When I drove the Civic Hatch Sport earlier this year, I was thoroughly impressed with the chassis of the current generation Civic. Historically the Si was the sportiest, highest trim offered in the US. But with the Type R coming to America for the first time, what’s the point of the Si? Before my week long test, I asked Honda what aspects of the car they wanted me to cover. They responded with one word: Value. The new Civic Si was not a halfway point between the standard Civic and the full blown Type R but rather a mild sporty upgrade over the former. It’s designed to give the typical car shopper a taste of the car enthusiast world, for around $2500 more than the Civic Turbo. For that $2500 you get 30 more horsepower, adjustable dampers and more importantly, a limited slip differential. You also get an upgraded sound system and Honda Lane Watch.
Our original plan was to not review the Si and jump straight to the Type R. However, Honda was insistent that all journalists experience the Si first before trying out the Type R. I’m glad we got some seat time because the Civic Si definitely has a place in the current Civic lineup. It’s noticeably sharper than the standard Civic.
The engine is distinctively peppier. It’s still a 1.5 liter turbocharged four cylinder but now with 205hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. Turbo lag is apparent and boost doesn’t start until 2500 rpm with full boost at 3000. Despite the turbocharging, it’s still an engine that you have to rev out to get the most out of it, a throwback to the high revving K-Series engines of yesteryear. Gone are the days of 8000 rpm redlines and VTEC and in its place, a small efficient turbocharged engine that still gets a bit of a move on when the mood takes you. 0-60 is dealt with in 6.8 seconds. It’s also worth noting it has less rev hang than the standard Civic as well, which is nice.
The handling is a surprise. The addition of the LSD, the adaptive dampers and the sharper steering add up to make a big difference. There’s a drive mode selector in the Si and I’m happy to report it is not a gimmick. In Normal Mode, the car is just like a normal Civic. The steering is light and the dampers are… normal. Put it in Sport and there’s a shift in personality. The steering gets heavier, the dampers stiffer, the engine a little more eager.
The steering is a joyous upgrade. It has more feel with very little dead spot on center. The brakes have good bite at the top of the pedal, stops the car confidently. The clutch is a little heavier and engages a little aggressively towards the top. The shifter is notchier and requires a little more effort than the standard Civic. It’s worth mentioning that pedal placement could be better. Heel and toe rev matching requires a lot of practice and patience to get right.
The LSD is what pulls the whole package together. It’s what makes the Civic Si handle so well despite the FWD drivetrain. On turn in, there’s a touch of understeer. Through mid-corner, however, you can feed the power in and you can feel the LSD pulling the car around. You have to feed the power in, you can’t floor it like Spongebob on his driver’s test. This overwhelms the diff. To me, it feels like it has been tuned for daily driveability rather than outright performance, which is perfectly fine considering what the Si was designed to do.
The Civic Si adds the Premium Sound System, which is underwhelming if I’m being honest. The sound quality is pretty good but the volume and low end is lacking. This is a little confusing considering it has 450 watts and 10 speakers including a subwoofer. My favorite feature has to be Honda Lane Watch, which turns on a camera in the passenger side mirror whenever you signal right. The image is displayed in the center 7-inch display which really helps with checking blind spots.
The interior is very similar to the Civic Hatch Sport. It has the same tasteful faux carbon fiber trim that I really liked. The Si gets unique seats with heavy side bolstering and a fixed headrest which are very comfortable and supportive. The gauge cluster is all digital which allows for different bits of information to be displayed, such as the boost pressure, when to shift, throttle position and even a G-Meter. I personally prefer the boost gauge when I’m driving. The arm rests on the door cards have a little bit more padding. The interior is spacious with good legroom and decent headroom. The trunk is sizeable as well. It’s amazing how much room is in a modern Civic, it almost feels like an Accord.
The exterior is surprisingly subtle. It looks like any other Civic on the road except for the Si badging, square fake vents at all corners, the trunk spoiler, and the rectangular exhaust. Even the 18” wheels with 235/40 tires are almost identical to the Hatchback Sport. The only difference is that they’re silver finish rather than gunmetal.
The Honda Civic Si definitely accomplishes its goal in providing good value. For about $2500 more than a Civic EX-T, you get a sporty compact sedan with great handling dynamics, interior space and a proper manual transmission. It really does offer the average Joe a taste of the car enthusiast world, without scaring them off with something like the Type R. As a die hard petrol head though and a journalist no less, I can not fathom how much more exciting the full blown Type R is going to be.
Check out my full video review on Clutch Kick here: https://youtu.be/RqnZ9MevrWw
Poor Pedal Placement
Underwhelming Stereo System
Specs: Engine: 1.5L DOHC 16-Valve Turbocharged Direct Injected I4 Drivetrain: FWD
Power: 205hp @ 5,700 rpm Torque: 192 lb-ft @ 2,100 rpm Transmission: 6-Speed Manual Wheelbase: 106.3 in Curb Weight: 2,906 lbs (60.3/39.7%) Base Price: $24,100 Price as Tested: $24,975