Building a Better Civic (2019 FK7 Sport Hatchback)

Feddy_Ace

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Decided to start this journal to track my progress with my Civic and wax all sorts of poetic on my experience with it. If you’re building your car, maybe this can be a helpful resource for you. If you’re anything like me, maybe you just like seeing the work people put into their vehicles. Either way, welcome and enjoy.

Why a Honda Civic?

As the lease was approaching to an end on my 2016 RAV4, I was in the market for a new car. I found that I had grown tired of driving small SUVs for the sake of family hauling and dealing with midwestern winters. I moved to California and didn’t need another AWD 5 passenger for navigating icy roads and seasonal depression. Now I could focus on getting something I actually wanted, but what would that even be?

I’ve personally always like smaller import cars, especially hatchbacks and tourers. I just love rally inspired cars. I’ve always loved WRX hatches, but Subaru doesn’t make them any more and buying a used one? Eh, likely more trouble than it’s worth. I looked at other things; Lancer Ralliart Sportback? Couldn’t find them. Audi A3 Sportback? Time with my wife’s BMW E46 has taught me to be wary of used German cars in this segment. I finally landed on the Civic hatchback. I always liked the 10th gen design and the more I researched the more I realized they checked al the boxes for me - roomy, reliable, fuel efficient, good power for the class, and most importantly not a Corolla.

I test drove one and it was a done deal.
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Why Modify It?

I’ve always wanted to modify a car of my own. It’s something I haven’t been able to do since my buddy and I worked on his 86 Trans Am back when I was younger, and that was mainly just something for shits and giggles. Since the Civic had a huge amount of aftermarket support, that factor weighed heavily in my decision to buy it. I felt like the Sport hatchback was the best platform to start with. It had the looks and came in a 6MT.

(They were sold out of the 6MT and I literally bought the last Sport CVT they had in Sonic Gray Pearl. Oh well.)

My overall goals for mods would depend on my experience driving the car. I definitely didn’t want to go full rice or race as I’m 37 years old and mainly just need to get to work. I drive 100 miles a day and I just want it to be engaging. I guess I wanted to build a “super commuter”. I decided to drive the car for awhile and make notes of what I liked and didn’t like.

The Good:
  • Power delivery felt good.
  • Handling was responsive and direct.
  • CVT wasn’t sluggish like in other cars. Yamaha knows how to build them.
The Bad:
  • Cornering was horrendous due to bad body roll.
  • Acceleration needed some improvement, as much as the CVT allows.
  • Needed improved stability at high speeds.
  • Super quiet exhaust.
With all this in mind I decided to modify to improve the flaws and make what is already good even better. As far as aesthetics, I wanted to keep a factory-ish look, basically a toned down Type R.

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Performance Modifications
To address the stuff I didn’t like, I went with the following mods:
  • Sirimoto RSB
  • Honda Accord end links
  • Cold Air Intake
  • Straight piped exhaust
  • CTR subframe brace
  • 18x8.5 +35 offset Avid1 wheels
Results: These mods made huge differences, but by far the best combo was the RSB and subframe brace. The body roll reduced a ton and my car could now carve up corners with the best of them. This was the most important thing to address for me. The Accord end links were added because I didn’t think the plastic ones on the Civic would be fit to take the added stress. The stock suspension actually feels really good on this set up. I don’t feel an urgent need to change.

For a CAI I decided to go a cheap route. At then end of the day, an intake is just a tube and filter. What matters is the MAF size. I went with some cheap aluminum tubes I found on eBay and the biggest K&N cone filter I could fit. The resulted were pretty damn good. The turbo feels like it spools a bit faster and butt dyno tells me power at 4000-5500 RPM improved. As expected, fuel economy took a hit.

Thankfully, straight piping the exhaust improved the fuel economy back to stock levels and yanked a good deal of weight off the car. The exhaust sounds great ripping, but the drone at 1500-2000 RPM kinda sucks. Still looking to solve this with a new resonator. Overall, the car felt zippier after doing the exhaust. Acceleration improved again.

