I'm tentatively in the "dislike" camp on the Si's new engine. The old 2.0-liter was clearly descended from Honda's late-'90s golden age of performance, its insanely high, 8000-rpm redline recalling the S2000 and the Acura Integra Type-R. Alas, both those cars are long dead, so when Honda wanted a new engine for the Si, it had to look to the much more pedestrian Honda Accord. The new 2.4-liter is not a bad engine -- it's smooth and wonderfully torquey, significantly improving the Si's around-town drivability. The 7000 rpm redline is pretty darn impressive for a long-stroke four-banger. Put this engine in any other car (like an Accord), and I'd probably have only the kindest things to say about it. But in the Si, it leaves me longing for the lusty, exotic note of the old engine. The personality change is exacerbated by the fact that, as Jake notes, first gear is too short. It's also spaced too widely from second gear, such that even when you shift right at redline, there's a moment's lag in acceleration.
All this doesn't extinguish my love for the Si. It still has a fabulous gearbox (though the gas and brake pedals are a bit too far apart for my feet), quick and communicative steering, and a well-tuned chassis. However, its effervescent personality, which once put it higher on my list than the Volkswagen GTI and Mazda 3, has been dulled enough that I would no longer recommend it over those competitors.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
If the rev-happy engine is the totem of the previous Civic Si's youthful spirit, then consider me an old codger. I wasn't a fan of it, particularly since it tended to thrash and howl, especially when pushed into the stratosphere of its rev band.
Whereas Zenlea doesn't like the mature demeanor of the new car's 2.4-liter, I actually prefer it. Unless you push the new four until the VTEC tell-tale lights up, engine noise is surprisingly well-suppressed and relegated to the background.
This may clash with the boy-racer image long associated with the Si, but it's more what I like in pocket-rocket compacts. High-strung hijinks are fun and all, but the ability to drive in a docile fashion around town without buzzing your fillings out is certainly a plus.
Apart from the powertrain, it's hard to point out exactly what differs between this Si and the last one. Civic redesigns have apparently transformed from revolutionary to evolutionary affairs, and the 2012 model bears more than a passing resemblance to its predecessor both inside and out. Pity Honda didn't ditch the awkward two-tiered dashboard. In fact, Honda only increased my confusion by adding an additional LCD screen in the upper level - but it primarily serves as a redundant display for the audio system.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor