Car Reviews First Drives

2017 Honda Civic Si First Drive: A Return to the Origins of the Si Badge

A track day and a road trip leave us wanting more

A track day and a road trip leave us wanting more

Few badges inspire loyalty like the one that reads Si. From the early days when it was first applied to the late-‘80s CRX, spawning a new generation of enthusiasts and earning our 1988 Import Car of the Year award, to the 1999-2000 Civic Si, a car many consider to be the pinnacle of Honda’s go-a-little-faster carve-a-lot-better cars, the Si-loyal have been treated to and, to this day, openly celebrate the inspiring, sportier versions of the ubiquitous Honda Civic. There are now more than 20 variants of the current Civic before adding the Type R that we will drive soon. Unlike a couple duds in the intervening years, this eighth-generation Civic Si built from the 10th-generation 2017 Honda Civic fulfills its original performance-on-a-budget mission.

Chassis-werks

The Civic Si has never been about winning drag races. First, and compared to its predecessor, the 10th-gen Civic grew in every dimension, and this time, the Civic Si coupe and sedan share the same wheelbase from that foundation. Both are longer, lower, and wider than either coupe or sedan from 2015, yet about 100 pounds (45 kg) lighter. The wheelbase on the Si coupe grew by a whopping 3.1 inches, affording greater stability, and much more interior room. The 2017 Civic Si sedan enjoys a noticeable advantage in front/rear headroom over the coupe. This new platform is also far more rigid and steady than the one it replaces and this contributes to the new Civic Si’s poise and steadiness in a variety of situations. Compared to the garden-variety Civic, the Si has some pretty aggressive suspension tuning that could have made it feel flinty and coarse. Suspension mounts/bushings on the Si are more rigid, anti-roll bars are thicker, springs are stiffer, but the overriding control part of the equation is due to the Si-standard multi-valve adaptive dampers in both cars. They transform the car despite the Civic Hatchback’s identical tire spec at 235/40R18. Yet the difference between ride and handling qualities between normal and sport settings is subtle until you find rough pavement or pitch the car into a fast, sweeping corner. On the road portion of our drive, we discovered that this is suspension tuning done right. Like using a reasonably sharp knife or truly sharp one when cutting a tomato, you don’t notice the differences until you apply pressure and you’re not left with a mushy mess. The 2017 Civic Si is a sharp knife.

When we were treated to hot-as-you-dare winding road laps at Honda’s newly refurbished Proving Center in California’s Mojave desert, we found the limit handling of the Civic Si coupe and Civic Si sedan impressively neutral and very easy to predict, with a slight penchant for understeer – though with a generous amount of trail-braking into a corner, it’s actually pretty easy to walk the rear end out access some useful rotation. This is unusual for most front-drive cars with MacPherson strut-front and multi-link rear suspensions. What’s more is that in sport mode, the non-defeat stability-control system’s envelope is expanded to such a large degree that it almost felt as if it were shut off completely. Only once when piling way too hot into a slow corner did we detect a single brake correction. Although the car’s revised dual-pinion electric-assist power steering offers heft and wiggle in the driver’s hands over irregularities in the pavement, there’s not a lot of tire contact-patch information streaming through the wheel. Nevertheless, there is notable precision and, combined with this car’s predictable chassis, adjusting the car’s line and attitude in a corner is something few similarly equipped cars can do. With the coupe and sedan separated by only 17 pounds according to Honda, there’s a genuine tidiness and wholeness-of-purpose to the way the cars behave and feel when driven in earnest. The new Civic Si really does remind us of the Electron Blue Civic Si coupe we drove in 1999 with its double-wishbone suspension and then-remarkable four-wheel disc brakes – and this car’s mechanical (not brake-actuated) limited-slip differential. The amount of untethered control is made even more acute due to this Si’s similar low stance and eager attitude. Plus the Aegean Blue paint seems to harken back to that special 1999 Civic Si as well. It’s worth noting that Honda chose to install HPD brake pads for our lapping exercises, which suggests the stock pads might not be up to full-day track-day specs. Consider yourself warned.

