I didn’t plan this. It’s was just past 7:30pm on Friday night, the sun was setting, and I was scything through central New Hampshire behind the wheel of the 2014 Honda Civic Si Coupe. It had only been a few hours since my phone rang – a call from my brother. “Have you seen the weather report?” I had. 85 degrees with wall-to-wall sunshine for the next two days. “Let’s go to the lake.” With little more than that, we were set to escape. It’s a 250 mile trip to “the lake”; past experience dictates the ride should take four-and-a-half hours. On a whim, we made it in less than four.
Perhaps our excellent time-making benefited from our timing. The weekend after Memorial Day meant less traffic to deal with, and our departure time meant we were ahead of Friday’s rush hour. But I’d much rather attribute our fortuitous escape to the Rallye Red Civic. “The Lake”, as we call it, Lake Winnipesaukee, has been a summer escape for our family for generations. A small camp on “the big lake” is our destination. It’s served as a base for a number of Limited Slip Blog excursions, including a trip to the summit of Mt. Washington and a tour of all 13 miles of NH seacoast. This weekend, it will serve a much simpler purpose – fraternal relaxation. The Civic Si proved a fine ally. It’s wide trunk fit two duffel bags, a cooler, life jackets, fishing rods, and tackle boxes with ease. We didn’t even have to fold down the rear seats. Within an hour, we were ready to go.
The driver’s seat of the Honda Civic Si is command central. In standard Civic layout, the tachometer is the only gauge behind the wheel. Above that, the V-TEC and shift lights sit left of the central digital speedometer. To the right is an ancillary display for settings and information. With the most pertinent driving information stacked in line-of-sight, it makes it much easier to focus on the road. That’s good, since the roads of New England require extra attention at dusk. The newest addition to the Civic’s interior is a crisp, 7″ Display Audio touchscreen. Not just an ordinary touchscreen, Honda’s Display Audio system can be manipulated with tapping, swiping, and pinching. Finally, someone who owns a smartphone has designed an infotainment interface. But could we trouble you for a volume knob, Honda? The new screen also serves as the display for the backup camera and Honda LaneWatch, a camera on the passenger wing mirror that displays the entire length of the of the car when the right turn-signal is activated.
Our route takes us East into Massachusetts on I-90 before turning North up I-91. For 2014, the Si receives revised springs, new dampers, and a stiffer rear stabilizer bar. But the new suspension tuning doesn’t hamper the ride quality. Expansion joints and road patches don’t upset the car or its occupants. The Civic is comfortable and quiet at highway speeds. In sixth gear, the exhaust is little more than a persistent buzz. A brief stint in Vermont transitioned us off the highway and onto NH State Route 9. What starts and ends as a four-lane, 55 mph thoroughfare bottlenecks down into a narrow country road carved through granite hills and river valleys. This road is a gamble if you’re timing is wrong. Get behind a truck at the wrong moment and you’re counting the slow, agonizing miles tick by. However, there are two-lane passing opportunities on uphill climbs. Hit them all at the right time, and you’re rewarded with clear and open driving. Here, the Civic Si does well.
Comfortable probably isn’t the adjective you want to describe the sportiest Civic. It’s isn’t hard or jarring like other sport-tuned versions of standard cars. On an road that lends itself to spirited driving, the Civic is willing to play along. It will change directions well, without passively rolling or wallowing through corners. The steering is direct but vague. However, this isn’t a car, like the Fiesta ST, that grabs and engages the driver. The Si is just as capable of sitting back in traffic as it is getting ahead in the left lane. But we’re on a mission, this road is our escape plan. Taking hold and carving through downhill sections, the car becomes more rewarding. Momentum is held as it transitions through corners, making time where we can. Soon, we’ve caught up to another slow group, and the wait for passing zone begins again.
A re-tuned exhaust system finds 4 more horsepower and torque in the Civic Si’s engine. The 2.4-liter four cylinder now produces 205hp and 174 lb-ft torque. The new exhaust hums in the cabin, but not as pleasantly as the Scion tC’s. There’s something deeply rewarding about high-revving naturally aspirated engines. As the road transitions uphill and an extra lane becomes available, it’s time to climb. V-TEC kicks in at 5,000 rpm. 6 more shift lights illuminate on the dash as the 7,000 rpm redline approaches. A close-ratio 6-speed manual gearbox, the only transmission available, controls those shifts. A smooth clutch and satisfying gear changes, a Honda trademark, are still present in the newest Civic Si. Power stays up front, working its way through a limited slip differential on its way to the pavement. The front differential and sticky summer tires keep torque steer and wheel spin at bay, unless so desired. Underway, there’s little opportunity for that. From a standing start, theatrics can be had. The traction control button looms large to the left of the steering wheel.
Sunrise on Saturday morning revealed a bug-splattered road warrior. We made it. The front end, with a new hood, fenders, headlights, and bumper, had collected its fair share of insects. The new Si Coupe isn’t as restrained as the sedan counterpart. The lower and wider front intakes add more aggression, but the front wheel arches throw off the angular look. It’s as if someone broke the Si Coupe’s nose. Around back, the new tail lights, rear diffuser, and large spoiler add the boy-racer street appeal. The sharp 18″ alloys don’t hurt either. Once it’s cleaned up, the whole package works, especially in “arrest-me” red with all the black accents.
The return trip always goes by more quickly. Our spontaneous weekend escape was over less than 72 hours, and 630 miles, after it began. The Honda Civic Si Coupe, for its part, did extraordinarily well. The new design adds some aggression to the Si. Inside, the black and red seats with carbon fiber trim continue that trend. The new central display is the first true touch screen we’ve encountered, and it’s better than anything else in its class. It provided ample cargo space, through headroom was a bit of an issue. The 2.4-liter, 16 valve engine was equal parts entertaining and frugal. Even with frequent stints with the V-TEC light lit, the Civic Si returned 29.9 mpg. With it’s ready-and-willing drivetrain and steady handling, the Civic Si Coupe was the perfect escape vehicle.
|2014 Honda Civic Si Coupe w/ Navigation
|As Tested MSRP||$25,280|