2017 Honda Civic Si
1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (205 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm; 192 lb-ft @ 2,100 rpm)
Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
28 city / 38 highway / 32 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
8.4 city, 6.2 highway, 7.4 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price: $24,775 (U.S) / $30,185 (Canada)
As Tested: $24,775 (U.S.) / $30,185 (Canada)
Prices include $875 destination charge in the United States and $1,695 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.
Let’s get this out of the way right up front: The 2017 Honda Civic Si is not a baby Civic Type R. Yes, it shares the name and platform, but not only does it differ mechanically and stylistically in key ways, it also provides a different driving experience.
Different, but still excellent. Just a different kind of excellent. I’ll get to that right after I find my thesaurus.
Like its main competitors – the Ford Focus ST, Subaru WRX, and Volkswagen Golf GTI, the Civic Si is supposed to be the mid-level performance trim of a compact car (in Subaru’s case, the WRX is based on the Impreza but drops the moniker). As such, it’s not the outright burner the Type R is, and that’s just fine.
What the Si aims to be is the best mid-level sporty compact at the best price. It’s arguable whether it achieves the former but not the latter – it’s a bargain compared to its brethren.
Available in coupe or sedan – but not hatchback – form, the Si doesn’t have the controversial styling of the Type R. It has the cleaner look of the “lesser” Civics, and in sedan form it’s less goofy-looking that even the standard hatch. Its biggest concession to sport is a spoiler perched on the rear decklid.
There are other Si-specific exterior cues – a badge on the trim-specific grille, different front fascia, larger lower air intake, hexagonal center exhaust outlet, and different rear fascia. The car is also a bit longer and lower than the standard Civic and rides on 18-inch wheels.
Inside, the Si theme includes red accent stitching, Si badging in the seats, an aluminum and leather shift knob, alloy pedals, carbon-look accents, and red-themed instruments. There’s also a leather-wrapped steering wheel and the driver’s info center provides readouts on such things as g-force and turbocharger boost.
Speaking of the turbocharger, it’s part of a 1.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 205 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque. If you want an Si, you best know how to row your own – like with the Type R, a six-speed manual is the only transmission offered.
Lack of transmission choice aside, the Si is a whole different beast than the Type R. Honda claims peak torque starts at 2,100 RPM and goes up to 5,000, and I believe it, but with 103 fewer lb-ft to work with, it’s just not as brisk. Still, it has plenty of punch and you don’t have to wind the hell out of it to use it.
Another difference is in the clutch. The Si has a different clutch than the Type R, and it’s not quite as user-friendly, thanks to a high takeup point that leads to abrupt engagement. The good news is you get used to it after a time.
The shifter, on the other hand, is one of the best out there – it has precise and quick throws and is quite a joy to use.
As one might expect from a car that’s not track-focused, the Si doesn’t handle quite as adeptly as its sibling, but it’s still a blast. Understeer is present if you push too hard, but the car never feels unstable or uncontrollable. Light, quick steering helps, though I felt the Sport mode didn’t tighten it up quite enough.
Find a fun road, and the Si is a great companion. Ride and handling wise, it’s on par with the GTI, although maybe not quite as fun as the comparatively bonkers WRX or aggressive Focus ST. Another review I read made mention of torque steer, but I didn’t experience much.
The Si’s reflexes are quick enough that one wayward squirrel avoided meeting its end. Rocky the rodent escaped an unfortunate encounter with the front wheels, though he or she now has a shortened tail.
Settle down for a freeway jaunt, and the Si shows that it would make for a fine commuter, though its ride is on the stiff side even when not in Sport mode. It’s not exactly quiet at cruise, but the noise level is about standard for the class and price point.
Sportiness is just part of the package. Honda bestows some, but not all, of the most popular convenience features on the Si. For example, it has USB, Bluetooth, a rear-view camera, satellite radio, touch-screen infotainment, Pandora, push-button stop/start, keyless entry, Honda’s LaneWatch camera system, and HondaLink. It also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which help make up for one key feature that’s missing – factory navigation. Other amenities include heated front seats, sunroof, and fog lamps.
You also won’t get leather seats or power-adjustable seats. But that’s okay – the front seats are bolstered nicely and comfortable even on longer drives. I never had an issue getting the seating position right.
The rear seats are a split-fold unit, and head- and legroom are fine throughout the car – adults can ride comfortably in the rear. There’s not a ton of interior storage – just the small center console, a well below that, a cubby in front of the shifter and another one below, and the glovebox.
As with most current Hondas, the lack of volume or tuning knobs for the stereo is infuriating, especially since the A/C knobs are about where you’d like the audio knobs to be. Also, the parking brake is electric, which just doesn’t feel right in a sporty car.
You can have your sport without paying a pump penalty – I routinely saw MPGs in the mid-30s on the trip computer, and the Civic Si is rated at 28 mpg city/38 mpg highway.
If all four cars were priced equally, the GTI and Si would probably be the top two choices – and the GTI is a tad more refined and offers a bit more of a premium feel (although, personally, I’m drawn to the aggressiveness of the WRX).
Pricing isn’t equal, though. The Civic Si has a lower price than the base price of either GTI or WRX, and those cars can get up to $10K more when loaded with options. Meanwhile, the ST has a lower base price but costs a few thousand more when well-equipped. While upper-trim GTIs and WRXs will give you more in the way of comfort and convenience features (the cheaper Civic offers the same goodies in some cases), and all-wheel drive in the case of the WRX, the Civic makes a strong argument. It’s equipped well enough, it’s a blast to drive, it’s a fine commuter car, and it passes gas pumps more often than not.
Even stacked against the base GTI and WRX, the Si stands out for value.
Go ahead, spend more for the others if you must. We won’t judge – all of them have their own strong appeal, and buying a sport-compact car is a decision that’s often influenced by emotion and a customer’s relationship with a brand instead of being purely rational.
Just know that Honda has sport on special – a special that won’t expire anytime soon.
[Image: © Tim Healey/The Truth About Cars]