Motor-werks

Underhood is yet another version of Honda’s now-pervasive 1.5-liter turbo-four, and the only transmission available is a slick 6-speed manual. The clutch pedal, however, is so linear and light that it is difficult to predict the actual bite point where the clutch fully engages. Compared to the Civic EX-T’s 174-hp/167-lb-ft (6MT) version of the same 1,498cc block (or 180 hp/177 lb-ft on the Sport hatch), the Si’s version gets a larger turbocharger, adding 3.8 psi more boost, increased intake and exhaust flow, a recommendation for premium fuel, and a central exhaust tip aft of dual mufflers that sounds appropriately sporty but not obnoxious. Tuned for an output of 205-hp/192 lb-ft, the best quality of the engine is the linearity and consistency of the torque curve – especially compared to a 2015 Civic Si’s 162-lb-ft peak. And without a response-dulling continuously variable automatic transmission, starting at 2,100 rpm and up to 5,000 rpm, the constant shove of torque is what you feel on the way to the horsepower peak at 5,700 rpm. Thank turbocharging for that, which is a first for a Civic Si. With a 6,500-rpm redline, short-shifting at just under 6,000 rpm is the way to get the most performance from the turbo. Despite these output increases, fuel economy remains excellent at 28/38 mpg (8.4/6.2 L/100km) city/highway mpg compared to the EX-T’s 31/42 mpg (7.6/5.6 L/100km) EPA estimates.

What’ll the Civic Si (6MT) do in a 0-60 mph run? We’ll find out soon with an upcoming loan, but for now, it’s safe to say it should handily beat the less powerful, but slightly lighter Civic Hatchback Sport’s disappointing 7.5-second performance. It’ll be lucky to get a 6.5-second time. It also has some tough competition in the following:

2017 Honda Civic Si Competitor Performance
Year Make Model (transmission) 0-60 1/4-mile @ mph
2015 Ford Focus ST (6MT) 6.3 14.8 @ 94.3
2015 Mini Hardtop Cooper S (6MT) 6.6 14.9 @ 93.5
2015 Subaru WRX (6MT) 5.5 14.0 @ 98.1
2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI (6MT) 6.1 14.6 @ 99.7
2014 Honda Civic Si (6MT) 6.5 15.0 @ 93.5
2013 Honda Civic Si (6MT) 6.1 14.6 @ 95.6
2012 Honda Civic Si (6MT) 6.1 14.7 @ 95.7
2009 Honda Civic Si (6MT) 6.6 15.0 @ 94.0
2007 Honda Civic Si (6MT) 6.3 14.8 @ 94.8
2006 Honda Civic Si (6MT) 6.3 14.9 @ 94.7
2002 Honda Civic Si (5M) 7.6 15.8 @ 88.1
1999 Honda Civic Si (5M) 7.2 15.7 @ 88.4

 

Bang for the Buck?

What’s undeniable is the value that’s built into the 2017 Honda Civic Si. For $24,775 USD, regardless of coupe or sedan body style, you get all of that inherent Si-chassis goodness and high-output engine plus Si-specific sport front seats (which are very good), performance meters (e.g. percent throttle/brakes, boost gauge, shift lights, 4-direction g-meter, and self-actuated lap timer), red accent lighting and stitching, and sport pedals. Black is the only interior color available. Also standard (identical to the Civic EX-T) are a sunroof, 450-watt premium audio system with 10 Speakers (including subwoofer), satellite radio, HD Radio, Bluetooth telephone connection with streaming audio, Android Auto/Apple CarPlay compatibility, heated front seats, dual-zone auto climate control, intelligent key, fog lights, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The only option, besides a slew of accessories, are summer tires, a must at $200 USD). There’s also one Civic Si coupe-exclusive color, Energy Green Pearl. Unfortunately, Honda Sensing (adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, etc.) is not available on the Civic Si. LaneWatch (a passenger-side mirror-mounted camera actuated with the left-turn signal) is standard. Also standard are a rearview camera, auto up/down front windows, cruise control, 1.0- and 1.5-amp USB ports, a 7.0-inch display with high-res electrostatic touch-screen, SMS text message functionality, HondaLink, and 60/40 split-fold rear seats.

The added performance dynamic confidence over the otherwise feature-comparable Honda Civic EX-T (6MT) comes at a mere $2,300 USD premium. This is a classic no-brainer upgrade in our book. Our time in the 2017 Honda Civic Si coupe and sedan left us wanting more. One multi-lap track session and 100-mile (161-km) road trip wasn’t enough. As we said earlier, we’ll soon have an example at Motor Trend HQ and will take it to the track for a proper flogging to determine if it, indeed, earns the Si badge. Until then, however, our first impression is a very good one that indicates Honda put the A-team on the Civic Si’s dynamics team, even if the automaker recognizes that the car is a niche within the already runaway success that is the 10th-generation Civic.

2017 Honda Civic Si
BASE PRICE $24,775
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 2-/4-door coupe/sedan
ENGINE 1.5L/205-hp/192-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual
CURB WEIGHT 2,900 lb (mfr)
WHEELBASE 106.3 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 177.4-182.8 x 70.8 x 54.7-55.5 in
0-60 MPH 6.5 sec (MT est)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 28/38/32 mpg (est)
ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY 120/89 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.61 lb/mile (est)
ON SALE IN U.S. Now