Normally I would have likely walked right by this Honda Civic but the badge on the rear intrigued me. Obviously the FI stood for fuel injection but advertising that your car had fuel injection had become rather passé by the 1990s. Obviously in the 70s and 80s it was something a bit more special to shout about. The EFI badges on GM and Toyota vehicles are quite memorable for me. But PGM-FI? I don’t recall ever seeing this badge before and by 1988 all Civics were injected. So what’s going on here?
Initially I wondered if it was running some sort of aftermarket ECU possibly with a turbo attached. But the rest of the car was very stock looking and an automatic gearbox put that theory in doubt. Once home a quick internet search came up with the meaning – Programmed Fuel Injection. Quite often the PGM-FI is printed on intake manifold but I failed to find another example with the same rear badge. I did come across some interesting diversions like pgmfi.org which is a group of enthusiasts who are hoping to fully understand Honda fuel injection systems.
Another oddity is the Special Edition badge on the rear panel between the tail lights. Perhaps this is a Canadian thing as I can’t really find much trace of the package online. Likely the body colored bumpers and hubcaps were part of the package. It does look quite sharp and I’m not usually a fan of white colored cars.
Canadian trim lines were always a bit different than the US. For many years our Si was sort of a mix between a DX and Si but with the less powerful motor. You had to step up to the SiR to get the US Si motor. I suspect, but would love any corrections or confirmations, that this Special Edition package is a DX with some US Si features thrown in.
The interior has a fantastically function design that I’d argue hasn’t really ever been bettered. Everything laid out in a nice, easy to reach manner with none of the fluff and over the top styling of more recent Civic interiors.
This generation of Civic is/was immensely popular with the import tuner crowd. It is quite rare to see an unmolested example these days especially in hatchback form. With the Honda mechanical bits of this era being rather like Lego with easy interchangeability many have received more powerful Acura or Japanese market engines. Body kits, aftermarket rims and other bolt-ons are the rule rather than the exception. Took me a good five minutes to find the above engine photo and that was from a guy yanking the stock motor.
The chrome on the fenders seems to be the only deviation from stock here. Looks a bit silly to my eyes and I instantly wonder what rust they might be hiding underneath but this example looked rust free.
I’ve never owned or even driven fourth generation Civic but did own a slightly later fifth generation hatchback in DX trim. Mine had a five speed gearbox and was quite a joy to drive … when it worked. Despite only being a year old at the time it turned out to be one of the least reliable and robust vehicles I’ve ever owned. This one has obviously given better service and hopefully its Programmed Fuel Injection keeps on ticking for many more years to come.
I agree, the chrome fenders have to go!
Funny, I figured all FI systems were “programmed” in some way.. Like Mercury’s “ride engineered” dash plaque. I certainly hope it is!
I’d love to find an unmolested DX hatch with a manual. As mentioned, it’s near impossible to find one that hasn’t been
bastardizedmodified in some way.
I’ve only ever seen PGM-FI badges on Canadian market Hondas.
Back when I was in high school in the late ’90s I saw an Accord EX-R with British Columbia plates. I assumed that it must have been some hot Accord model with a Prelude VTEC engine, until I went on the Internet and found out that it was just equivalent to the US market Accord EX.
I think PGM-FI was Hondas way of saying they did FI themselves, while others where sticking Bosch and whatnot on their cars. They were proud of doing things their own way.
PGM-FI is just a poorly reverse engineered version of GM’s early speed density EFI. Pretty much only the Euro cars used Bosch though most all early EFI used Bosch O2 sensors since they are the ones that invented them and hold the patent, though later they started to license it as they couldn’t keep up with demand. Also Bosch injectors or licensed versions were used by many early EFI systems.
Don’t you mean that the Bendix system GM introduced on the ’75 Seville was a badly reverse engineered Bosch D-Jetronic? PGM-FI was such a poorly reverse engineered version of GM’s early speed/density EFI that it actually worked. Must have been a failure to copy well enough.
The early speed density GM EFI is set the standard and is responsible for a lot of the features you find in OBD-II standard.
