Mountain Wheels: Honda’s boy-toy Civic Si is an asphalt-ripper (review)
2017 Honda Civic Si Coupe
MSRP Price: $23,900
Powertrain: 205-horsepower 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, six-speed manual transmission
EPA figures: 32 combined (28 city, 38 highway)
I rather facetiously suggested to my online community this week that the 2017 Honda Civic Si might indeed be the absolutely perfect automobile for that 16- or 17-year-old new driver in the family, especially with the greener-than-green neon-colored paint scheme available as an option.
I mean, what could possibly go wrong with one of the most responsive, track-oriented, high-performance vehicles on the market, one that’s marvelously priced at under $24,000?
Ok, I agree — maybe Billy should get an old Taurus for his first years behind the wheel. But when your son (or daughter) is finally earning those not-so-big teenaged bucks and wants to absolutely conquer the cruising circuit, the new Si might be an attainable goal.
The Si branding has been a part of the Honda performance experience since 1985’s CRX Si (Si standing for “Sport Injection,” which you will certainly feel in the seat of your pants when you drive this tiny monster. Over the years, the cars were built on third- through ninth-generation Civic platforms, optimized for performance and impressive handling. Various Si setups have also been successful racing cars on the SCCA circuit.
The 2017 model marks the first time that the storied Si has been powered by a turbocharged engine. They’ve never been explosively overpowered — this is a car designed for absolute maximizing of the resources available, or extensive tuning — but for 2017, the decision to take the new, 10th-generation Civic’s 1.5-liter four-cylinder and punch it up to 205 direct-injected horsepower makes it quite the screamer.
A full wallop of 192 lb.-ft. of torque is available at much lower RPMs than the old 2.4-liter setup from the 2015 model; the 2017’s engine also sees a 31-horsepower advantage to the standard Civic motor.
And while this again will not necessarily cause you to win engagements with Hellcat-powered automobiles (or the nearly 400-horsepower engines in many trucks and premium sedans), there’s something absolutely magical about the way that the Civic Si does its work. The car, assembled in Ontario, is available as a coupe or a four-door version, for the same price ($23,900, plus destination fee).
Minus the mildly obnoxious stuff like the wing and that available Energy Green neon paint job (but certainly complementing the awesome angles, the single rear exhaust port and the beautiful wheels), the new Si is tremendously balanced, fantastically precise in its steering and was probably one of the best performing cars I’ve driven in the last two or three years — in the appropriate setting.
For me, that was the twistiest paved road in the Fort Collins area, with lots of 15-mph corners and massive elevation drops and gains. The little Honda absolutely ripped the asphalt, swooping into the turns and roaring ahead with the poise and capability of a vehicle priced four times as much.
That steering is dreamlike, almost, and the ability to smoothly and intensely careen was so nuanced that I went back and did a stretch of road a second time. Steering is variable ratio and switching to the sport mode adds an additional level of heavier feel to the wheel. Adaptive dampers, stronger stabilizer bars and stiffer springs all become further accentuated in the sport mode.
Stock brakes are sufficient for regular rides but it’s recommended you upgrade if you’re going to be doing a lot of canyoneering, as I did.
It’s also one of few cars nowadays to be equipped with nothing but a six-speed manual, a sporty throwback if ever there was one. It’s also precisely notchy and easy to use, parked at a comfortable height on the center console.
You’ll occasionally have to be mindful of a two-gear drop to maximize the boost while heading into to an uphill stretch or trying to pool your passing power on the highway, but it’s still wonderful to have that choice in an automobile.
Smaller displacement also means better mileage, and Civic Si can still reach into the high-30s when not being driven like a go-kart on steroids.
Inside, it’s cozy but the seating is not painfully rigid or overwrought. Controls are concise and vivid, and a package of track-timing tools and G-force displays in the video instrument panel certainly speak to the car’s capabilities. A standard 450-watt 10-speaker sound system also does wonders, though I found the car’s motorized music just as appealing.
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