The wheels, man, I struggle on how to feel. The Avids are for sure a great wheel for the price. They ride smooth and dropped another 42 pounds off the car. But, I feel going wider and with an aggressive offset robbed the car of some character. I can go 100+ MPH and not only is the car planted, but it turns! However, I don’t have the same steering/cornering feel due to increased scrub. My car is almost too well mannered in regards to handling. It feels like a luxury sedan instead of a sporty hatch.

On a plus side, I’m now running 0-60 times in 6.7s to 6.9s, which is a nice improvement over the 7.3s at stock. I recently raced a Fiesta ST which has a similar 0-60 time and it was neck and neck. Getting that kind of performance on a mostly stock set-up has been really awesome and better than anything I expected. I’m still on the stock tires, so there’s still room to improve.


Cosmetic Modifications
Most of these are pretty obvious but I’ll list them out:
  • CTR replica spoiler
  • Smoked side markers
  • Mesh performance grille
  • Black Honda logo emblems
  • LED heads/fogs
  • 5% tint all around
  • Faux carbon fiber mirror caps
  • Aforementioned wheels
I’m super happy with the look of my car. It’s pretty much exactly what I set out to do. It has that factory feeling I was going for it, looks like it came from Honda this way. Aside from adding a front lip, she’s pretty much done on the outside. My attention will turn to the inside now.

Future Plans

There’s still a few performance things I want to address, but most are maintenance items (brakes, tires, etc.) so I’ll address those as replacement work. I do plan on swapping to SI springs. New ignition coils are in the mail. They’re an overlooked thing, but in turbos it helps to get a little more spark once you increase the airflow. My idle is still a little off with the intake and the coils should work, might even gain a couple HP. I might get a strut bar to improve the responsiveness in steering.

Lots of interior stuff is in the future. All the crappy armrest fabric has to go. New head unit is also a must have. Now that I can do more spirited driving, the stock seats just aren’t up to snuff. I’m researching my aftermarket seat options, but this may be further into the future due to cost.



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TypeSiR

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Love it! Kudos for not going the easy way out, like slapping on a red badge or flashing the ECU, then calling it a day.

FSB does improve steering response.
 
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Feddy_Ace

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Love it! Kudos for not going the easy way out, like slapping on a red badge or flashing the ECU, then calling it a day.

FSB does improve steering response.
Oh, I definitely rocked the red badges for a hot second before I swapped to black lol. As tempted as I am to get an ECU flash, I’m trying to find the limits of the stock equipment before I change anything. What I’m seeing is that the Civic really isn’t in need of a whole lot for daily driving performance. Just some marginal, frugal upgrades and they’ll start punching above their weight quite easily.

I’m thinking DC sports for the FSB!
 

jayy_swish

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Oh, I definitely rocked the red badges for a hot second before I swapped to black lol. As tempted as I am to get an ECU flash, I’m trying to find the limits of the stock equipment before I change anything. What I’m seeing is that the Civic really isn’t in need of a whole lot for daily driving performance. Just some marginal, frugal upgrades and they’ll start punching above their weight quite easily.

I’m thinking DC sports for the FSB!
I’m over here waiting on 27won’s FSB lol. I run a flex fuel tune and I do not regret it one bit, these civics really do love high octane. My next issue I’m going to tackle is lowering engine bay temps, cause god do these engine bays run HOT
 

geeeek

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Car looks super clean, love the sonic gray with black accents. I have the same black emblems but keep going back and forth on wanting red ones lol

Did the rsb have any negative effects for just dailying like going over bumpy streets and such?
 

jayy_swish

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Car looks super clean, love the sonic gray with black accents. I have the same black emblems but keep going back and forth on wanting red ones lol

Did the rsb have any negative effects for just dailying like going over bumpy streets and such?
Honestly won’t even tell it’s different until your taking sharp turns and curves. I have the whiteline rear sway bar tho on the “aggressive” set up
 
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Feddy_Ace

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Honestly won’t even tell it’s different until your taking sharp turns and curves. I have the whiteline rear sway bar tho on the “aggressive” set up
Agreed. I love hitting corners quick, but other than that you won’t feel it. If you get the subframe bar with it will tighten up your steering feel though.
 
