From the October 2009 issue of Automobile Magazine
by Amy Skogstrom
, Don Sherman, Eric Tingwall, Rusty Blackwell
Photographs by: Andrew Trahan
I envy the lucky kids who are fortunate enough to own one of these cars, and not just because they're several decades younger than this old codger. In terms of safe and enjoyable speed, there is no finer ride than a Honda with a capital S somewhere in its name. You get a wild engine that revs to the stars, a shifter/clutch combo that's a joy to exercise, and a stylish yet functional interior and exterior. Consumption of precious natural resources and environmental impact are both modest in every version of the Honda Civic. The only detail I'd change is a location swap between the speedometer and the tachometer to give the rev counter the top billing it deserves. The $25,000 price for a new Si is a bit steep for my budget, but overall this is the perfect reward for model children of any age.
Don Sherman, Technical Editor
This gearbox is an absolute blast! Sure, it's not quite as visceral as the one in the S2000 CR that we recently enjoyed, but this most muscular Civic is a more practical, economical choice that's still quite fun to drive. The Si is a great second fiddle to that aspirational S2000 roadster, and since the venerable Dodge Neon SRT4 is dead, I think I'd choose the Si over its sport-compact competitors from Chevy, Mazda, and Dodge.
Like the S2000, the Si also boasts almost turbolike VTEC hotness that's hard to resist. I was similarly impressed by the Si's very strong exhaust note, which I don't recall from previous Si's that I've driven. I remember those cars as having more darty steering, too, although this car's rack still feels a bit busy on the highway. The driver's seat is more comfortable than before as well. (I drove a Civic Si coupe to southeastern Ohio for our All-Stars gathering in late 2005, and I had a sore back when I finally pulled into the Holiday Inn.)
Personally, I prefer the appearance and functionality of the Civic Si sedan to this coupe, but I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of rear-seat space in this low-slung two-door.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Honda calls the Civic Si the "hot rod" of the Honda lineup. While I wouldn't go that far, I will say that, with its high-revving in line four-cylinder and slick six-speed manual transmission, the Civic Si is entertaining to drive, as it's always eager to dive into corners and sprint away from a stop. Inside, the seats are firmly bolstered for when you take that corner a little too quickly, and the cockpit is well designed, both with regards to ergonomics and with the quality and fit of the materials. And to top it all off, the Si is practical, with 60/40-split folding rear seats that help provide extra cargo. Of course, you have to pay a pretty hefty premium over a base Civic, but the enjoyment factor should account for something when you're toting up the return on your investment.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
It takes a special mindset to really turn on the fun in the Civic Si. Running the engine to the 8000-rpm redline is hardly a natural action. Sure, the 2.0-liter is smooth and quick to rev, but you certainly feel like you're calling a lot of attention to yourself (especially in a bright red car) with your foot planted for so long as the howling engine announces your juvenile maturity to anyone within a half-mile.
Then there's the matter of keeping the revs in the powerband. With other sport compacts you're typically playing at 4000 rpm as you whip down a curvy road. In this Civic, you'll want to make that 6000 rpm to stay on top of the VTEC power boost. It's a totally different driving experience, but it sure is rewarding when you keep the revs at the top of the tach.
The Si also shines for its tag-team steering and handling duo. The wheel effort is fairly light, but in a tribute to the S2000, dialing in a steering input always places the car right where you expect. Turn-in is shockingly quick, and the car remains composed and balanced at all speeds up to the limit. This light and nimble package provides some of the best front-wheel-drive cornering you can find.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
2009 Honda Civic Si Coupe
Base Price (with destination): $24,815
Price as tested: $24,815
21 / 29 / 24 mpg
Size: 2.0L DOHC I-4
Horsepower: 197 hp @ 7800 rpm
Torque: 139 lb-ft @ 6100 rpm
Weight: 2899 lb
17 x 8.5 in aluminum wheels
215/45 high performance tires
Competitors: Chevy Cobalt SS, Dodge Caliber SRT4, Mazdaspeed3