, single carbureted and dual carbureted. Those engines were available in the Japanese-market 25X and 25XT. The Japanese version of the sporting Si, initially the top version, featured a (ZC) D16A8/A9 1.6 L 16V DOHC engine.
But there was more to come, and in late 1989 the new top model of the hatchback was the new SiR, fitted with the 1.6-litre, 160 PS (118 kW; 158 hp) at 7,600 rpm “B16A” DOHC VTEC engine. This, the first B engine, marked the introduction of Honda’s variable valve timing and electronic lift control technology, or VTEC. By providing two different camshaft profiles—one for fuel economy, one for performance—the VTEC engines set a high-revving, naturally aspirated precedent for future performance variants of the Honda Civic. With its light weight, independent suspension and powerful engine, the car was well-received globally, receiving “Golden Steering Wheel Award” from the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, and ranking first in France’s l’Automobile magazine 1989 survey on car quality and reliability. The European model, badged as a “1.6i-VT”, used a slightly less powerful B16A1 engine, which had an 8,200 rpm redline and made 150 PS (110 kW), although it made the same 111 lbf⋅ft (150 N⋅m) of torque as the Japanese market B16. In Japan, automatic-equipped SiR Civics also received the lower-powered engine.
The wagon, known in Japan as the Civic Shuttle, continued to be built until 1996. The commercial-use model was called the “Honda Pro”; it was replaced by a dedicated commercial delivery van called the Honda Partner starting with model year 1996.
All United States vehicles were fuel injected.
In 1990, the Civic had a light facelift. Some 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, side moldings became thinner, and most American Civics received automatic seat belts due to changes in federal highway safety law. The sedan and wagon featured powered automatic shoulder belts that retracted from the b-pillar to a position halfway down the a-pillar when the door was open, while the hatchback received a standard style shoulder and lap belt mechanism that was attached to the door and was intended to remain buckled at all times. While this setup did satisfy the federal regulations, the front doors had to be opened very wide to allow access between the belt and the seat. Many Civic owners used the door mounted belts just as they would pillar mounted belts, buckling and unbuckling as necessary.
The base model with the lowest price and lowest standard (vinyl seats) interior, instrumentation, engine output and transmission. It was only available as a Hatchback. Engine was D15B1 16V SOHC, with dual port throttle body injection, 75 hp (55.9 kW) with restrictor on the tandem valve, and catalytic converter integrated into the exhaust manifold. Manual transmissions were 4-speed. Automatic four-speed transmission was also available.
The DX was available as either a sedan or hatchback. The DX sedan was basically the base model sedan, since the sedan was not available in the STD trim. And unlike the LX, the DX sedan came with plain black bumper covers rather than the color matching bumper covers of the LX. DX hatchbacks had matching bumper covers. Seats were cloth in all DX Civics. All DX Civics featured the 92HP DPFI D15B2 engine, and came standard with a five speed manual transmission. A four speed automatic was optional.
Available only as a Sedan, this had a higher level interior with tachometer instrumentation, electric windows, electric door locks, electric door mirrors, clock and wheel covers as standard. Engines were D15B2 16V SOHC, same as the DX, with 5-speed cable clutch transmission. 4- speed automatic transmission was optional.
Available only as a Sedan for 1990 and 1991 model years, this was the top of the Civic line with all LX standard features, and the D16A6 16V SOHC engine with 4-point injection, making 105 hp and 100 ft-lbs. It also had upgraded brakes on the front with 10.3″ disks vs. the 9.5″ on the STD, DX, LX and SI models. The 1991 had a higher geared steering rack – 3.1 turns lock to lock vs 4 for other and prior models.
Initially, the Civic Si hatchback was absent from the lineup, with only the CRX Si offered for the 1988 model year. That changed, however, for 1989, and the Civic Si hatchback was reintroduced, along with a 3-hp upgrade for the D16 engine across all Si trims (making 108 hp, 1988 CR-X Si 105 hp). This was the sportiest US market Civic, only available as a hatchback. The engine fitted was the D16A6 16-valve SOHC with 4-point injection and output of 108 hp (81 kW). It weighed in at 2,286 lb (1,037 kg), achieving a factory 0–60 mph of 8.1 seconds; and a quarter-mile time of 16.2 at 82 mph (132 km/h).
The main standard features of the Si trim were the power sun roof/moon roof, tachometer, passenger door mirror, color matched bumpers, dash clock, larger exhaust, front and rear anti-roll bars, 14″ steel wheels with covers, and slightly deeper bucket sport seats. There was no power steering and no automatic transmission available (except in Canada). Additional options were air conditioning and fog lights, as well as the different Honda Genuine Accessory alloy wheels. In other markets, more powerful D16A7 and D16A9 engines were used instead, which made 122 hp (91 kW) and 132 hp (98 kW) respectively.
Compared to the previous generation, the Civic Si saw an improvement in handling, in part due to the double-wishbone suspension at all four corners and lower wind drag due to the sleeker body shape. As with all other trims, the Civic Si received a slight visual upgrade in late 1989, featuring revised bumpers and tail lights.
Due to the difference in engine output and modification potential between the American and JDM models, the second-generation Si sparked a popular trend of engine swapping, where tuners would replace the D-series power plant with a more powerful B-series motor.
This was available as FWD and RealTime4WD. The RT4WD versions featured the MPFI D16A6 engine paired with either a 6-speed manual (with a super-low gear left of first) or a 4-speed automatic transmission. The FWD versions featured the DPFI D15B2 engine paired with a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission. RT4WD wagons had white steel wheels with matching center caps. This body style remained in production until February 21, 1996, when it was replaced by the Honda Orthia and professional use Honda Partner, sold only in Japan.