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Feddy_Ace

Feddy_Ace

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I’m over here waiting on 27won’s FSB lol. I run a flex fuel tune and I do not regret it one bit, these civics really do love high octane. My next issue I’m going to tackle is lowering engine bay temps, cause god do these engine bays run HOT
Oh, god do they run hot! I'm still considering an oil cooler, intercooler, anything cooler haha. I have seen that the mesh grille does its job of cooling the engine bay more. After getting properly heat soaked, my intake pipes used to be burning to the touch. After the new grille was installed they're a lot cooler. I can actually feel the heat pouring our of the grille when I get out of the car. What I'm really looking forward to is 27Won's turbo inlet pipe. Honda's OEM one is, well, it's just shitty. Tiny little plastic inlet that gets heat soaked to oblivion and will probably crack like an egg somewhere down the line.
 

jayy_swish

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Oh, god do they run hot! I'm still considering an oil cooler, intercooler, anything cooler haha. I have seen that the mesh grille does its job of cooling the engine bay more. After getting properly heat soaked, my intake pipes used to be burning to the touch. After the new grille was installed they're a lot cooler. I can actually feel the heat pouring our of the grille when I get out of the car. What I'm really looking forward to is 27Won's turbo inlet pipe. Honda's OEM one is, well, it's just shitty. Tiny little plastic inlet that gets heat soaked to oblivion and will probably crack like an egg somewhere down the line.
I have a PRL intercooler and when driving it does it’s work beautifully, but when at a red light those IAT’s rise QUICKLY (it can be 75° out and when at a red light for 2min it can get near 90°). The cold side heats up quickly during idling, thinking of wrapping it those heat resistant tapes. I know it won’t do much but it is better than nothing. Any temperature drop is a win in my book. Think the best mod to lower engine bay temps is a turbo blanket
 

akirarex

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I don't know if you have modified your springs yet, but I see that you drive 100 miles a day. I saw that you were thinking about putting SI springs on. As someone who also drives 100 miles a day, the stock Sport Hatchback is very under rated. I kind of cringe when I see people so quick to just drop a car for the sake of looks. Plus people that actually race cars aren't afraid of a little body roll, it's only street car people that get unsettled by it. The group that created the Type R is the same group that tuned all of the Hatchbacks. They did a great job. It is at that cross over point of "float" to "firm", and it balances it so well. The SI springs increase the rate quite a bit in the rear and take it out of "float" for sure. I had significant rear bucking on my sport when I switched over to SI springs, especially with the SI rear sway bar. The Sport has oversized shocks and they have quite a bit of compression in them and it simply did not mate well with the SI rear springs in my opinion. The SI adaptive shocks can have less compression than the Sport shocks I believe. I ended up liking the SI front springs with the SI rear sway bar as a general touch of an upgrade. I don't necessarily feel that it's better though. I may even feel that it lost some of it's "character". The problem is that Honda did such a good job at balancing the spring rate, shocks, and bushings together on the hatches that it's hard to just make a cheap improvement that doesn't make it a harsher ride for people that do 100 miles a day. For someone who drives 100 miles a day, we can tell when a spring rate has an of increase 10-20lbs. I think most people would think 10-20lb increase is a waste. At 100 miles a day, more bouncing and jostling just detracts from the music and comfort and ease. When Koni comes out with the old yellow sport shocks (if they ever do come out) I will go back to the SI setup and see if that allows for a smoother ride. I feel the stock shock compression is what limits any spring changes to be made that don't affect comfort unnecessarily.

Have you ever just had a ton of fun driving a cheap car really hard? Like at it's limits constantly. It's quite exhilarating, very fun.
And then compare it to a performance car that you drive at like 30% of it's capacity.......it just sucks. It's harsh and loud and wears you down. Never reaching any real fun. That's kind of what I think the place of the Sport is, just drive it hard at it's limits and have lots of fun. ........after that, enjoy the comfort/sporty ride for the longer drives.
Just some food for thought.
 
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Feddy_Ace

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I don't know if you have modified your springs yet, but I see that you drive 100 miles a day. I saw that you were thinking about putting SI springs on. As someone who also drives 100 miles a day, the stock Sport Hatchback is very under rated. I kind of cringe when I see people so quick to just drop a car for the sake of looks. Plus people that actually race cars aren't afraid of a little body roll, it's only street car people that get unsettled by it. The group that created the Type R is the same group that tuned all of the Hatchbacks. They did a great job. It is at that cross over point of "float" to "firm", and it balances it so well. The SI springs increase the rate quite a bit in the rear and take it out of "float" for sure. I had significant rear bucking on my sport when I switched over to SI springs, especially with the SI rear sway bar. The Sport has oversized shocks and they have quite a bit of compression in them and it simply did not mate well with the SI rear springs in my opinion. The SI adaptive shocks can have less compression than the Sport shocks I believe. I ended up liking the SI front springs with the SI rear sway bar as a general touch of an upgrade. I don't necessarily feel that it's better though. I may even feel that it lost some of it's "character". The problem is that Honda did such a good job at balancing the spring rate, shocks, and bushings together on the hatches that it's hard to just make a cheap improvement that doesn't make it a harsher ride for people that do 100 miles a day. For someone who drives 100 miles a day, we can tell when a spring rate has an of increase 10-20lbs. I think most people would think 10-20lb increase is a waste. At 100 miles a day, more bouncing and jostling just detracts from the music and comfort and ease. When Koni comes out with the old yellow sport shocks (if they ever do come out) I will go back to the SI setup and see if that allows for a smoother ride. I feel the stock shock compression is what limits any spring changes to be made that don't affect comfort unnecessarily.

Have you ever just had a ton of fun driving a cheap car really hard? Like at it's limits constantly. It's quite exhilarating, very fun.
And then compare it to a performance car that you drive at like 30% of it's capacity.......it just sucks. It's harsh and loud and wears you down. Never reaching any real fun. That's kind of what I think the place of the Sport is, just drive it hard at it's limits and have lots of fun. ........after that, enjoy the comfort/sporty ride for the longer drives.
Just some food for thought.
Thanks for this reply. It’s a wealth of information! I had been hearing some conflicting things about the SI springs and you’re the first person to really describe their experience with them in the detail I’m looking for. The stock suspension is absolutely A-OK for 99.99% of my driving. With the roads mostly bare, I decided to go out in the desert one night and just push my car to the max. I didn’t start feeling like the ride got sketchy until I hit 120 mph. After seeing that, I started to change my mind on doing any more suspension upgrades.

Instead I remembered my sway bar isn’t even on the stiffest setting, so I adjusted it and got some good results. In turns at high speeds I feel the car “roll & dig”. There’s just a bit of body roll until the sway bar does it’s thing, then you can feel the car grip and hug around the turn. It’s a really fun feeling. I love it. I seriously hope Koni comes out with something soon. I have their shocks on my E46 BMW and the thing feels like it’s riding on rails. They’re stiffer for sure and you have to be careful on speed bumps, but road feel is amazing.

You also touched on something important that I say to people a lot about modding or cars in general. I find it way more fun to push a cheap, slow car 100% than to drive a performance/heavily modded car at a fraction of its potential. My wife has an M235i and I pretty much never drive it unless a particular mood hits me. It’s fast as hell, but not the same kind of fun as my Civic. I compare it to riding a bullet train vs. a rollercoaster. The bullet train goes a hell of a lot faster, but that rollercoaster only moving at 35 mph is a more fun experience. If anything, I’m slightly sad that I took a little bit of that rollercoaster experience out of my car. As you pointed out, the hatchback actually doesn’t need many mods to make it a more sporty experience. I think a lot of us get caught up modding for modding sake.
 
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After many, many shipping delays I finally got my next mod in. While thinking about cheap/easy things I can do during quarantine I decided to get some ignition coils. I’ve heard from people they’re a good thing to add if you upgrade your air flow. I went with MSD/Holley coil packs. Not really looking for power here, but to have the engine run a little smoother and consistent. And c’mon, they just look nice in there.

B1EB88CF-5C15-4D32-8E10-5492CB235C50.jpeg


They weren’t specifically listed as a match for the 1.5L turbos as these are intended for the Type R, but the R uses the same stock coils as the 1.5L. So I figured they should fit and they do. Install took all of 3 min and the car runs just fine with them.

