With turbo power and a great chassis, the Civic Si offers lots of thrills while going easy on your wallet.
– Cantil, California
I stand by my earlier statement: the 2017 Honda Civic Si doesn’t need more power. It doesn’t need more of anything, really. The intrinsic beauty of the Si is in its balance: It doesn’t overachieve at any one thing, rather, it does everything well. It’s fun to drive – more than its spec sheet would lead you to believe – and still works like a Civic, offering comfort and convenience for easy daily livability.
Of course, the fun-to-drive factor is super important here – that Si badge has to mean more than just a well-balanced Civic. You already know the Si uses an enhanced version of Honda’s turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-four, with 205 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque. But those numbers only tell part of the story. Did I mention this car also gets 38 miles per gallon highway?
Compared to a standard Civic EX-T, the Si upgrade includes stiffer springs and stabilizer bars, adaptive dampers, and a limited-slip differential. It gets larger 18-inch wheels and wider 235/40-series all-season tires (Goodyear Eagle F1 summer rubber is a $200 option), as well as beefier brakes for better stopping power. The steering has a weightier action, though the 10.9:1 ratio carries over unchanged from the standard Civic. Finally, the car sits five millimeters (0.2 inch) lower to the ground.
It isn’t just a Civic Sport with a little extra power. The adaptive damping really improves the Civic’s chassis.
On an intentionally tricky vehicle dynamics course laid out at Honda’s southern California proving grounds, the Civic Si is poised and precise as I toss it into challenging corners. A followup lap with Sport mode engaged reveals sharper steering, increased damping force, and a more urgent throttle response. On the winding roads out near Bakersfield, California, the differences between Normal and Sport modes aren’t as apparent, but I’m enjoying the agile dynamics of this turbocharged Si, with linear power delivery, crisp steering, flat cornering, and an overall sense of lightness (this sedan does only weigh 2,906 pounds, after all).
More importantly, it isn’t just a Civic Sport with a little extra power. The adaptive damping really improves the Civic’s chassis, offering compliance and comfort when you just need to get through traffic, but more stability and feedback when you’re cornering quickly. Likewise, the six-speed manual transmission is better in the Si, with a clearer take-up point in the clutch and crisper action of the shifter itself thanks to new linkage. Sure, the Si’s dynamics are closer to the standard Civic models than the hardcore Type R is likely to be, but my initial worries that this car wouldn’t be a big enough step above the Sport Hatchback are squashed after a day of spirited driving under the hot California sun.
Stepping up to the Si means foregoing that five-door body style altogether, sadly. Honda doesn’t think it’s necessary to offer an Si version of the hatch, since it’ll have Sport and Type R variants. Plus, since the Civic Si is a uniquely North American offering, it makes sense to only offer it on the U.S.-built coupe and sedan to keep cost down. The hatchback, remember, is built in England.
So yes, both coupe and sedan are available, with minor exterior tweaks to set them apart from lesser models. Up front, larger air intakes flank the sides – basically, Honda grafted the Sport Hatchback’s front end onto the coupe and sedan. Around back, the coupe gets a large, elevated rear wing, while the sedan gets a subtler spoiler, neither of which really look great, if I’m honest. A single, wide exhaust outlet sits at the center of the lower rear fascia. With increased exhaust flow and a new silencer, the Si has a quiet purr of a tail note – more robust than your standard Civic, but certainly nothing super-hot-hatchy.
Well-rounded and nicely balanced, the Si carves out a unique and desirable position for itself in the sport compact class.
There’s further differentiation inside the car, with Si-specific sport seats sitting (pun intended) front and center. These cloth chairs are supportive and comfortable, though both my co-driver and I struggle to find that just-right seating position – we both seem to be in between the notches of the seats’ manual adjustments. Heated seats are standard, as are a sunroof, touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Si-specific red gauges, faux carbon fiber trim, sport pedals, and an aluminum shift knob.
In fact, everything you see here is standard across all Si models; the only option is the aforementioned $200 summer tire upgrade. Decide which body style you want, pick your color, and you’re done. Both the coupe and sedan start at $23,900, and adding the better tires and factoring in $875 for destination means you won’t crest $25,000, all in. A loaded Si undercuts the base prices of the Ford Focus ST, Subaru BRZ, WRX, Toyota 86, and Volkswagen GTI.
Then again, because the Civic Si only comes one way, you can’t add things like LED headlights, leather seats, or factory navigation, all of which are optional on its key competitors. And let’s not forget, while the 205-hp Si is plenty of fun in its own right, its costlier competitors also offer more smiles per mile – I’d rather drive and live with the GTI, for example, simply because it’s more engaging, and more functional. The Civic Si’s closest rival is actually the Hyundai Elantra Sport, and while that’s a fun little guy, I’d rather have the Honda with its more playful demeanor and better overall refinement.
The Si carries on the tradition of offering a fun Civic package that I’d be happy to drive every day. The powertrain and chassis upgrades are wonderful, and nicely enhance all of the inherent greatness found within the tenth-generation Civic’s bones. But more than that, the Si offers a heck of a value proposition when compared to many of its classmates. Well-rounded and nicely balanced, the Si carves out a unique and desirable position for itself in the sport compact class.