The sportiest Honda Civic you can buy, of course, is the Type R — a stripped-down, track-oriented, 306-horsepower hot hatchback. The S, in contrast, is the sportier Civic — slotting between that bewinged sports car and the standard model. Unlike the Type R, the Si is a sedan or coupe, not a hatch; it puts out 101 fewer horsepower; and the styling is markedly less turnt. Most importantly, it also costs around $11,000 less than the Type R.
Honda gave the Civic Si a facelift for the 2020 model year, but it does not alter much: tweaked bumpers, LED lights, more driving assistant tech and a shorter final drive ratio to improve acceleration a bit. But in this case, minimal substantive changes are a good thing. For a hair above $25,000, Honda may have the best value driver’s car on the market, undercutting both the Volkswagen GTI and the Mazda MX-5 Miata on price — and those minor tweaks only add to the value.
The Civic Si is fun to drive — sometimes too fun.
Look, your jaw won’t smack against the tabletop when I tell you about the Civic Si’s potent 1.5-liter four-pot that delivers 205 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. But, as with the Toyota 86/Subaru BRZ, power output isn’t everything. The Civic Si amps up the fun parts of driving. It has a short-throw six-speed manual; plus, the engine makes a lot of the right kind of noises, and comes to life higher in the rev range. The Civic Si begs you to hoon it around like some sort of reprobate.
The only drawback to the Civic Si is there’s no chill mode. You have to be engaged and ready to run, even when you just forgot to buy coffee and need to make an early-morning Starbucks run.
The Civic Si is refined.
Like the Volkswagen Golf, the Civic stands out from the compact shitboxes in its price range by feeling better-made than it should for the price. The original Civic was a great concept, and Honda’s since spent decades perfecting it. It’s an impressively solid all-around car — and an excellent base to tweak for a performance car.
Every little detail with the Civic Si feels spot-on. Nothing feels like a sacrifice. It corners with aplomb, and has perfectly weighted steering. Even with its lowered sport suspension, it weathered rutted late-winter Detroit roads without jarring impacts. The sport seats were supportive, and the cabin sealed out a good chunk of road noise. Honda even threw some grippy high-performance summer tires on my tester (admittedly, a bold choice for Michigan in March).
The Civic Si is still practical.
Life changed drastically during my early-March week with the Civic Si. As the world juddered to a halt around me, I was forced to use the car for practical matters I hadn’t anticipated — like shopping for weeks’ worth of groceries in a single trip. Yet, in a performance that would shame many similar-sized crossovers, the Civic Si’s capacious trunk handled everything without me having to bash up items by cramming them in — or supplement the cargo capacity by using the back seat.
While a hatchback option for the Civic Si would be cool, I don’t think you need one for it to be a fully-functional everyday family car. (That said, you may still want your partner to drive a CR-V — y’know, for relaxed road trips.)
Price as Tested: $26,130
Drivetrain: Turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-four, six-speed manual, front-wheel-drive
Power: 205 hp, 192 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 26 city, 36 highway
Honda provided this product for review.
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