The Honda Civic Si continues to carry the flag for those that want the practicality of the big-selling Honda Civic, but with just that much more oomph
in terms of performance. Even with the arrival in North America of the Type R model, the Si has soldiered on and that’s music to the ears of may an affordable performance car enthusiast.
The Si separates itself from the likes of the Touring model by adding matte-black 18” wheels, black window trim, enlarged exhaust tips, and rear spoiler. That’s fine but the problem is it looks like the standard Civic the rest of the way and while handsome enough, the current model lacks a real defining quality that the previous version did – namely, its aggressive head- and taillights. In profile, it’s also unable to hide its tall roofline and coupled with wheels that are big for a compact but not that
big, it’s awkward.
The view from the rear three-quarter perspective is what saves the Civic Si from not getting a lower mark here; from this angle, it looks squatter, more purposeful and quite cool thanks to that spoiler and rear tailpipes.
What that tall roofline does do, however, is make for tons of headroom inside – 956 millimetres up front, 942 mm at the rear – and generous legroom both front and back as well. Overall passenger volume is rated at 2,735 litres with 408 L of trunk volume – not too shabby at all.
Even with all that room, Honda hasn’t forgotten the fantastic driver’s seating position that places you right at the wheel, while the shift lever and centre console are barely an outstretched digit away. That seating position is further complimented by more supportive front seats with higher side bolsters and red inserts.
Other neat interior bits include the honeycomb dash insert with red trim that not only looks cool but also disguises the HVAC vents, thick-rimmed leather steering wheel, aluminum pedals, and stubby shift lever – the Civic Si can only be had with a manual. So if you don’t want to row the gears yourself first of all why would you want one of these anyway secondly, there’s always the Touring model.
Not only is the Si loaded for performance, but it comes fully loaded with tech as well. That means a wide 9” infotainment display with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as opposed to the standard car’s 7” display and wired apps, as well as standard 12-speaker Bose audio, WiFi hotspot, 10.2” digital gauge cluster and wireless charging. A blind spot system, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise with traffic sign recognition are on-hand as well.
Power from the 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder is rated at 200 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque, equalling the torque figures of the previous model but down a little on the hp front. That’s too bad, but the fact the Volkswagen Jetta GLI and Hyundai Elantra N make more power for similar money is a tougher pill to swallow.
What the Si does do, however, is deliver its power smoothly and with little turbo lag so it feels more powerful than it is. Peak power is made at 6,000 RPM but peak torque comes in at a lowly 1,800 and will continue to push through 5,000, which is a flat torque curve the likes of the older naturally-aspirated VTEC Si models could even dream of. It adds an air of luxury that plays well with the interior environs. It means you don’t have
to row the gears or wring its neck quite as much as you once did to get the most out of it when on an aggressive drive -- and some will miss that – but overall, we have a sporty sedan with a more relaxed powertrain that makes for a more comfortable experience.
There’s one glaring error, however, and that’s its penchant for rev hang between shifts. No matter whether I was in Normal or Sport drive modes, I just couldn’t get the shift action done as smoothly as I’d like, or as quietly.
As important as the powertrain is, a Civic Si needs to handle as well. In that light, the feel through the thick-rimmed steering wheel is very good, providing the detail the Civic Si has always done. For all its luxury, more relaxed powertrain (and higher curb weight), the steering feel is right on. The ride backs that up with great damper tuning that won’t rattle your fillings as much as it once did but keeps the body in check enough through repeated turns and is nowhere near as brittle feeling as it has been in the past. Add a helical front limited-slip differential that allows for an elastic band-like response when coming out of turns, and there’s plenty here to keep drivers on their toes.
The turn-in response, however, is not quite as immediate as it once was (or currently is with the Elantra N), so it doesn’t feel quite as live-wired. Many will appreciate the fact that it’s somewhat less nervous, but there will be an enthusiast or two that will miss the shrunken off-centre dead zones these used to have.
At the end of the day, this latest Si is improved in almost every way – on paper. The trouble is, I found myself struggling to truly appreciate it more than I have previously. It’s great that it’s so well-equipped and more comfortable than it’s ever been, but it’s lost a little bit of that, shall we say, rambunctiousness of an older model with a high-revving VTEC four-banger and telepathic steering. Yes, those cars were loud and they rode too firmly for some, but their character was undeniable. As well-sorted, well-equipped, and spacious as this new model is – and as much as many will appreciate it as a result – it exhibits a level of self-consciousness that the Si’s never had to before.
2023 Honda Civic Si
Four-door compact performance sedan
1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder, 200 hp, 192 lb-ft of torque
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WEBSITE: Honda Civic Si