GM had an easily accesable way to retrieve codes and a farily reasonable number of codes. Honda on the other hand required either pulling the carpet or passenger seat to look in the window and see which LED’s are illuminated to give you only a couple of possible code combinations. GM had a lot of data you can read in real time. GM had a decent balance of available fuel trim while Honda not so much. Both use the same family of chip to carry the particular tune and in the tuning world the same current family of chips and some of the same readers/burners are used to load the custom code. W/o that copying of the GM system the Honda hot rodding movement would never have been possible.
There you go. Absolutely correct! Copy GM, but without the shitty engineering, and you will have a perfect copy! Brilliant, as Honda always is. Engine-wise, anyway. Their obscenely cheapened interiors are close to inexcusable, though. Their engines save them from that, though. (Run, you little R18A1, run!)
Only Euro cars actually used Bosch, but most of the early Japanese systems by Denso and Hitachi and others, like Nissan’s “ECCS”, were clearly derived from L-Jetronic. The flapper-door MAF sensor is a dead giveaway.
One thing I’ve never seen on a Japanese car is some variant of CIS or CIS-E. The Japanese suppliers skipped right over that era of fuel injection.
Our daughter had a 1989 red Civic hatchback that this car reminds me of. It was a thoroughly nice car – its red paint, cassette deck, and mag wheels sold it to her in 1995 or so. I’d have liked it a lot better if it’d been a 5-speed car instead of a 4-speed, but it served her well for a good five years or so. She got her first speeding ticket in it – an apparently well-deserved one, on I-84 in the Oregon mountains, of all places. I wouldn’t mind finding another one with a 5-speed.
The only speeding ticket I’ve got in the last 25ish years was in the pass on I-84. Lots of the ramps are perfect for the cops to hide on and catch you on the down slopes where you may end up coasting over the speed limit.
This generation of Civic is considered the highest form of Civcdom by Honda fanbois, who lament its passing every time they can.
The downside is the cars were not, I repeat, not cheap, especially in Canuckistan, as our Peso was worth less than peanuts in those days. I considered buying one but the cost of admission was simply too high, more than a USA built Accord in many ways. The cars were good and sold pretty well but they really didn’t have any competition, so they could be sold at a 50% premium over their competition.
This, and the past generation Civic sell better than any previous Civic and cost a whole lot less, too. A fully loaded Civic LX sedan can be put on the road for 20k Canuckistani Pesos. Forty percent less, in real terms, of a 1992 Civic LX sedan and the 2012 car is much better equipped.
I think this era was Honda’s high point. If Colin Chapman had set out to build a reliable economy car, I expect the result would have been something like this.
I walked past a pair of fifth and sixth generation Civic hatchbacks parked next to each other this morning, and while they are both small compared to modern compact cars, you can see the bloat slowly setting in.
I believe the “Special Edition” models usually include some features such as nicer wheels and perhaps some trim for a bargain price. It seems they are usually offered when a model has been out for a couple of years. It looks like the monochromatic trim and white hubcaps on this car might have been part of this particular “Special Edition”. Hondas of this vintage are among the few cars that actually can look good with plastic hubcaps.
I remember the “PGM-FI” decal being quite common on Hondas of this vintage, although I haven’t seen one in a while. I suspect that many of these decals have been lost by now, as many of the surviving cars have no doubt been repainted or otherwise modified by now.
This car is a real time capsule – they used to be everywhere back in the ’90s, and while they are not exactly rare these days, they are nowhere near as common as they used to be, and it is unusual to see an unmodified example like this. On a personal note, it looks as though David Saunders found this Civic is a couple of blocks from where I grew up!
I miss blue interiors……
I briefly owned a blue (with blue interior as well) ’89 DX 4dr 5spd with 150K on the clock. The A/C still worked (R12), had manual steering,and it rode and handled surprisingly well for a lightweight (~2300lbs). After repairing a few things, including rodent-induced wiring damage, I sold it to a friend at work who still uses it as a daily driver and gets 35-38 MPG.
BEST JAPANESE AUTO DESIGN EVER.
(Capitalization intended. Just so simple, clean, efficient… The Gen IV Civic is perfect. That low, low dash!)
