This car is fast. Well, it feels fast thanks to the fact that the Si is naturally aspirated versus its turbocharged competition. Power comes on quickly and strongly, twitching the front wheels even with just a meager 201 hp (the second-least powerful in the class, ahead of only the 200-hp VW GTI). Sadly, the four-banger sounds quite unrefined until it is wound up to around 5500 rpm where the VTEC kicks in -- then it sings an addicting tune and surges with power all the way to the 7000 rpm redline.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
As Donny says, this Civic Si feels very quick and makes excellent noises so long as you keep the revs high enough to engage the high-lift cam profiles. The buzzy, quick-revving engine encourages downshifts to keep the i-VTEC light illuminated. Overall, though, the drivetrain is a bit of a mixed bag. On the upside, the clutch and transmission are fantastically smooth and precise, real hallmarks of Honda engineering. On the downside, the engine hangs on to revs when you lift off the throttle to shift, which is annoying and means you tend to slip the clutch too much during quick upshifts.
I like my sport compacts to actually look fun and sporty, so it's disappointing that this Si sedan resembles pretty much any other Civic sedan. Sure, it has new wheels and a trunk-lid spoiler, but that's not really enough to make the Si sedan stand out. But the worst offender overall is the horrid radio interface, a panel of flat plastic with unattractive, extra-large buttons arranged in a counter intuitive layout. The passenger side of the dashboard, too, is a boring expanse of flat plastic that makes the Civic Si feel cheap.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
The proliferation of turbocharged engines to which Donny alludes really does make the Civic Si feel like something of a novelty. It snaps in response to the gas pedal in a way few cars of any size and price do any more. The steering is also nice and sharp, though it's surprisingly numb - the CR-Z I'd driven before this provided much more information. And as always, Honda's manual gearbox sets the standard for how shifts should feel. It's clear from all this that Honda engineers still "get" how to make a driver's car. I only wish they were given more to work with. The reality is that the Civic is no longer the class leader. The interior and the styling trail most competitors. On the performance side of things, the four-cylinder, although responsive, isn't as special or racy feeling as some of its predecessors. Having said that, the Si, especially in sedan form, remains a strong choice for the enthusiast who requires a practical, efficient ride.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
Sorry, Jake, but the Si's staid looks are a selling point for me. I'd rather a car feel, not look, sporty. And though it doesn't feel quite as racy as its predecessors (or a few of its competitors), the Si does drive markedly different from the remainder of the Civic range. Impressive steering, along with a delightful shifter and an engine that comes alive when revved to stratospheric heights, makes driving the Civic Si hard rather enjoyable.
There's an awful lot of vitriol online aimed at the new Civic, and I can't understand why. The car may no longer leapfrog its competitors as it once did, but it's hardly uncompetitive or unworthy of consideration. I'm not a fan of the ho-hum interior and dual-layer dash, but my biggest complaint that the Si's suspension tuning is too soft. Volkswagen's GTI seems to walk the line between sport and comfort just a touch better.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
The new Civic Si feels fast enough from behind the wheel, and it gives off a bit (but only a bit) of a sporty air with its rear spoiler and the "i-VTEC DOHC" emblazoned across the rear doors. The new engine in this Si (a 2.4-liter in place of the old 2.0-liter) isn't quite as rev-happy as the previous engine, with peak power coming on at 7000 rpm. The steering is quite good, and the manual transmission's shifter and clutch are well matched. The interior has nicely contoured seats with attractive upholstery that also adorns the center armrest. However, the steeply raked front glass means that the bottom of the windshield is a long way from the driver, and because of that it creates some bad reflections. By day, you can see the reflections of the vents, and by night the gauges are visible in the glass.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor