Old Vs. New: This 20-Year-Old Honda Civic Si PROVES That VTEC Still Rules, Yo

Which one is better? There are solid arguments for both cars

Honda Civic Si
2020 Honda Civic Si Sedan

Are the new ways always the best? It’s a perfectly reasonable approach to car shopping that newer car models are always going to have more power, better features and — crucial for some — improved safety. But if you’re an enthusiastic driver, then the older cars may draw some appeal. Case in point, the Honda Civic Si. The hotter version of the Civic has been around for decades at this point, but how much better (or worse) is the new 2020 model from its forebears? In this video, our friend Alex from Alex on Autos drives the brand new Honda Civic Si against a near-mint example from the long ago period of 1999.

That’s right, it’s another classic old vs. new comparison. After a brief disappearance in the sixth-generation lineup, the Si returned as a coupe-only variant for the 1999 model year. The VTEC engine under the hood here produces 160 horsepower, but that was a massive 60 percent jump over the basic DX or LX trims that managed just 106 horsepower. Packing a turbocharged engine in the Si is a decision Honda only made with the latest tenth-generation model. Yes, the brand new car packs more grunt (205 horsepower), but there’s plenty to admire about the way these older, naturally-aspired VTEC engines deliver their power. Back then, the old car managed 0-60 in around 7 seconds, which is still reasonable even by modern standards.

Looking at the modern Civic Si

Naturally, the 2020 Honda Civic Si has more power and, more importantly, better means by which to get that power to the ground than the older car. The Si did get suspension upgrades even back in 1999, but it’s no real contest with what a modern car can manage. What’s more, modern tires and brakes also help a car stop in a significantly shorter distance. That can make all the difference in spirited driving or even in avoiding an accident, even when you don’t take all the modern driver assistance tech into account.

On the flip side, the newer car also shifts to electric power steering, as most of its modern counterparts have. That can lead to an overboosted feel at times, and it can make the car feel a bit twitchy at speeds. On my recent 3,000-mile road trip, I did notice to some extent that characteristic on turn-in. It doesn’t feel as crisp or responsive as an older hydraulic setup, but the electric system is likely to be more reliable and easier to tune.

When it comes down to it, though, it’s strictly a seat-of-the-pants feel that determines which car’s better. In every measurable way, the Honda Civic Si has dramatically improved over the last 20 years. And yet, that doesn’t push the old car into obscurity if you’re looking for the best drive. Check out more of what Alex has to say about the two cars below: