Despite having a relatively small 1.6-litre N/A engine, the Honda Civic Type R EK9 with its 182bhp revvy engine has buckets loads of untapped potential through tuning. Here’s our guide.
As a Japan-only model, the Type R EK9 is a much rarer beast than its modern siblings. However, there’s still plenty of tuning products available that provide an extra kick, but which ones are the best? This EK9 Honda Civic Type R tuning guide will give you specific advice on how to maximize each area.
We’ll show you which parts to change – as well as which ones to keep – so you can spend your cash wisely and get the very best from this granddaddy of Japanese hot hatches.
What is The Honda Civic Type R EK9?
Built around a blueprinted, hand-ported 1.6-litre VTEC engine, it produced a staggering 182bhp at 8200rpm. This propelled the five-speed first-generation Type R to 60mph in just 5.7 seconds. And with a screaming motorsport soundtrack and finely-balanced handling, Recaro bucket seats, a front strut brace, front and rear spoilers, a titanium gear knob and even a front limited-slip differential, it’s a car designed very much with the track day enthusiast in mind.
Although many still circulate in Japan, the EK9’s relative rarity in the UK has led to rising values for the best cars. As such, many owners opt to keep them factory standard to ensure their investment remains at its highest. That said, the availability of tuning parts for both the engine and the chassis is still strong. If you’re feeling fruity, there’s still plenty of scope to spice things up even further.
Honda Civic Type R B16B engine tuning
The EK9’s 1.6-litre VTEC engine is an evolution of the firm’s B16A engine, but with heavy doses of tuning. Thus included hand-porting, a higher 10.8:1 compression ratio, aggressive valve timing, lightweight conrods, platinum spark plugs and a larger exhaust.
The resulting B16B boasted one of the highest specific outputs of any non-turbocharged engine in history; 182bhp at 8200rpm. That’s 114bhp per liter – better than any other naturally aspirated Type R model, even the Integra Type R DC2.
But, as good as the power figures are, even by Honda’s standards, torque is what the EK9 lacks. 118lb ft is weedy even compared to many ‘normal’ 1.6-litre engines, and the Type R’s peak doesn’t arrive until 7500rpm. Because of this lack of grunt low down, you have to keep the rev needle high to extract the best performance. However, if you do, it can keep pace with much meatier opposition thanks to its 167bhp per ton power-to-weight ratio.
If you’re a fan of VTEC, the EK9 CTR is also the most intoxicating model available. It switches on like a light bulb at 6,100rpm in a much more violent way than any later Type R models. Newer models have gradually phased out the aggressive VTEC kick, preferring a more seamless transition onto the engine’s power cam profile.
Even though it has been pushed pretty hard straight out of the box, the EK9’s naturally aspirated B16B still responds extremely well to tuning. This all starts with getting the car’s breathing sorted.
An induction kit will be your best bet here as they offer the least amount of restriction to the air flow entering the engine. However, you need to ensure that it is of a closed airbox design, as many that leave the filter exposed to the high engine temperatures can result in lower power figures as it draws in this less dense hot air.
We recommend either a J’s Racing Tsuchinoko Air Intake Kit, or a Tegiwa Powerchamber; both of which are carbon fiber. They also utilize what is affectionately known as a ‘whale penis’ shaped induction pipe, tuned for maximum air flow.
A host of intake manifolds are also available for the EK9’s B16B engine. Without extensive head-work, these are largely considered unnecessary to get a decent power upgrade.
That extra air coming into the engine will only result in additional power if it evacuates just as quickly. A decent free-flowing exhaust system should be your next item on your upgrade list.
There are two basic designs of four-branch manifold available for the EK9 and that’s either a 4-2-1 or a 4-1 system. It’s thought that the former offers more mid-range power, while the latter boosts the top-end gains, however, we’d recommend the 4-2-1 system primarily due to its shallower design, meaning you’ll have less clearance issues if you choose to lower the car on adjustable coilovers, which of course you will! A Skunk 2 Alpha Series 4-2-1 manifold costs around $500 / £430.
You should then pair the manifold with a similarly free-flowing system including either a sports cat or de-cat pipe to maximize flow. You can just keep the OE cat and go for a cat back system here as the EK9 has a smaller and therefore less-restrictive item than UK-based EK4 Civics, but ditching it altogether will unleash the most performance, albeit at the hassle of emissions testing come MOT time.
Being only a relatively small displacement engine, the 1.6-litre B16B doesn’t require a full fat 3in system and is perfectly happy with a 2.5in (60mm) system.
Prices for these cat-back systems can range from as little as $500 / £420 for a Japspeed system, right up to around $1100 / £1100 for a most-honorable Spoon N1 B-pipe and back box.
No bolt-on modification is going to produce its true potential without a suitable remap of the car’s ECU and for that we recommend the tried and tested route of the Hondata S300 ECU.
Hondata systems modify the standard Honda engine computers (ECUs), adding features and expanding the capabilities of the stock ECU. Alternatively, Tegiwa Imports sell a pre-modified P28 ECU off the shelf for around £320.
Further NA upgrades
Cooling is important on any engine, but even more so on highly strung ones that can run hot. Add in the fact that even the latest cars are now over 20 years old and a new aluminum radiator is a good option, especially if you have seeing high water temps and have any coolant leaks.
With the cooling sorted, if you want more power from the B16 engine, then you’ll have to open the engine and throw in some lairier cams. Skunk 2 Tuner Series Stage 2 items perform well don’t cost a lot. Pair these with some uprated valve springs and retainers and you’ll also be able to raise the rev limit too, giving a much meatier kick to the top end and allowing that already rev-happy 1.6-litre VTEC motor to really scream!
