The Si badge has adorned Honda Civics since 1984. With it came unique mechanical upgrades and small visual enhancements. All seven generations have shared these same hallmarks, with a special focus on high-revving naturally aspirated engines. This new generation bucks that 33 year trend. With the all-new Civic adopting a turbocharged motor, the new Si naturally followed suit. Staunch traditionalists despise this evolution. They believe this change has ruined the essence of the Si. After a week behind the wheel, I’m here to tell you they are wrong.
This Civic Si doesn’t have that much in common with the bonkers Type R. That car was developed in Japan based off the Civic Hatchback platform. The Si, in contrast, was developed in the US based on the Civic Sedan. While Honda’s Japanese engineers went for all-out performance, the US team was price-conscious while developing the Si. That means the Si prices out at $10,000 less than the Type R, provided you can find a Honda dealer that will sell you a Type R at MSRP. So consider this the most affordable and most available performance-oriented Civic on the market. And without all of the garish adornments of the Type R, we can solidly say it’s also the most attractive. The gloss black grille, unique wheels, rear wing, and center exhaust set the Si apart without going over the top.
When we first experienced the all-new Civic Sedan, we fell in love with the driving dynamics. The chassis tuning and turbocharged engine are best-in-class. If the regular Civic was that good, we knew the Si could be something special. Honda started by upgrading the 1.5L engine to produce 205hp and 192lb-ft torque. Critics are quick to point out that this is the same horsepower output from the previous generation’s larger, naturally aspirated engine. But the new Civic makes its power at lower RPMs and more consistently across the rev range. And there’s plenty of additional torque. That means better responsiveness in almost all situations. Of course, the Civic Si is only available with a 6-speed manual transmission. Honda’s manual transmissions have been the benchmark for buttery smooth shifts. That standard is upheld in the new Civic, but we did find that the clutch pedal required a lot of travel with a very high engagement point for the clutch.
Our Civic Si sedan came equipped with only one option, high performance summer tires. Cold winter days robbed those optional tires of much of their grip. We didn’t note much torque steer when launching the Si, but the tires would spin in first, second, and occasionally third gear unless properly warmed up with some drive time. Despite the hard tires, the Civic Si rides surprisingly well. The suspension has been specially tuned to be more performance oriented, but there isn’t much penalty to ride quality. The cabin remains comfortable and quiet even on the worst winter-worn roads. Honda has fitted the new Si with two-mode adaptive dampers and variable-ratio electric power steering. A sport button on the console toggles both systems into their sharper settings. The dampers noticeably stiffen to reduce body roll and the steering takes on a more direct and linear feel.
If the Civic Si felt spritely and composed in Normal, Sport puts the car on its toes. We found ourselves opting to leave it in Sport most of the time to enjoy the crisper handling and livelier steering response. While there’s a duality in the Si’s dynamics, the Sport button is what brings the car to life. Pair these sporty dynamics with the Civic’s best-in-class interior appointments and it makes it all that more enjoyable to spend time behind the wheel. Sports seats and red accent stitching throughout the cabin are nice touches that add function and distinction. We weren’t the biggest fans of the aluminum shift knob, however. There’s nothing quite like having to grab a freezing chunk of metal early in the morning to wake you up.
The Honda Civic Si has not been ruined. It’s just come along with the times. This is absolutely the best Civic Si yet. In terms of dynamics and interior quality, it’s best-in-class. We’d take one over the Hyundai Elantra Sport any day, Not to mention the car we tested here is priced less than the Touring sedan we first drove last summer. The essence of the Si is unchanged. The manual transmission, the driving dynamics, and unique engine tuning have made the Si unique for the last 33 years. This new car uses the same exact formula. What more could you ask for?
|2017 Honda Civic Si Sedan
|High Performance Summer Tires||$200|
|As Tested MSRP||$25,190|