The Honda Civic Si is one of those names in motoring that almost needs no introduction. In the same way that BMW helped define the sports sedan genre with the M3, Honda helped create budget performance with the Si nameplate.
The 2015 Civic Si is a fitting member of the breed, a trim and fierce example that cheap doesn’t have to be bad … or slow. Yet time and the competition are catching up, and the Civic Si may no longer be the top of the class.
Give a shift
If there is one thing that people should know about the Honda Civic Si, it’s that it only comes with a manual. I love this; it defines the car as being for enthusiasts – posers need not apply.
There are other things that clue a new driver into the Si’s sporting nature. For one, Honda has stuck to its i-VTEC guns, refusing to give into the lure of turbocharging. The result is a peppy 2.3-liter, naturally aspirated four-cylinder producing 203 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque.
This engine has something of Jekyll and Hyde personality. It produces most of its power and torque above 4,000 rpm. As a result, under normal driving conditions, it actually feels underpowered. But when pushed, the VTEC pushes back.
When compared to its turbocharged rivals, like the Subaru WRX or the Ford Focus ST, the Si honestly feels a bit slow.
Using the manual to keep the transmission in its sweet spot is rewarding, letting the driver feel really involved in the process. However, when compared to its turbocharged rivals, like the Subaru WRX or the Ford Focus ST, the Si honestly feels a bit slow. And the numbers back this up; the Civic Si is a full second and half slower to 60 than the WRX at 6.5 seconds
Also, while the manual transmission itself may shift beautifully, thanks to an all-time classic six-speed short throw shifter, the clutch needs work. The clutch pedal initially provides some resistance but once engaged it falls to the floor seemingly without any effort. It by no means ruins the experience, but is a bit of a disappointment given the car’s aggressive personality.
Lower, stiffer, faster
The Civic Si may not be as fast as some of the competition, despite that, the Si is a very rewarding car to drive.
The Si has enough torque to break the wheels loose from a standing start, and can get squirrelly if given too much throttle. Along with some understeer and slightly vague steering, these vices all come back to the relatively basic front-wheel drive set up used by the Si.
But before VTEC fans light their torches and come after me, it is important to note faults are more charming than they are problematic. They give the driver a sense of involvement and participation that some other hot hatchbacks and budget performance cars lack.
Compared to the standard Civic ,the Si rides lower and on bigger wheels. And thanks to the excellent suspension and chassis tuning, it is possible to throw the Si around with a lot of confidence and, frankly, joy. It isn’t a perfect setup, but it definitely has a fun-loving personality.
Unlike some of its competitors, the Civic Si is actually a very livable car. From tech to comfort, the Si is hardly a compromise compared to the standard Civic.
While the interior may not exactly be luxurious, it does show off Honda’s legendary build quality. The plastics show tighter tolerances than your average NASA mission. And while the seats are cloth, they are solid and comfortable.
While I can’t say the Si is perfect, I can say that I like it a lot.
Speaking of NASA, the Civic Si also shows off some excellent tech. The HondaLink touchscreen looks and works like an iPhone, and using it is a joy, especially when compared to the flawed systems used in other Hondas and Acuras.
The Civic Si also includes my new favorite tech gimmick: a blindspot camera. Activate the right turn signal and the car flips on a camera mounted on the passenger wing mirror. The image is routed through the screen, providing an amazing view of anything in the blindspot. It is also really handy for parking against a tight curb. In the Si coupe, this is especially nice, as the sloping rear blocks some visibility.
Speaking of the Coupe, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it offers actual space in the rear seats. Tall passengers will find headroom to be a problem, but, thanks to deep seats, there is space for people with legs.
In short, the Civic Si, despite its fiery personality, is still a Honda. That means that it is at heart a great way to move people and stuff.
What to make of the Civic Si? In terms of power and outright performance, it really isn’t in the same league as the Focus ST, WRX, or Golf GTI. Then again, at just under $24,000 for a well-equipped car, it is a bit cheaper, making it a great first performance car for any real enthusiast.
It is practical enough to justify the cost and, thanks to the manual transmission and setup, it is a wonderful car with which to hone driving skills. By contrast, a car like the WRX does all the heavy lifting for the driver, who just needs to point and shoot. So while I can’t say the Si is perfect, I can say that I like it a lot.
- Excellent in-car tech
- Short-throw shifter
- Low price
- Comfortable interior
- Needs more power
- Unrefined FWD drivetrain