By: Mike Ginsca
The Honda Civic Si takes a drastic change for the 2017 model year. No more high revving naturally aspirated engine. No more lightweight chassis. No more VTEC. So is the Civic Si ruined? Not really…
Engine – In a world of more fuel conscious and polar bear friendly auto companies, Honda has decided to reduce the size of the Civic Si’s engine from a 2.4L in the previous generation to a 1.5L. But now it is turbocharged and produces the same horsepower figure as the last, 205hp. The big change with the new engine is the torque which increases from 174 lb-ft to 192 lb-ft. However the peak torque figure, like most turbocharged engines, is available from 2,100 to 5,000 rpm which makes the Civic Si more usable in day to day city traffic. When you’re not on city roads, the engine feels eager to rev and sometimes you find yourself bouncing off the rev limiter as the 6,500 rpm redline arrives very quickly. But the engine feels like one from a decade ago, as in, it has a lot of turbo lag. It’s very noticeable at low rpms but less so at higher rpms however it’s still there.
Transmission – A 6-speed manual is the only transmission offered with the Honda Civic Si. The gear ratios are short to better utilize the engine’s powerband and this does result in an approximately 3,000 rpm engine operating range when on a highway. The shifter has short throws and feels mechanical in operation and not so “fake” as other modern mainstream cars. The clutch however is too light and has almost no feel as to where the engagement is. It will take some time to learn how to shift smoothly between gears without any jerking. Also not aiding in smooth shifts is the engine which has the tendency to hold it’s rpms for a split second as you take your foot off the throttle pedal.
Braking – The Civic Si has nearly an inch bigger brake discs over the standard Honda Civic. The brakes do a good job of bringing the 1341 kg body to a stop with good pedal feel. Hill start and automatic brake hold are standard features but a traditional handbrake rather than an electronic handbrake would be preferred in a car such as this one.
Handling – In addition to bigger brakes the Civic Si has a lot of stiffened suspension parts over the standard Civic Touring. As a result, the Civic Si is a joy to drive quickly on a twisty back road. Despite being the heaviest Si to date, the engine pulls the car out of corners with ease. Aiding is a mechanical limited slip differential that does a very good job of taming torque steer and wheelspin. Actually let me rephrase that… wheelspin is still present in 1st and 2nd gears when the roads are wet and when the car is equipped with less grippy winter tires such as this test vehicle.
The steering is precise but it provides little feedback to the driver. This is unfortunately a characteristic of most electro-assisted steering systems and setting the car into “Sport” mode just makes it feel heavier but still fake feeling.
Ride Comfort – This being a sports car, the ride is noticeably stiffer than the normal Honda Civic but it’s not uncomfortable. Even driving the Civic Si in “Sport” mode, which stiffens the dampers, is still comfortable enough for most on city streets. The front bolstered seats provide good support around corners and enough cushioning for long drives but no lumbar support. The rear seats are also comfortable but have no side to side support so if you have 3 friends in the back and you’re driving quickly around corners, they’ll be complaining.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – For the most part, the 2017 Honda Civic Si is quiet both in a city and on a highway. When accelerating from a stop, the exhaust can be heard in the cabin (as it should be in a sports car) but at higher rpms, the engine sounds just like any other turbocharged 4 cylinder. It doesn’t have any unique noise to it and not to mention no step in VTEC because there is none. The heavier steering aids in highway stability and driving over rough roads does not produce any squeaks or rattles in the interior trim.
Interior Design – First thing’s first, no volume knob. The interior of the Civic Si remains relatively unchanged from the standard Civic. The only giveaways that this is an Si are the bolstered seats with “Si” stitching and the fake carbon fiber trim on the dashboard. Everything else remains the same from the centrally mounted tachometer to the infotainment screen with physical buttons for the climate control.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – The infotainment system is the same as the one found in the normal Civic but with maybe slightly faster response time. Heated seats and LED headlights are standard features on the Si but things like lane departure warning, blind zone monitor, heated steering wheel, and radar guided cruise control are not available on the Si. One small mention regarding the backup camera… it is useless in the rain. Water droplets form on the lens and completely distort or obscure the vision.
Exterior Design – Unlike it’s bigger brother, the Civic Type-R, the Civic Si has subdued styling. There are a couple of badges on the outside to let people know that this is not an ordinary Civic and there’s a larger spoiler in the back with a uniquely shaped exhaust. Apart from that, the Civic Si could be mistaken for any other Civic.
In the end, giving the Honda Civic Si a small 1.5L turbocharged engine has disappointed fans of the old Si and its high revving engine. But it’s still a good and practical car that you can have fun with. And for just $1,000 CAD more than the Touring trim, you get a slick shifting 6-speed manual, limited slip differential, 205hp, and adaptive dampers. It should be an easy choice for buyers.
Thank you to Honda Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Honda.ca
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.