I’ve spent four nights jumping between the Volkswagen GTI and this Civic Si, cars that, arguably, cater to the same demographic and that cost about the same. After all this back and forth, I think I’d take my $22,000 to the VW dealer.
That’s not to say the Honda isn’t enjoyable. After the S2000’s demise last year, the Si is the most enthusiast-oriented model left in Honda’s portfolio. The 8000-rpm redline is insane, and the little four-banger transforms from Jekyll to Hyde around the 6000-rpm mark.
It can be fun, especially if I’m mashing the go pedal — but I’m not always driving with my right foot glued to the floor. But while the GTI just as involving as the Honda when racing over back roads, it feels much more mature. As fun as it is to rev Honda’s four-banger, the GTI’s turbo engine is amazingly smooth and doesn’t need to be thrashed within an inch of its life to get to the meat of the torque band. And personally, I also find the GTI’s cabin a little more sophisticated and accommodating to my husky 5’10” frame, but part of that sensation lies with the powertrain itself.
The Civic Si will certainly appease the boy racer within, but for those who also look for comfort and refinement along with their performance, the GTI gets the nod.
– Evan McCausland, Web Producer
Like my colleagues, from the moment I got behind the wheel of the Civic Si, I started comparing it to our Four Seasons Volkswagen GTI. Despite being a hoot to drive, I would have a hard time choosing a Civic Si over a GTI, or even a Golf, for the sole reason that it has a traditional trunk instead of a hatch. A hatch would greatly expand the Civic’s appeal because of the added versatility that it provides.
– Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor
For a car that’s been out for five years, the Civic Si has very few shortcomings. It’s still an absolute riot to drive thanks to its quick, communicative steering and delightfully smooth gearbox. And that engine. Achieving 200 hp from a four-cylinder isn’t a big deal these days thanks to turbocharging and direct injection, but the Si’s screaming 2.0-liter employs neither, and still makes 197 hp in an inimitably inspiring fashion. To get the most out of it, you have to push the tachometer needle deep into red territory, up to about 8500 rpm. Your reward is a surprising kick in the back and a glorious howl. If the sound doesn’t make you smile or giggle out loud, you’re just not a car person.
Alas, there are areas where the Civic does show its age. Since the compact’s last redesign in 2005, the bar for small-car interiors has been raised considerably. Its hard, shiny dash plastics don’t pass muster anymore. Neither does the ancient navigation system, which at this point is an advertisement for buying a much cheaper portable unit. Honda’s attention to ergonomic detail still wins some points — the tach and speedometer are easy to read, the thickly bolstered seats hold you in place, and the small-diameter steering wheel feels perfect in the hands — but otherwise, the Civic’s cabin ranks behind even the likes of the Kia Forte. New offerings from Chevrolet and Ford this year will likely push it even further down the leader board.
Dynamically, the Si’s main shortcoming is its at-the-limit handling. This became painfully clear when driving the Si back to back with our Four Seasons VW GTI. The Civic understeers where the GTI rotates, and its mechanical limited slip differential isn’t as adept at keeping the inner front wheel from spinning as is the GTI’s electronic setup. Make no mistake, this is still a very nimble car, but it’s no longer the benchmark.
Having said all that, the Si still belongs on the shopping list for anyone looking to buy a sport compact. It may not be as quick as a MazdaSpeed 3 or as refined as the GTI, but there’s something uniquely intoxicating about its high-rpm growl that deserves respectful consideration. I only hope that Honda, whenever it gets around to redesigning the Civic, can bring the Si up to date without ruining what makes it so special.
– David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Sure, the Si is based on the workaday Civic, but the engine does a number on the coupe’s personality. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t leave a traffic light without letting the engine rev up to 5000 rpm. The sound is THAT good. And you really don’t want to stay off the accelerator until at least 6800 rpm, when the sonorous VTEC sounds kick in. Then, suddenly, you want to stay on the throttle like there’s no tomorrow. Inching closer to redline, it doesn’t beg for an upshift, instead it wants more, more, more!
The interior is a dichotomy of comfort and utter infuriation. The seats are wonderfully bolstered, and the steering wheel’s grip is perfect. But that nav system is stupidly slow. The same unit was fitted to Automobile Magazine’s Four Seasons Honda Fit, and, sure, it wasn’t the fastest on the market, but it did its job. This particular unit seemed to take days to respond to simple commands. To safely tune the radio, I had to pull over. Don’t bother with iPod music unless you’ve uploaded all the music you want to hear to one playlist (the smart choice) or have a fortnight to plow through menus and yell at the car (the not-as-smart choice).
I don’t think I would choose the Si as my daily driver, though, given that the GTI is within $3000 of the aging Civic’s price. The Civic Si may have the pulse of a teenager, but it’s no longer the sharpest dresser in homeroom.
– Jeffrey Jablansky, Associate Web Editor
Due to our ranks of VW devotees, no Civic earns much respect at Automobile. Allow me to offer this vote of confidence in the current Si. It’s way sexier to look at, a much better value than the illustrious GTI and — for my money — more entertaining to drive. Versus the slow-spinning turbo four in the GTi, the Si brings two engines to the road party. At 6000 the baton is passed from the perfectly acceptable normal-duty powerplant to the screaming mimi that lives to demonstrate the joys of 8000 rpm. So ask yourself this: do I really want to drive around a box capable of toting my bike or will I be better served by the sleeker, lower, high-revving Civic Si?
– Don Sherman, Technical Editor
The Honda Civic Si might be old, but it is not a car to be dismissed. As my colleagues have said, the engine is a high-revving work of art, and it’s mated to a typically Honda slick-shifting manual. Sure, the interior isn’t particularly refined, but it’s well-constructed and its ergonomics are quite good. Throw in Honda’s well-deserved reputation for reliability and long-term resale value, and the Civic Si still belongs on your shopping list of affordable, high-spirited cars.
– Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
2010 Honda Civic SI Coupe
Base price (with destination): $22,805
Price as tested: $24,805
2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine
6-speed manual transmission
Limited slip differential
Vehicle stability assist
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Tire pressure monitoring system
Leather-wrapped steering wheel
Leather-wrapped shift knob
Aluminum pedal plates
350-watt AM/FM/CD premium audio system
7 speakers with subwoofer
USB/MP3 auxiliary input jack
Tilt/telescoping steering column
One-touch power moonroof
Options on this vehicle:
Navigation system — $2000
XM satellite radio
Steering wheel-mounted audio/cruise/navi controls
Key options not on vehicle:
Summer tire package — $200
Michelin Pilot Exalto PE2 performance tires
8-disc CD changer — $584
Fuel economy: 21/29/24 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Size: 2.0L 16-valve DOHC i-VTEC I-4
Horsepower: 197 hp @ 7800 rpm
Torque: 139 lb-ft @ 6100 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Curb weight: 2895 lbs
17 x 7-inch alloy wheels
215/45R17 Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 all-season tires