Other than that, you could look at forced induction upgrades, but we’d stay away from boosting the 1.6 and instead look to do an engine swap to a 1.8-litre B18C from an Integra Type R instead. The Teg’s motor will give more power and importantly more torque right across the rev range and is a relatively simple bolt-in job. A K20 motor from an EP3 would be an even more potent swap, but is much more complex and therefore much more expensive – expect to not have much change from $12k / £10k for a decent K-swap!
Honda Civic Type R transmission tuning upgrades
Made by Exedy, the EK9’s stock clutch is a robust unit, and as it doesn’t have to deal with a huge amount of the torque, seems to hold up well even when the engine is tuned, so it’s actually quite rare that you would need to replace it unless it’s just naturally reaching the end of its life or has suffered abuse.
A lightweight flywheel would make for a worthy upgrade however, as the lighter reciprocating mass would allow the engine to rev freer and faster. We’d recommend a 3.4kg unit from Fidanza.
Just like the clutch, the stock driveshafts are rarely dealing with high torque levels so don’t tend to suffer that many failures. That said, they do eventually wear out, but the OEM Honda units are so good, even a working secondhand item should fit the bill fine if you need to replace one.
Honda fitted the EK9 with a helical limited slip differential from the factory meaning traction out of corners is much improved while still remaining extremely useable on the road. If you were planning a more track focused build however, a switch to a more aggressive plate-type LSD from the likes of Kazz or Mfactory would ramp things up a notch, but at the expense of a small amount of road manners and the need for regular servicing in the future.
Honda Civic Type R EK9 Suspension Tuning
The EK9’s suspension is pretty much track ready from the factory, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve it. Here are the upgrades you should look out for to heat up your CTR’s handling…
Springs and dampers
A set of uprated lowering springs is your cheapest options and will not only lower the ride height of your CTR making it look better, but it will also lower the center of gravity and stiffen the suspension too, reducing roll and improving grip in the corners. Beyond this, a set of adjustable coilovers from the likes of BC Racing, Yellowspeed or Bilstein are available from around £800 and will give you even more control, both over the ride height and the level of damping, allowing you to tailor the car’s handling to your own preference. Many quality kits also come with camber adjustable top mounts to help dial in the perfect alignment too.
The EK9 comes with cheap and replaceable rubber bushes from the factory, so replacing them with a firmer polyurethane upgrade makes a lot of sense. Not only do you get a genuine performance benefit of the stiffer bush and less unwanted flex in the suspension system, but they’ll never need replacing again in the future.
A full bush kit like Energy Suspension’s Hyper Flex kit costs around £250. But, if you don’t have the time or money to do the whole set at once, there’s nothing wrong with replacing each bush individually.
A proper alignment of your EK9’s suspension geometry will allow you to get the best out of the car’s handling. This is a job best left to a specialist specialist who has the specialist equipment and knowledge to dial in custom camber, caster and toe settings to truly tailor the handling to what you want from your car. If you want the ultimate setup, corner weighting the car with you sat in the driver’s seat, will give improved weight distribution too!
Be sure to check out our guide to the best Honda Civic Type R suspension in 2023.
Honda Civic Type R EK9 brake tuning
When it comes to braking, once again the EK9’s lack of mass pays dividends, meaning the stock rotors and calipers and more than adequate for stopping all but the most track hardened machine. To this end, expensive big performance brake kits are largely unnecessary, although if you have the budget they will offer the ultimate in stopping power!
Your best bet however is a simple disc and brake pad swap to a more performance orientated setup from the likes of RPB, PBS, Pagid and Ferodo and to install some braided brake lines to firm up the pedal feel and replace the stock rubber lines which may be starting to perish or swell.
Honda Civic Type R EK9 tuning – performance wheels & tires
The EK9 is a small car compared to today’s machinery, and as such it has pretty puny rolling stock to match. The OEM wheels are 6.5x15in with a 195-section tire and are fine for most uses, but a set of wider rims with stickier wider tires will enhance grip levels no end. A 205 should fit with no problems and a 215 should be able to be squeezed under the arches with some more aggressive camber or a slightly higher offset wheel. When it comes to wheel brands, the purists will likely stick with JDM brands like Rays, Weds and Enkei, while those no so brand conscious – or with shallower pockets – can opt for something form the Rota or Japan Racing stables – just look for a low wheel weight so as not to affect the fine handling balance and acceleration.
Check out our best Honda Civic Type R wheels guide for some EK9 wheel inspiration.
The EK9’s interior is pure 90s JDM, with supportive Recaro seats and an alloy gearknob. We’d probably say to steer clear of going to wild in here with just a Nardi or Grip Royal steering wheel, an alloy harness bar and a set of green Takata harnesses being the pinnacle of JDM cool.
Honda Civic Type R EK9 tuning – styling upgrades
With such an iconic car, styling mods can really make or break the whole build. While purists would probably opt to stick with what Honda intended – and anyone looking to retain the maximum future values would probably echo the same sentiment – there are a host of bolt on upgrades that you could make that are also reversible if you ever wanted to return the car to stock. If you do go this route, look to respected JDM brands like Mugen, Spoon and Heko for aero-proven lips, spoilers and wind deflectors. They will certainly be more costly, but you can’t put a price on quality!
Words: Dan Sherwood. Photos: Ade Brannan.
Relevant content – EK9 Type R buyer’s guide.