We don’t even need to introduce it, do we? The Honda Civic Si has been with us for over 25 years, and its reputation is well-established in North America. Though it’s true that the spotlight in recent years has shone more brightly on the bad boy of the Civic family, the Type R, the Si edition represents a more realistic and sensible choice for many.
That doesn’t mean that this product had been watered or that it’s not possible to have fun at its wheel, far from it. In a way the Civic Si is a two-headed creature. In day-to-day life, this model is as docile and agreeable as any other Civic. But it can transform into a much more explosive car when the driver chooses to make it so.
The Honda Civic Si is actually a member of an increasingly exclusive club in 2018: those models offered only with a manual transmission. These days, this is a rare breed indeed – a real shame for those who appreciate the sensation of manipulating a gear shifter and clutch.
Hail the turbo era at Honda
Unlike in years past (more specifically prior to 2017), the Honda Civic Si no longer counts on a naturally aspirated engine that delivers its power in the upper reaches of its engine range. The past few years have seen Honda turn to turbochargers at several points in its product range, and the Honda Civic Si is one of them.
The new edition’s 1.5L 4-cylinder thus comes with a turbocharger, which brings the horsepower to 205, while the torque climbs to 192 lb-ft – unheard of in a Civic Si. Despite the bloc’s modest size, optimal power arrives much faster now; same goes for maximum torque. Purists will surely argue that the sound of the engine is too meek. The numbers, I say, speak for themselves.
Bolted to this engine is a 6-speed manual gearbox, a piece of equipment that illustrates once again the importance Honda places on the precision of the gear shifter. It is almost disconcertingly easy to use, in all situations.
That’s not all. The Civic Si stands apart from others in its class via the addition of a few components designed to increase the car’s sportiness quotient. The suspension has been firmed up, for one, and can even be adjusted using the SPORT button located close by the gear knob. The stabiliser bars and shocks have also been adjusted to firm up the ride, while the inclusion of a limited-slip differential ensures great acceleration off the line. Lastly, Honda has put in larger front brake discs and fitted the Civic Si with wider 18-inch tires.
A sober interior for all that
Since the arrival of the attention-hogging Type R, the Si model has been relegated to playing second fiddle on the Civic roster. The red dashboard bands, two-tone steering wheel and red leather of the Type R are in sharp contrast with the more sober cabin of the Civic Si. There are those nifty Si badges embroidered on the sport bucket seats, the imitation-carbon-fibre upholstery adds a bit of spice, and don’t forget the sport pedals – but that’s about the extent of it. Take a look at the back seat, and you’ll understand!
The good news is that, the sporty character of the model notwithstanding, the Civic also has a practical side. So you can fold down the 60/40 split seats if you want to transport longer objects, and you’ll enjoy the multitude of cargo spaces.
The most important consideration in a sport-minded car like the Civic Si, though, is the driving position. In this respect, the few adjustments possible to the driver’s seat are fine, as long as you don’t, for example, need to continually move it forward and backward to set your child down in the back row. It’s easier to do on the passenger side, mainly because it allows you not to disturb your driver’s seat positioning. The steering wheel is pleasant to hold, while the round gear knob is a breeze to manoeuvre through the shifts.
At the wheel
As I mentioned above, the Civic Si can be gentle as a lamb in normal urban driving. The lightness of the steering and the easy-to-use manual gearbox both help deliver this experience. Some added pressure on the right pedal and a quick run up the gear of the transmission and things change pretty quickly. The Civic Si, once that turbo kicks in, accelerates more than impressively, and the engine sound gets more seductive as you push the RPMs higher.
No surprise, Sport mode is the one to go with to maximize your driving pleasure. Everything gets more precise, firmer and more dynamic in terms of the engine response. It’s true that the character of the sport coupe has changed since this move to turbochargers – the old 2.4L engine was wilder-sounding at high RPM – and the Civic Si is more civilized than in the past. But fret not, the Si badge has not lost its charm. The essence of the model is intact, and the driving experience is priority number-one. And that’s a good thing!
The last word
Yes it’s true, the Civic Si’s start shines a little less brightly since the Civic Type R arrived on our market. But for many of us, that explosive pocket rocket is simply not attainable, budget-wise. What’s more, the Type R, a fearsome driving machine, should not be placed under the control of just any novice driver, in spite of (or even because of) its ease of use.
And that’s where the Honda Civic Si becomes an attractive option. Not only is it affordable (!), but its slightly more muted performance mean that it can be used and appreciated 365 days out of the year.