Used 1996 Honda Civic del Sol Coupe Review




what's new

The base S model gets more power by swapping its 1.5-liter four for a 1.6-liter unit, gaining four horsepower. The front fascia is freshened and the Si gets the suspension upgrades of the VTEC.

vehicle overview

The del Sol is Honda's fun-in-the-sun offering, competing with the likes of the Mazda Miata and the Volkswagen Cabrio for the hearts and pocketbooks of active young Americans. Based on the previous generation Civic, this rendition of the del Sol is reaching the end of its run. That doesn't mean, however, that you should disregard this version of Honda's open-air two-seater. It still offers a great deal of fun in an attractive little package.

Honda buyers can catch rays in three different ways. The first is in the economical S model with a peppy 106-horsepower engine borrowed from the totally redesigned Honda Civic. Prices for the S model start just over $15,000. The sporty Si model has a 127-horsepower SOHC VTEC engine and a beefier suspension than the S. In addition to more horsepower, Si's have aluminum wheels, power door locks and power mirrors. The top-of-the-line del Sol VTEC offers a whopping 160-horsepower engine and antilock brakes. As with all Hondas, equipment is determined by which model you choose. For example, if you want antilock brakes, the only way to get them is to buy a VTEC. If you want power door locks and mirrors, you will have to spend the money for an Si. If you want an automatic transmission you won't be able to get the power of the VTEC. Sorry, that's just the way it is.

Since its introduction, the del Sol has been compared, often unfairly, to the segment-leading Mazda Miata. The Miata has gained undying love from the press due to its traditional styling and enthusiast-oriented rear-wheel drive. The del Sol, on the other hand, has been characterized as nothing more than a two-seater Civic with a toy-like appearance. In this battle of micro-machines, Honda defenders are quick to point to the numbers, showing the del Sol VTEC's superior acceleration and superb braking figures. Others point to the del Sol's excellent convenience features such as its hardtop capability and useable storage space. Still other's point to Honda's unsinkable reliability and high resale values. One thing is certain, in the match-up between the del Sol and the Miata there is a lot of pointing.

Edmund's staff is split on the issue. Some favor the livability and acceleration of the Honda; others wouldn't trade the Miata's classical design, capable handling and rear-wheel drive configuration for the world. We do know, however, that the purchaser of either of these cars is guaranteed a great deal of driving pleasure for years to come.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.