The latest iteration Honda’s venerable Civic might be the best yet. To the chagrin of fanboys everywhere, this Si marks a departure from the much-loved VTEC valve train. Honda opted instead to turbo-charge the four banger in their hot Civic. How does the new Si stack up?
Pretty darn well. This is the latest in a long line of compact Hondas ranging way back to 1972. In all that time, I’m not sure the Civic has looked this good. The body lines are simple with an angular appeal. The roofline peaks at the top of the windshield and slopes back all the way to the rear edge of the deck-lid. The roofline reminds me of the Audi R8.
Up front, projector headlights wear the outer extremities of the grille like heavy eyeliner. Below the grille the pouting bumper cover houses fog lamps set in black plastic trim. The quarter panels bulge outward over the tires. Out back, things are wrapped up nicely with angular taillights like parenthesis around the trunk. The spoiler looks a bit much, but relative to the Type R, it’s downright sedate. There’s more black plastic surrounding the single outlet exhaust which looks better than the type R’s triple trumpet affair.
The high-bolsters on the Si embroidered seats give a reassuring hug to let you know you’ll be supported while cornering at speed. Between the seats there’s a clever console featuring siding cup holders and change tray. You can easily arrange it to accommodate all sizes of cups.
The shift knob is made from quality cast or billet aluminum wrapped in black leather. The console around the shifter feels a little flimsy, but shouldn’t be an issue. Red accent stitching serves to break up the black interior.
Passengers in the front are treated to seat heaters and space for long legs. Rear seat passengers aren’t so lucky. Limited head and legroom in the back make for tight quarters, and it’s probably best suited for kiddos.
The infotainment and a/c controls leave a lot to be desired. To adjust the climate controls, you must first push a climate button. Then select from some touchscreen options. This doesn’t sound like much but it does force drivers to look away from the road. Adjusting the volume is a similar ordeal only it’s a touch sensitive slider (thankfully there are volume controls on the steering wheel). In both instances Honda complicated what should be very easy operations. Bring back the knobs Honda.
Below the stereo and climate controls there’s a clever cubby for your electronic devices. Power outlets built into the console along with wire organizers keep your chargers tidy and at hand.
The new heart of the Civic Si is a 205 hp turbo-charged 1.5 liter. This is almost a full liter smaller than the previous Si, but exactly the same horsepower. Those ponies make their way to the wheels through a six-speed manual transmission and a limited slip differential.
The EPA estimates this set up will get you 38 mpg on the interstate and 28 around town and a combined 32 mpg. The HPT designation tacked on the end of the Civic Si moniker stands for High Performance Tires. That means the 18″ alloy wheels are wrapped in sticky Goodyears. It also means you’ll be buying tires sooner than normal, as they are bound to wear faster than normal treads.
This little Honda feels eager, especially for a sub two-liter. The shifter fits perfectly in the palm and is the first contact point with the slick shifting six-speed. It makes stirring gears a pleasure. The car is comfortable cruising on the highway. Road and wind noise levels are nominal. Shift into top gear, set the cruise and relax.
Often times electrically assisted steering feels too light. Honda struck a nice balance here the steering is tight and responsive. It doesn’t completely insulate drivers from the road. It’s just what you want in the sporty two door.
Punch the Sport mode button and the suspension transforms from comfortable to stiff and the accent lights in the instrument cluster all turn red. The light above the tachometer acts as a shift light, flashing at the redline. Said redline is lower due to the absence of VTEC but the surge of power when boost builds will make you forget about those last couple hundred RPMs. In fact, the new Si gets from 0 to 60 a hair faster than its VTEC predecessor.
At around 4000 RPM the exhaust really begins talking. Put your foot in it from a stand still and you’ll definitely encounter some torque steer, but it’s completely manageable. In fact, it’s fun. Second gear scratches are par for the course as the Civic claws the asphalt for traction. Cornering in this car is a treat. It feels balanced and inspires confidence.
This car feels special. It’s comfortable and surprisingly practical, which is not something that can be said about all sporty two-doors. If I were in the market for a fun, two-door commuter with plenty of passing power the Civic Si would definitely be on my shortlist. At around $24k it’s feels like a good value, it’s good-looking, and it’s a pleasure to drive. Is it the best Civic ever? I don’t know for sure, but I can assert with confidence that it’s the best one I’ve ever driven.