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On the Road Review: Honda Civic Si Sedan



For almost four decades, driving enthusiasts all over the globe have been savoring the lithe manners and athletic driving characteristics of Honda’s compact class Civic. Although the car has grown in every dimension through the years, now larger than many generations of the Accord, the Civic remains a fun and functional daily automobile for drivers of every persuasion.

With spring around the corner, eventually, this week’s Civic Si is the third flavor in a four-slice pie, with the high-performance Type-R debuting now. Currently only a sedan, the Si features 20 additional horsepower from the 1.5-liter turbo-four, 200 hp, a stiffer recalibrated suspension, slightly heavier steering feel, larger front brakes, plus a limited-slip front differential for the six-speed manual — the only transmission currently available for Si trim. Buyers can choose from all-season tires or summer-specific rubber, while selectable rev-match for shifting and red-piping stitching throughout the cabin helps differentiate the bolstered sport seats as well as the atmosphere inside.
During the long run of Civic success, with as many as 350,000 sold a year, an ever-increasing after-market industry has sprouted up to supply more excitement for Honda’s dependable small car.

Not to miss out on this profitable niche in the market, the Si trim has become not only essential for reaching younger buyers, but also led to the extroverted Type-R. Competitors are few; Toyota offers nothing even close in a front-drive compact, while Chevy and Ford exited the segment long ago. Volkswagen’s Golf GTI, a perennial benchmark among front-driving speedsters, returns this year with 241-turbo-four horsepower, the same cargo space and elevated driving attitude, but with more weight and a sticker price $2,300 higher.

Subaru’s WRX is also refreshed this year, with 271-turbocharged horsepower, similar size all around and a $1,700 premium over the Civic — the WRX comes with standard AWD. The Civic Si, $28,315 — about $2,000 higher than the last Si — may lack the rear-drive handling flair of the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ, yet the Honda’s four doors are vastly more versatile, while the lightweight Honda is just as quick as either of these naturally aspirated two-door rivals.

The Si’s turbo motor does an outstanding job of providing ample torque wherever you operate. Loaf along at 1,500 rpms and get into the throttle and the Civic responds with a nice surge without forcing any downshifting. Likewise, become slowed on the highway with the adaptive cruise control engaged and the Civic will swiftly march back up to your chosen pace, the turbo motor responding with an urgency absent from the previous editions. Highway revs are a bit higher than many other vehicles today, over 3,000 rpms, yet the six-speed manual is a comfortable, willing companion to the process of driving with vigor. Kudos to Honda for still offering a three-pedal four-door.

Key to the Civic’s appeal, beyond its inherent versatility as a four-door sedan that is fun to drive, is the car’s ability to stretch each gallon of fuel. EPA estimates are 27/37 mpg. A well-driven trip could produce numbers above or below those estimates — depending on how much you want to exercise the fluid shifter and the punchy engine — or not.
Forward collision assist, lane-keeping assist and adaptive cruise are all standard, as are a power sunroof, rear spoiler, leather trimmed sport seats, LED lighting, split-folding rear seat and a 12-speaker Bose audio system. The 9-inch center touchscreen has one knob for volume, but apparently reflects the school of thought that many buyers now use their phones to access the available apps, provide navigation and control entertainment. Like the added energy of the turbo-motor and the well-balanced chassis, this engineering evolution will please many buyers and frustrate some too.

Heated seating did not make the cut on this latest Si, nor is there any lumbar adjustment in the driver’s seat. As with our previous Civic experiences, the Si also lacks effective noise suppression at highway speeds. The Si is built in Greensburg, Ind.

The Civic Si is a well-rounded compact sedan that just happens to have a beating heart that wants to run — hard. From the largest engine manufacturer in the world, the Civic Si is a reminder of how good our current internal combustion powerplants are and how fun they can be to pilot. Affordable driving excitement in a roomy, versatile package will never go out of style.

Next week: Nissan Sentra SR

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.

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