Honda’s redesigned Civic is a big hit.
And they’ve been clever, rolling out the vehicles over a period of time. Sedans, then hatchbacks, (long missing from the Civic lineup), then Civic Coupe. Then a turbo, (a first for a Civic in the U.S) and then an aggressive-looking Civic Sport model.
And each model has been a tasty treat, but we’ve always known there might be something better in the wings.
Well now we have the new Civic Si – long-time top of the line for the Civics sold here in the states.
The new Si is tantalizing different from models of the past, and another step up the Civic ladder.
The question is, will the Civic Si’s power and pace satisfy, or just leave us hungering for more?
We’d certainly step up for the looks. Offered in both 2 and 4-door models (ours the more sensible sedan), the Si picks up on the ultra-aggressive looks of the Sport model (without the Sport’s hatchback) and even pushes it a bit further.
The surprising thing is, we like the look better, and we think a lot of it has to do with the handsome 18-inch wheels that really fill out the wheel wells and balance the proportions.
Complaints? You know, we really had a thing for the Sport’s ultra-cool triple center pipe exhaust – the Si has a trapezoidal affair that doesn’t do it for us.
Other than that, our Rallye Red stood out loud and proud. And looked great doing it. It’s an attention getter though, so maybe we’d plunk down for Crystal Black or White Orchid if we were putting one in our garage.
While the exterior wants to party, the interior wants to get down to business.
The business of driving, to be exact. While the interior will look familiar to anyone who’s been in a Civic recently, there’s some upgrades that giveaway the Si’s sporty intent. The front seats are more heavily bolstered and very supportive. Interestingly, there’s no adjustable lumbar support – but we never missed it.
Honda was kind enough to make the driver seat height-adjustable, so you can find a comfortable position regardless of height. The seats also have a plush comfortable fabric, and a nice Si logo stitched in. Red accent stitching throughout the cabin gives a sporty feel. Nubby sport pedals are a nice touch, too.
Based on the Civic sedan, there’s so much sensible thinking here. Like a center console with dual level sliding cupholders, extra storage bins, a pass through for your cables between the upper center dash (perfect for laying down your phone) and the lower that has the input for the USB – all the better to hook up your and enjoy Apple CarPlay.
While the Si is not offered in hatchback, the trunk is quite spacious, and you can flip down the rears seats to get a pretty impressive cargo hold. Sensible stuff Honda has always done so well.
You want leather, or a different color cloth? Honda won’t go for that. No can do. (Sorry Hall & Oates fans)
But the Si does give some other goodies to sweeten the deal, like a driver-selectable display in the center of the dash that lets you choose between a boost gauge, G-meter, and stop watch. There’s even a rev-limiter indicator light, which is pretty cool.
Which begs the question, what’s the Si like to drive?
Very good – but if you are an Si fanatic, there’s some getting used to required. With the old VTEC system, the Si’s were high rpm screamers – although there was less screaming as they increased engine size to add torque.
With a small turbo-four, there is still a tiny crater of low-end grunt (like the VTEC) but when the boost does come in, boom! It hits hard, with maximum 192 lb-ft of torque coming in at just 2,000 rpm, with a throaty snarl and a surprising punch in the kidneys along for the ride. 0-60 should easily be in the mid 6’s. Enough to keep up with the GTI of this world.
Unlike the VTEC, the turbo seems to lose interest after 6,000 rpm, but according to spec, the 205 hp has maxed out at 5,700 rpm, so going to the 6,500 rpm redline doesn’t net you anything, and frankly it gets a little boomy up there.
Luckily, there’s a simple solution – shift the super smooth 6-speed tranny. There is a give with this take, we averaged right around 30 mpg in mixed, albeit hard driving, so the little four is very thrifty. You could probably get in the upper 30’s on the open road if you kick back.
Got it. Turbo is good. What else?
There’s so much more. Like the previously mentioned VW GTI this is a wonderfully balanced package. Grip is superb – especially with the optional summer tires, and the steering on the Si has seen special attention from Honda, and it is full of feel, and really ramps up when you hit Sport Mode.
Sport Mode also firms up the adjustable dampers – a surprising feature at this price – and you might want to save that for ultra-smooth pavement, it’s extra firm. In fact, the regular setting is truly awesome, with a smooth, comfortable ride that’s sporty but never harsh. A perfect companion for the daily slog, yet responsive and joyful on your favorite twisty piece of road.
It’s especially awesome for a front-driver, and part of the thanks goes to the standard helical limited slip differential – no torque steer, just sweet power laid down to the road when you want.
And the price won’t curb your enthusiasm, either.
- Whether you opt for two-door or four (we personally like the extra-utility of the four door) you’re looking at $23,990. And there are really no options.
- But this is no stripper, you’ve got standard dual-zone climate control, power moonroof, pushbutton ignition, real aluminum on the pedals and shift knob, Bluetooth hands-free and streaming audio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto 10 speaker, 450-watt audio system including subwoofer, 7-inch hi-res center touch screen, those cool G-meter and turbo boost gauges, and Sport Mode.
- There’s also Honda’s cool system that uses a camera on the right hand outside mirror that projects a rearward view on the center screen when you turn on the right turn signal. Good stuff.
And for the ultra-enthusiast, there’s even better news. Where the Si used to be top o’ the heap, the new Civic R should be hitting the States as you read this. Truly the ultimate performance Civic – and one Civic Nation has been waiting for – you’re looking at a turbo 2-liter, 306 hp, and a fiercely focused package for just $34,775.
For those who have the need, that $10K is a bargain, but for a lot of folks who just want a Civic with great looks, a super-fun drive, superb chassis, unbeatable value and the day-to-day livability and quality that has made the Civic name legend,
The Civic Si is one tasty dish prepared to perfection.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.