Words by: Adam Allen
What is it?
Behold what is certainly one of the best values around in the front-wheel drive performance segment of the market. The Civic Si somehow rarely finds itself in the mix when the conversation turns to fun cars like the VW GTI and Subaru WRX. It’s rather unfortunate that it becomes further obscured by its fire-breathing Type R stablemate, whose sensational capabilities often steal the headlines. Not everyone wants to daily drive something that is so hardcore and costly (we mean that relative to the Si because the Type R is a good value in its own right.) With that said, the Si is meant to be the ‘Goldilocks’ of the Civic lineup- not as sleepy as the more pedestrian models, not as pointy as the Type R but just right. We drove the Si Coupe a few years ago and while we must admit that while it is better looking than the sedan you see here, no one is going to describe it as pretty. Furthermore, the two door cannot mount a challenge for practical supremacy- the rear seat area is both roomier and easier to access, and there’s more space in the trunk for your stuff.
What’s it like inside?
A simple Google search will render all kinds of reviews on the Civic Si, and we found a common thread- there’s widespread grumbling that the interior is too plain and uninspiring. For those expecting high-end furnishings and touch points should have their expectations recalibrated to align with reality. It’s made slightly more special over more basic Civics- which have been praised for their carefully screwed together cockpits- with small appliques of faux carbon fibre and one of the best features of the car overall, the sport seats. Somehow Honda has managed to make them perfect for long hauls in comfort but racy enough to hold occupants firmly in place when you want to toss it around. So many so-called performance cars get this wrong but Honda has positively nailed it. And while it may not have the above average quality of the aforementioned GTI, we found it to be perfectly fine. Where things go sideways slightly is the infotainment system. Now, we know Honda can build them with excellence because the one we sampled in the Accord recently was truly first rate. This one is still a bit frustrating to use because the busy user interface and lazy responses demand your attention away from the road. The addition of a volume knob is a huge step forward, but the system is hobbled enough that you hesitate making minute adjustments or changing the radio station and that just shouldn’t be a thing. Sitting just below the infotainment bits are an innovative storage system of modular cubbies and cupholders that are a reminder of Honda’s cleverness.
What’s it like to drive?
You don’t buy a Civic Si because there’s a neat place to put your cell phone or because interior panel gaps are small, you buy it because it’s meant to put a smile on your face. Judged within that metric, the Si shines brightly. Starting under the hood, you’ll find a 1.5 litre turbocharged inline-four. Yep, it’s the same lump that powers lesser Civics and the CR-V crossover, but it’s been puffed up appropriately, gaining 31 horsepower and 25 torques. The same type of curmudgeonly group which bemoan the interior have also antagonized the Si for sounding appliance-like, but again we don’t see eye-to-eye with them. The acoustics coming out of the centrally mounted exhaust is plenty fun enough to our ears, and while it won’t charge towards the redline like the VTEC screamers of yore it gathers revs smartly and feels lively. Speaking of revs, the engine’s software causes it to cling annoyingly to whatever rpm the engine is turning when you push the clutch in. This is ostensibly a means to help lower emissions and increase efficiency, but we don’t care for it at all. You get used to it and learn to compensate for the behavior, but we’d bet the aftermarket has some sort of electronic solution to the problem. The only transmission available as a dance partner to the 1.5 is a 6-speed manual, and it’s a good one folks. It’s smooth as silk and finds its gates with precision and just the right amount of matchiness and feels very S2000-y (yes, we just made up a nonsensical adjective there.) We often hear the objection from folks interested in a manual gearbox but complain that they don’t want to be shifting constantly during the grind that is there daily commute and having suffered through that we do sympathize on some level. If given the choice, we’d always take the three pedal option, and Honda has made that choice easier to make with the effortless nature of its manual. The clutch operates with a minimal effort and using your pinkie to move the lever through the gates is entirely possible. The last piece of the Si Sedan’s fun-to-drive puzzle is the helical limited slip differential that Honda fits as standard equipment. It’s a worthwhile but of kit because now the Si is all ate up with low end grunt where back in the day there used to be limp-wristed response anything below 4,000 rpm. Our Civic would chew through corners like an overly caffeinated terrier, and it didn’t protest to us putting down the power early than we ought to.
Why you should care:
The middle child Si splits the difference nicely between the bookends of the Civic lineup, meaning there is a model out there that’s perfect for you. Whether you choose the Si coupe or sedan is your call, but for those of us here with little ones the choice if obvious- it’s gotta be the sedan. It weighs about the same as the coupe, it costs the same and if there’s an difference in the way these two drive, we couldn’t detect it with our finely calibrated keisters. There’s a lot of good choices available if it’s a budget minded funster you’re after, but you really need to take the underappreciated Civic Si for a drive.
2019 Honda Civic Si Sedan – Specifications
- Price as tested: $30,876
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger sedan
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
- Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged inline 4, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 205 @ 5,700 rpm
- Torque (lb-ft.): 192 @ 2,100 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Curb weight: 1,341 kg (2,956 lbs)
- Observed Fuel consumption: 8.2L/100km (29 mpg)