By David Colman
Hypes: Scalpel Sharp Sports Sedan
Gripes: Confusing Bi-Level Dash
The Si is a remarkably adept sports sedan beset by a few niggling ergonomic problems. Its good points, however, far outweigh its shortcomings. The Si, first introduced to the Civic model lineup in 1987, has long been Honda’s street fighter, relying on peaky horsepower and splendid handling to embarrass cars costing more than twice the Si’s $28,000 sticker price. Under that abbreviated hood, you’ll find a ferociously competent 2.4 liter inline 4, with variable valve timing (i-VTEC) contributing exceptional top end power. At a screaming 7,500rpm, the Si makes 201hp and 170lb.-ft. of torque. When you zing the engine to redline, a warning light indicates i-VTEC actuation, followed by a quartet of yellow and red bulbs which illuminate sequentially as redline is reached. This is the kind of light display NHRA Pro Stock drivers use to win quarter mile drag races. The effect is mesmerizing, informative, and emblematic of the Si’s serious driving orientation.
There are 6 well-spaced cogs in the manual transmission to keep this mini dynamo on full boil. If you enjoy shifting manually, you’ll have a blast operating the Si’s crackerjack unit. Adding to the joy is the diminutive alloy golf ball that tops the stubby stick. It makes you feel like a surgeon in an operating room. Throws from gate to gate are so precise, and clutch actuation so linear and predictable, that the Si will instantly make a better driver out of you.
Chucking it around turns is another delicious pleasure. Fist, you benefit from the well padded high backed sports seats that keep your butt fastened to the chassis. Next, you’ll appreciate Honda’s taken the trouble to supply the Si’s 6.5″ x 17″ alloy rims with the latest high performance rubber from Michelin: 215/45R18 Pilot Sport 3 tires at each corner. The suspension system of the Si is decidedly stiff, with chunky swaybars and taut springs affording track ready ride firmness and mid corner stability. Few cars at any price provide the instant feedback and unalloyed joy of pushing the Si to the limit.
With such a great package on offer, it’s disappointing to encounter a handful of faults Honda should have corrected long ago. For example, access to the rear seats on this 2 door is decidedly poor. That problem would be tolerable if you could easily slide the front seatbacks forward, then restore them to their prior backrest rake setting. But no, every time you flip the seatback forward to toss something in the back, you must readjust your backrest manually to your preferred setting. This procedure was irritating 26 years ago, when I bought my first Civic Si, and Honda hasn’t done a thing to ameliorate the problem in a quarter century. Also on the quibble list is the absence of an exterior trunk release, which inconveniently forces you to use either the key fob remote button or the under dash release switch to gain access. The final problem concerns the in-dash navigation/entertainment screen which is virtually illegible in daylight because it inexplicably superimposes red letters on a gray background. The navigation’s bit-mapped video display looks more like Pac Man than HDTV.
But are these minor snafus serious enough to deter you from buying this Honda? Not in the least. With the possible exception of the Mazda MX5, there is nothing remotely comparable in sports motoring to the Civic Si for this kind of money. And the Mazda will barely carry two and their toothbrushes, while the Civic is a spacious, practical, everyday conveyance. If you cherish the art of driving, you owe it to yourself to take this Honda for a ripping test drive.
2013 Honda Civic Si
- Engine: 2.4 liter inline 4, DOHC and VTEC
- Horsepower: 201hp
- Torque: 170lb.-ft.
- Fuel Consumption: 22 MPG City/31 MPG Highway
- Price as Tested: $27,805
- Star Rating: 9.5 out of 10 Stars