MOJAVE, California — With Southern California’s high cost of living, we often find ourselves on the hunt for value. Take for example the interesting trend of converting shipping containers to modern dwelling spaces, Central American vacations, or even picking up a “like new” book for the cost of a latte on Amazon. The 2017 Honda Civic Si fits neatly into this value-hunting mindset. The first turbocharged Civic Si has a wonderful powertrain and is loaded with appealing components and trim, all for the stunning low price of $24,775, including delivery charges.
No trend itself, the Si made its debut with the third-generation Civic series in 1985. We’re now enjoying the 10th generation. While enthusiasts can argue what’s the best Si among them, our test at the Honda Proving Center in California’s Mojave Desert — and on highways surrounding Kern County — acquainted us with as well-balanced and pleasurable a front-drive car as any we’ve driven.
The Si uses an enhanced version of the turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine from several other Civic models. With variable-valve timing and a relatively high 10.3:1 compression ratio (premium fuel recommended), the four produces 205 hp (up from 174 hp in most other models) and 192 lb-ft of torque (from 167 lb-ft). The torque peak arrives as early as 2,100 rpm, which explains why our driving coach, IMSA Weather Tech SportsCar Championship competitor Ryan Lewis, swatted our hand away from the leather-wrapped shift knob. “Just leave it in fourth,” he said.
We whooshed around HPC’s 1.9-mile handling course in an Energy Green Si coupe. Freshly paved as part of the facility’s rejuvenation, the course simulates a crowned, winding road. Contending with a fast sweeping bend, tricky decreasing radius turn, and either of two blind crests, the Si featured the new chassis’ superb roll stiffness. Meanwhile, the exclusive suspension with adaptive dampers imposed a kind of martial law on body motions. Combined with sharp steering that put the nose right on the apex cone, it was adrenaline aplenty.
We say that whooshed because of the faint wind rush at the roofline along with screeching from the optional Goodyear Eagle F1 tires. The exhaust note was muted — too much so. Honda wanted to make the new Civic transcend the compact segment in looks and driving experience. They’ve succeeded so well, the Si goes altogether placidly about its business. A little howling never hurt anybody, you know.
Taking to the highways after lunch in a Rallye Red sedan, we found the Si to be a feisty contender, easily capable of overtaking in sixth. We worked the six-speed manual transmission (the only gearbox offered in the Si), felt the standard limited-slip differential’s bite, and marked the discernible change between normal and sport driving modes.
The Si also delivered a fine touring experience. We could hardly have asked for more comfort or better visibility while also enjoying The Loft on Sirius XM via the 450-watt, 10-speaker system.
Both body styles ride on a 106.3-inch wheelbase but have notable dimensional differences. The coupe measures 177.4 inches long, 54.7 inches high, and 70.8 inches wide. The sedan is 182.8 inches long, 55.5 inches high, and the same 70.8 inches wide. The sedan tips the scales at 2,906 pounds, and the coupe weighs 17 pounds less. The shorter coupe is slightly more nose-heavy with a weight distribution of 61/39 percent compared to the sedan’s 60/40 percent.
Whether coupe or sedan, you know you’re looking at a Civic Si because of the glossy black grille and theatrical aero package. The ghastly front air intakes and rear extractors are for appearance more than function. There’s also a stinger-type exhaust outlet. The conventional interior layout is nicely executed in black with red accents, a leather-wrapped wheel, and the first heated front seats to be included in an Si. The well-bolstered seats are faultless. Selecting sport mode changes the 7-inch TFT display, presenting an “ambient meter” to indicate redline. And no sport model these days would dare show up at track day without performance meters, which here let the driver choose options such as a G-Meter and lap timer. While the dashboard’s tablet screen does audio and climate functions, navigation isn’t available in the Si.
Honda doesn’t publish numbers, but we estimate the Civic Si to be capable of dashing from 0 to 60 mph in a bit more than 6.0 seconds and hitting a top speed close to 130 mph. Racy people will swoon at the sight of ready-to-go parts already available from Honda Performance Development. Among those displayed during our preview, we noted HPD’s more robust limited-slip differential and slotted brake rotors. Honda even has a body-in-white program that will have Civics at the head of the pack on tracks nationwide.
We loved the 2017 Civic Hatchback Sport so much, we named it a 2017 All-Star. Now we find ourselves awed by the Civic Si, with more power and torque and overall perfect execution of its specialness. It will get 38 mpg on the highway, delivering you to your destination in total comfort, yet it has an inner coyote that tears off at the sight of a rabbit. This latest Civic Si adds new luster to Honda’s reputation for miraculous product development. You’ll love it as much as we do, and the best news is that you can afford it.
2017 Honda Civic Si Specifications
|PRICE||$24,775/$24,995 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||1.5L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/205 hp @ 5,700 rpm, 192 lb-ft @ 2,100-5,000 rpm|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, FWD coupe/sedan|
|EPA MILEAGE||28/38 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||177.4-182.8 x 70.8 x 54.7-55.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.2 sec|
|TOP SPEED||130 mph|