Engine: 2.4-liter inline Four-Cylinder with i-VTEC
Horsepower/Torque: 205hp / 174 lb ft
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Fuel Economy: 22 city/31 highway/25 combined
Layout: Front-wheel drive
Curb Weight: 3002 lbs
Price as Tested: $25,310
By all accounts, the Honda Civic Si is a vehicular dinosaur. The automotive world is moving on. We have CVT transmissions now, and small displacement turbocharged motors, and sophisticated all-wheel drive systems, and…wait a second is that car bright orange?
Yes, it’s Mike and Ike orange, and cops can basically hear it the color is so loud…but I was making a point…something about the advancement of automotive technology? Oh well, it really doesn’t matter, because while the 2015 Honda Civic Si mocks what a modern sporty car has become, it is precisely that fact that makes me bemoan its not-long-for-this-world nature.
I’ll be blunt: I hated the color the moment I saw it. How can a grown man possibly be taken seriously driving such an obtuse looking vehicle? Then I settled into the equally blinding red seats and instantly forgot everything I had been internally harrumphing about.
Let me flash back to 2007 for a moment. I was cross-shopping the Volkswagen GTI with this very car, the Civic Si sedan. At the time, both cars made about the same power: 200 horsepower in the GTI, and 197 hp in the Si, both had smooth-shifting manual transmissions, and both were front-wheel drive. In the end, though the winged Si sedan fit my hooligan character of the time, I opted for the more mature looking, leather-equipped GTI.
I don’t for a moment regret that buying decision, because the ’07 GTI was an absolute blast. Yet, after spending a week with this Civic Si, knowing it’s essentially the same car as its 2007 predecessor, plus a limited-slip differential and eight more horsepower, I am equally convinced I would have enjoyed every moment had I chosen it instead.
In reality, it’s unfair to say the Civic Si hasn’t changed in eight years. It’s significantly better looking that the old car, inside and out; its LSD applies power far better than its predecessor, and the newer 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder delivers smoother, stronger performance. In white or black, the rear spoiler and 18-inch black-trimmed alloy wheels mute the “boy racer” looks, too. I’m not saying you’ll fool any passengers into thinking you don’t drive the absolute pants off your car, but passers-by might grumble a little less at the sight of it.
You can debate the styling of the 2015 Honda Civic Si all day, but here are two truths: 1) if the Civic concept that was revealed at this year’s New York Auto Show is any indicator of how the next-generation will look (hint: it is), then that element of this car won’t be tamed, and 2) once you drive it, it might as well be covered in pink fur, because you won’t give a damn how it looks.
Insert “VTEC just kicked in, yo” joke here. Seriously, the whooshing force of the engine anywhere around 5,000 rpms is like a drug. Sixth gear might as well be a leper, because you don’t want to go near it. The beauty of naturally aspirated Honda motors is this: they beg to be dragged out to the limits of each gear, and you have an eerie peace while doing it. The devil on your shoulder is whispering: “it’s a Honda engine, you can’t kill it”. And you know what? The bastard is right.
But a great motor alone is useless without an equally satisfying gearbox. Again, the Civic Si delivers. The light, direct throws of the shifter paired with good pedal position for easy heel-toe rev-matching make wringing out the four-cylinder routine. If I had one tiny gripe about the gearbox it would be that I wish the throws were a touch shorter. When you’re devoted to using every ounce of the Si’s 205 horsepower, wasting even a fraction of a second changing gears is a no-no.
As good as the engine-tranny combo is, the Si’s crowning feature is it’s handling. Since experiencing what a stock 2000 Jetta could do on the track, I’ve had an appreciation for front-wheel drive cars. Yes, you can’t run insane power to the front wheels without dogged torque-steer, but there’s a sense of confidence that comes from pushing a FWD car to its limits on a circuit.
In the hands of a beginner, front-wheel drive offers an easier recovery when the threshold is exceeded, and at the hands of an expert, lift-off oversteer and rotation are all part of the toolkit. The Civic Si is definitely best of breed in these terms. Turning the traction control system off leaves the limited slip differential fully able to plug power to the wheel with the most grip. The light, but direct steering also means managing torque-steer is easy. The suspension setup is more than capable, though not as stiff as, say, the S2000. You’ll be thankful for that fact while daily driving, believe me.
As for the brakes, have no fear. Even after several runs up and down a rather tight two-mile road, they didn’t show any signs of fade, and braking was progressive, with good pedal feel. The 225 section tires at all four corners also provided levels of grip that perfectly matched the Si’s performance. If you want to exceed the traction, you can, but it’s just as easy to stay within the grip threshold and still get all the power down.
Inside, the Honda Civic Si will never be mistaken for a luxury car, but interior technology is quite good for the price point. The Si comes standard with Bluetooth calling and audio, a backup camera, and Honda’s LaneWatch camera system. My tester was equipped with a 7-inch display audio system with navigation and voice recognition.
Instead of the fabric seats and manual adjustments making the cabin feel like a budget car, the leather-wrapped wheel, slew of USB and HDMI ports, soft-touch materials, and clear gauges left the impression that Honda spent its money on the elements that mattered. Not only were the seats comfortable during longer drives, they were well-bolstered for more aggressive maneuvers. Yes, you’re committed to the red cabin trim regardless of exterior color, but it reminded me of an excited puppy every time I opened the driver door. “Let’s go play”, my anthropomorphic sedan seemed to yip.
I’ve said this before about vehicles I’ve reviewed: it was painful to hand over the keys. But in the past, the sentiment was usually tied to the fact that I could never in a million years afford the borrowed car. In this case, my sorrow over the absence of the 2015 Honda Civic Si in my driveway is that at $25 grand, I could have my own. And while it’s about as mature as celebrity relationships, I would defend that car until the wheels fell off…even if the orange paint was so bright my dog could see it.