As for performance results, it’s hard to say right now. I my revs are slightly higher at idle after installing these, not by much though. Acceleration also seems smoother and more linear. There might be some small power gain with these coils, but without a dyno run it could just be a placebo effect. I’ll need to drive a lot more before I formulate a proper opinion, but so far I’m liking it.
 
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Feddy_Ace

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After many, many shipping delays I finally got my next mod in. While thinking about cheap/easy things I can do during quarantine I decided to get some ignition coils. I’ve heard from people they’re a good thing to add if you upgrade your air flow. I went with MSD/Holley coil packs. Not really looking for power here, but to have the engine run a little smoother and consistent. And c’mon, they just look nice in there.

B1EB88CF-5C15-4D32-8E10-5492CB235C50.jpeg


They weren’t specifically listed as a match for the 1.5L turbos as these are intended for the Type R, but the R uses the same stock coils as the 1.5L. So I figured they should fit and they do. Install took all of 3 min and the car runs just fine with them.

As for performance results, it’s hard to say right now. I my revs are slightly higher at idle after installing these, not by much though. Acceleration also seems smoother and more linear. There might be some small power gain with these coils, but without a dyno run it could just be a placebo effect. I’ll need to drive a lot more before I formulate a proper opinion, but so far I’m liking it.
After driving around a bit longer with the new coils, I can honestly say the acceleration of the car has improved. Absolutely no doubt there anymore. I haven’t driven enough to see if my fuel economy has improved since I mostly have done city driving. The tone of the engine has also changed a little and sounds deeper, but this also has increased the amount of drone in the cabin. Gotta fix that soon.

Unfortunately, during my work I was backing my car out around my other cars and clipped my garage. This did a lot of damage to the front bumper cover and I had to get it replaced. While I was at it, I added a CTR style front lip to cover the damage to the OEM lip.


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Looks nice in the image, but turns out the bumper is a very different shade of sonic pearl gray. I had the color matched to my old OEM mirror caps for accuracy, but turns out the mirror caps aren’t even the same color as the car! Some research shows Honda has like 5 variations of the SPG color and my car is probably the darkest of them. I’ll have to take her to a paint shop and get the front cover repainted. It’s a damn shame because the job done before looked absolutely beautiful.

I’m not happy about spending so much money on repairs caused by my own carelessness, but such is life. She’ll be back together and looking/driving better than before.
 
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Feddy_Ace

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Just some quick updates. Finally repainted my bumper cover at home. While not perfect it’s a much, much closer match and you can’t really tell the difference unless you’re right on top of the car. The paint looks OEM despite using rattle cans, so I’m pretty happy with the work I did, especially for not really having much experience. Took the opportunity to respray my front lip to get it closer to the OEM black trim. The last paint was lower quality and had a brownish hue that wasn’t great.
E014EF96-C247-4003-BA84-9AE26C6C3693.jpeg

Next I’m for sure looking to buy a strut tower bar. After setting my RSB to the stiffer setting there’s a bit more flex up front. If anyone has suggestions on what style/brand to role with I would love to hear them. I’m considering DC Sports due to it being a one piece construction, but I hear good things about the Sirimoto bar too.
 

jayy_swish

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Just some quick updates. Finally repainted my bumper cover at home. While not perfect it’s a much, much closer match and you can’t really tell the difference unless you’re right on top of the car. The paint looks OEM despite using rattle cans, so I’m pretty happy with the work I did, especially for not really having much experience. Took the opportunity to respray my front lip to get it closer to the OEM black trim. The last paint was lower quality and had a brownish hue that wasn’t great.
E014EF96-C247-4003-BA84-9AE26C6C3693.jpeg

Next I’m for sure looking to buy a strut tower bar. After setting my RSB to the stiffer setting there’s a bit more flex up front. If anyone has suggestions on what style/brand to role with I would love to hear them. I’m considering DC Sports due to it being a one piece construction, but I hear good things about the Sirimoto bar too.
Go with a DC front strut bar and the CTR subframe brace.
What lip are you using, Ikon motorsports?
 

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