Here’s my curbside find, a daily driver of an employee of my local Target… showing classic midwest Honda termites. Somehow the rear wheel arch at the bumper has escaped… the bolt Honda always uses there is just a OXIDE MAGNET!)
Had to downsize image to upload, apparently!
If I may, also snapped this shot at the same time. With my Gen VII and a blue Gen VI just like my mom’s… Hondas are thick on the ground in this part of the world!
…As Jack Baruth can tell you…
That’s a nice Civic, and I like the monochromatic look, but those chrome wheel arch trims look like they belong on a Town Car or Grand Marquis. Here in NW Illinois, approximately 75% of Town Cars have these things. And if they have the wheel arch trim, they usually have the fake convertible top. The really tasteful ones have the moonroof built into the fake top. I wouldn’t mind picking up a late model Town Car some day, but finding a nice one without all the aftermarket gingerbread is next to impossible.
Ditto to all the comments about the Gen IV Civics. We had a ’89 DX 3-dr. hatch and a “as base as you can get” ’90 hatch (about $6,500 out the door). Sold the ’89 when our first son was born but kept the ’90 for a number of years. I bought the car sans a/c, radio, pin striping, etc. – in fact, I instructed the Dealer to back it off the carrier and call me immediately – I had to remove the cosmolene from the wheels myself!
What a perfect car. Though the larger engine in the DX (and 5-speed) made for a quicker car, the 1.5L/4-speed was quite adequate, and returned 40+ mpg on the highway without trying hard. Drop the rear seat, and you could stuff all manner of items in the rear. We added a trailer hitch, and carried even more stuff with a small utility trailer.
When our sons finally got big enough that they were hooking their legs around their ears to fit in the back seat, we got a ’98 Caravan and sold the Honda to my youngest brother for $500 (about a third of what we could have gotten, I suspect). It had 165,000 on it at that point.
Brother drove it a number of years, and had a close encounter with the rear end of an Expedition that destroyed the front end, including radiator. Some junkyard parts and a sweaty afternoon with the come-a-long and a big pine tree, and we had it back on the road.
He soon sold it (for $500!) to some kids that wanted to race it – it had north of 200,000 on it at that point and was still running great.
If I could buy a *new* car like this one today, I’d be all over it.
Honda has truly fallen very low.
AFAIK, Honda still had a few lowest spec models with twin carbs during the life cycle of this model in Japanese and Euro markets, so PGM-FI label is justified.
In Japan I owned a previous to this Gen Civic-Si with the last pre-VTEC 1.6 screamer (125 hp @6500 rpm, peak torque at 5800 or so). Was a blast to drive, but had so little torque down the rev range that I stalled it quite a few times when pulling off.
The engine looks like the same D16A1 used in the EX and Si models in the US. The PGM-Fi badge makes sense as these were the only 4th gen Civics in the US otherwise to have the “full” port-injected version; the DX, LX, and stripped base hatch used throttle-body injection (or “single-point FI” in Honda parlance). This hatch appears to be what would happen if they had made an “EX” hatch – the interior materials look like the EX sedan, velour instead of vinyl, and it has an automatic.
Just stumbled upon this over at TTAC:
“The word “Honda” does not appear in any obvious locations on the engine, but we all know what “PGM-FI” means.”
Nice car. However, I think that white cars should be banned in Canada. Try seeing one of these things in a snowstorm. The lights don’t always help in this situation, unlike say for a black car at night.
Another down-side is that rust stains look particularly bad on white.
I must say I’m flabbergasted to see the picture of the green, yellow, and grey ef’s on here….I own the green one, the yellow one is my hubbys…and the grey one is our roomates ! 🙂 If anyone has any questions we may have answers as well 🙂 As you can tell we love our ef’s…and currently have 6 builds on the go!
This car is labeled PGM-FI because, I just realized, it doesn’t have the dual-point intake manifold, but the full multi-point system installed instead. That probably gives it an extra 10 horses. Either that, or it’s had the 1.5 from the 92-95 version installed, or the 1.6 from the 88-91. Either way, it’s not the original engine; nor is it a VTEC or twin cam version. Hence, the new fake “trim level.”