2017 Honda Civic Si

The arrival of Honda’s performance-enhanced Civic has been worth the wait.

By MALCOLM GUNN
www.wheelbasemedia.com

As a bridge between the everyday Honda Civic and the holy-grail Civic Type R hatchback, the Si coupe and sedan blend power and affordability.

Although the Si name is familiar to many, this version departs from previous iterations and is more fun.

Honda has been doling out new Civic models at a steady clip ever since the 10th-generation sedan arrived for 2016. That was followed by the coupe and four-door hatchback models launched mere months apart from each other.

The new Si coupe and sedan, on sale now, is significantly tamer than the 306-horsepower Type R that’s expected this summer. But before returning to your fidget spinners, be aware that the Type R will cost considerably more — as in about $10,000 more — than the Si. Unless you’re planning to engage in some serious track outings, taking the Si might just be your best option. Note that the hatchback body style doesn’t come in Si livery.

Compared to base Civics, the Si is a different animal on several fronts. Most recognizable is an aerodynamic package that includes a front chin spoiler and rear wing that add downforce at highway speeds. A gloss-black grille, centrally located exhaust outlet and an attractive set of 18-inch wheels are also part of the Si.

The interior is ready-made for sporting behavior with added bolstering for the fabric-covered front seats that provide extra lateral support. The seats, door panels, steering wheel, shifter boot and Si badging are all stitched in red, while the dashboard and control panel are trimmed with faux carbon fiber and titanium-look paint.

Specific to the Si is an information screen that shows turbo boost, rev limit, cornering/braking G-force, percentage throttle and brake-pedal pressure, and lap times for closed-circuit driving.

The boost display shows how hard the 1.5-liter four-cylinder is working. Although identical in displacement to the base Civic’s turbo powerplant, the Si’s output is 205 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque, up from 174/167. Credit goes to a larger turbocharger that creates more boost pressure.

A six-speed manual transmission with a short-throw shift linkage is your only choice. That will certainly discourage — or inspire — buyers who prefer not to stir their own gears.
Fuel economy is rated at 28 mpg in the city and 38 on the highway.

Many of the Si’s suspension pieces are also fitted to the Type R and contribute to a slightly increased distance between the front and rear axles (track) and a stance that’s also a touch lower. The Si has a throatier exhaust and beefier brake components.

Driving the road course at Honda’s Mojave Desert proving grounds showed just how competent the Si sedan and coupe are. The torque is plentiful, especially in second and third gears, the steering is dead-on precise and the ride isn’t unduly harsh. Additionally, the shifter is one of the best around.

Switching to the “SPORT’ setting on the console firms up the dampers, increases steering effort and sharpens throttle response. For most enthusiasts, this will likely be the standard setting.

Si pricing begins at $24,800 for either the coupe or sedan, including destination charges. For that, buyers get a full range of content such as a power moonroof, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, 450-watt sound system. Also standard is Honda LaneWatch that uses a camera to give the driver a view of road behind when changing lanes.

Unfortunately, none of the active safety systems — such as emergency braking or lane-keeping assist — that are either standard or available on similar vehicles can be had with the Si.

The Si’s predominantly male demographic likely won’t be disappointed with the car’s style, content or pedal-to-the-metal behavior. If snicking through the gears on a twisty country road is in your blood, this Honda will definitely keep your heart pumping.

What you should know: 2017 Honda Civic Si

Type: Two- /four-door, front-wheel-drive compact coupe/sedan

Engine (h.p.): 1.5-liter DOHC I-4, turbocharged (205)

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Market position: The Si two- and four-door models are more geared to performance-loving drivers than garden-variety Civics are. Somewhat unusual these days, they demand proficiency in the use of a manual transmission.

Points:
• Visual clues are subtle but let Honda aficionados know what you’re packing.
• Can’t drive a stick? Go out and learn or else shop for competing hot compact.
• The turbo 1.5 makes decent power, but it’s the suspension and other components that make for the complete package.
• List price is right on the money, but why isn’t active safety tech available?

Active safety: Blind-spot warning (std.); cross-traffic alert (n.a.); active cruise control (n.a.); emergency braking (n.a.); pedestrian detection (n.a.).

MPG (city/hwy): 28/38

Base price (incl. destination): $24,800

By Comparison:

Ford Focus ST
Base price: $25,650
Recent updates make this 252-h.p. hatchback aserious Si competitor.

Hyundai Elantra Sport
Base price: $21,700
A unique 201-horsepower turbo I-4 makes this a bargain-priced runner.

Mini Cooper S
Base price: $26,100
Fun to drive, but options are costly. Four-door model is also available.