Market Watch 2004 Honda Civic Type R (EP3)

Market Watch 2004 Honda Civic Type R (EP3)

Predicting smart buys in the current market is getting tricky. Rising inflation, soaring energy prices, military conflict and reduced consumer spending are all exerting pressure on values. Higher interest rates may also divert cash that might otherwise have been spent on old cars into savings, and the next couple of years may see values of many classics soften further. So, with a deep breath and fingers crossed I’ve chosen five cars that look like they could be Smart Buys for 2022. They haven’t been overhyped so haven’t risen in value out of step with the market, and look – to me anyway – like solid, compelling value. They also have a growing resonance as sturdy, sensible and charismatic classics that you could use every day – well, most of them anyway. The Citroën SM would certainly be a challenge but one that most of us, if we’re honest, would absolutely adore.

As I never tire of telling you, the key to smart buying is condition, milage and provenance. Sheds, projects and ruins never make clever buying so be fussy, demanding, particular, do your research and look at lots before you do the deal. Search with passion and obsession for detail and you’ll find the Smart Buy you’ve always dreamed of. Good hunting.

The 2001 to 2005 UK-assembled Honda Civic Type-R is a remarkable thing and, in terms of performance, is up there with the Escort Cosworth and Delta Integrale. It boasts 146mph top speed and 60mph in 6.8 seconds – and all with normal aspiration, front-wheel drive and relatively guilt-free emissions. It’s all about that prodigeous four-cylinder engine – 2.0 litre, DOHC, intelligent VTEC, 8000rpm and 197bhp.

‘The value of the EP3 Civic Type-R is now in unspoilt originality and low mileage’

Those numbers alone don’t tell the proper story though. At idle it doesn’t sound at all special. But jab the throttle and the K20A2 unit flares up like a little dragon, flashing round the tacho to the 8050rpm limiter with genuine frenzy. The VTEC kicks in at 6000 and after that the engine note deepens into a bark and that clenching thrust begins with peak power arriving at 7600rpm. The six-speed, close-ratio gearbox is delicious, slicing through the well-spaced ratios with just the right amount of direct mechanical feel and the sensation of coolness in your palm from the dash-mounted titanium shift ball. The numb electric power steering was always the breadvan Civic’s weak point though. It could have been so much sharper and crisper. On early cars the ride fees a bit stiff-legged too – but now I’m carping. Learn to love the 6000 VTEC sweet spot and you won’t worry about chassis finesse. Instead, you’ll be regularly nudging the rev limiter because it feels such impossible fun.

And because it’s a Honda there are precious few histrionics. For all its brio and effervescence the R has the dependability of a humble Jazz, delivering bouts of hair-fizzing speed with iron-clad reliability. As a daily screamer there are few better, but all that noise and punch will get tiring on long journeys. Find a well-maintained example that’s had regular helpings of synthetic oil and proper Honda filters and that legendary lump shouldn’t rattle or smoke. But do listen to a hot engine at idle for a slight knocking which points to low oil levels in the past. Not good.

Synchromesh on second can be weak, the front suspension can go out of whack and expect wear in bushes and joints. There are lots of discreet after-market improvements to improve the steering, ride and braking but beware of cars that have bazooka exhausts, big rims and engine remaps. The value of the EP3 is now in unspoilt originality and low mileage. So don’t get stitched up with some street racer’s worn-smooth cast-off. Oh, and if you’re looking at a white EP3 it will be a JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) and they’re not as collectable as the UK-sanctioned versions.

Five grand buys a 100,000 miler – and there are lots out there – but if you’re prepared to wait you might find something with 60k to 70k for £7000. Anything with a lower warranted mileage is likely to be ten grand territory, but worth it because the supply of unmodified, low-mileage EP3s reduces every day. Nowadays, perfect, cosseted Civic Type-Rs are the ones everybody wants, and that fastidious market dynamic isn’t going to change anytime soon.

Owning a Honda Civic Type R

It was driving a Type R that convinced Lawrence Cheung he needed to own this one. ‘I wasn’t that big a fan when they first came out,’ he admits. ‘I thought it looked too slab-sided. But it’s aged well, looking increasingly compact as everything around it on the road grows – it no longer reminds me of an MPV!

‘Refinement is rubbish, but that’s not why I bought it – I wanted it for the handling and noise. It’s still practical though, with a decent-sized boot and rear passenger space. ‘Running costs are low. Apart from a flat battery after lockdown it’s never failed to start, and it’s just needed wearand- tear items – brake pads, discs, refurbished calipers. MoT failures have been because of rear brake lines and the exhaust centre pipe fusing to the catalyst and rusting away. The timing chain is just starting to stretch, so replacing that will be the next thing to do’ – a £450 job.

TECHNICAL DATA 2004 Honda Civic Type R (EP3)

  • Engine 1998cc transverse four-cylinder, dohc, Honda PGM-FI electronic fuel injection
  • Power and torque 197bhp @ 7400rpm; 144lb ft @ 5900rpm
  • Transmission Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • Steering Rack and pinion
  • Suspension Front: independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar. Rear: independent, double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers
  • Brakes Servo discs all round, ABS
  • Weight 1170kg
  • Performance 0-60mph: 6.6sec.
  • Top speed: 146mph
  • Fuel cons. 31mpg
  • Cost new £16,785
  • CC Price Guide £3000-£7000

The 6000-8050rpm VTEC range is like a red rag to bullish drivers Gearchange and driving position a joy; electric steering not so. Breadvan shape carries more kudos with classic fans than itmight have to new-car buyers.

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