The Road Beat Archive, January 27, 2020
A tiger, or is it just a domestic feline?
Words and pictures by Larry Weitzman
Let’s get one thing straight, all Honda Civics are “super” cars. All Civics get the fabulous 1.5L turbo charged DOHC, 16 valve engine with a minimum of 174 hp. That’s a lot of moxie for cars that weigh 3,000 pounds or less. The Si is Civic’s super “super” car with a six-speed manual (only, no auto available) and 205 hp at a low 5,700 rpm. Honda didn’t even stop at the Si as they also make an ultra-super, “super” car, the SR, with 306 hp. After you finish with this Road Beat, you will able to imagine what the SR can do.
Back to the phenomenal Si. First about the only differentiation from the rest of the Civics, including the fantastic Hatch Sport version which stickers for a shade over $21 large, is some badging and a blacked-out grille. There have been some external enhancements, like new LED headlight assemblies which look fabulous and turn night into day. This Si was done in a (Ferrari like) red. If you want to be seen from five miles away or are extremely safety conscious, this is your color. People with 20/400 vision will see this car from a good distance. Ok, enough about the color.
Being made in the four-door, it is about half a foot longer than the coupe version (dimensions are 183X71X56 inches LXWXH) and the interior is almost big enough to qualify as a mid-size vehicle (just 0.3 cubic feet short on volume).
This Civic Si is about driving fun, and I would have to give it a fun quotient on the 10 scale of about 12. Civics look quick standing still. Their design is sleek and slick with a strong, edgy character line giving it some shape and muscle, with strong wheel wells and shoulders. It is the best looking Civic ever, even though the grille might over power the rest of the design, at least in the SI, it’s done in black.
It has a spectacular powertrain, its 205-horsepower mill (at a low 5,700 rpm) plus a massive 192 pounds of twist from a low of 2,100 rpm to 5,000 rpm. At 5,700 rpm it is still pounding out 189 pounds of twist, demonstrating almost no fall off or loss of cylinder efficiency at peak hp meaning it’s still pulling like a freight train right to its red line of 6,500 rpm where a rev limiter abruptly interrupts the fun. At max boost the turbo is pumping out 20.3 psi. It drives the front wheels through a six-speed manual cog-swapper via a limited slip differential. If rockin’ is what the Civic does then it’s theme would be Mississippi Queen by Mountain.
One of the changes to make the Si even a bit quicker for 2020 is a six percent higher numerical final drive ratio which quickens the accel while shortening the gears. Zero to 60 mph arrives now in just 5.82 seconds. A level simulated pass from 50-70 mph happens in just 2.87 seconds and a six percent grade only slows that number to 3.87 seconds. Turbo lag isn’t, but it takes about 2,000 rpm before it begins to boil and by five grand things get nuclear. In normal driving 1,200 rpm will be ok in the first three gears and add about 500 rpm for each of the next three gears for reasonable performance. Twaddle along in sixth gear at 1,500 and moderately accelerate away without downshifting is routine.
Cog-swapping is a hot knife through warm butter. Clutch? What clutch, barely necessary. I usually split shifts because of the torquey engine going first, second, fourth and sixth, mostly sans clutch.
Remember, gearing is shorter than the last Si test two years ago. The prior Si recorded 6.20/3.02/3.92 seconds. The new gearing makes a difference, but not in its actual fuel economy.
Diving the Si hard is guilt free. The EPA rates the Civic Si at 26/36/30 mpg city/highway/combined, down by 2 mpg in each category. However, in real world numbers they are almost identical. The Civic Si returned 41.4 mpg in a two-way run on a level highway at a constant 70 mph which is identical to my prior Si Road Beat. Overall in extremely aggressive driving for about 300 miles, the Civic averaged 31.8 mpg including the performance testing. I told you this Si is absolutely guiltless. I could probably do 40 hard laps at Thunderhill Raceway and still have enough fuel to make it home (150 miles). Rpm is 2,800 at70 mph which is 200 Rpm more than my last Si.
And what an absolute blast this Si would be at Thunderhill. Si stands for Simply Incredible. It has all the creds, super quick, variable ratio electric rack and pinion steering (2.11 turns lock to lock), low profile, fat summer high performance tires (235/40X18), fat anti-roll bars at both ends, state of the art independent suspension with adaptive damping, huge disc brakes, adaptive dampers and real sport tuning to give it an edge, true sports car feel, agility and ability. It simply follows your commands and inputs perfectly with no vices, twitches or missteps. It is water through a proverbial hose that just doesn’t want to let go in the twisties, all the time maintaining a flat attitude. Fabulously fun. Weighing 2,906 pounds helps too.
Ride quality won’t impress your grandmother. It sits low so getting grandma in the car, never mind out of the car might be a problem. The ride is firm and tire noise is an issue on rough or coarse roads. The body is solid and while compliant in the bumps, it is firm and only reasonably quiet on smooth asphalt. Let’s leave it at that.
There is no compromise in safety with most of all the basic acronyms. In another model year upgrade, Honda Sensing is now standards meaning it even has Lane Keep Assist and Road Departure Mitigation. But Civic, in addition, has that wonderful side view camera when making right turns. I love that feature. Headlights are fabulous, with excellent width and depth.
Inside is a quality interior with Si exclusive buckets that are perfect for aggressive driving or the long haul. While they are heated, they are not power but have a height adjustment. All appointments are first quality and the instrumentation is complete. A huge centered tach surrounds a digital speedo and info center. The center stack does its job and functions are now becoming second nature.
Now here is the deal, this sports rig stickers for the bargain price of $25,000 plus $930 for the truck/train from Alliston, Ontario Assembly plant. My tester was the HPT with costs $200 more, HPT meaning high performance tires. There are, as with most Hondas, no options, $26,130 is the deal. It’s quick and its fun, with no guilt, either in acquisition or gas consumption. Kudos to Honda and in Red (Honda is known as “Big Red”) everyone within five miles will see you coming and mostly going.
Engine: 1.5L turbocharged, direct injected, DOHC, 16 valve inline four cylinder 205 hp @ 5,700 rpm
192 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2,100-5,000 rpm
Redline 6,500 rpm
Fuel requirement: regular unleaded
Transmission: Six speed manual
Configuration: Transverse mounted front engine/front wheel drive
Wheelbase 106.3 inches
Length 182.8 inches
Width 70.8 inches
Height 55.5 inches
Track (f/r) 60.5/61.2 inches
Weight distribution (f/r) 60/40
Fuel capacity 12.39 gallons
Trunk capacity 14.7 cubic feet
Passenger volume 95.0 cubic feet
Wheels 18X7.5 inch alloys
Steering lock to lock 2.11 turns
Turning circle 37.8 feet
0-60 mph 5.82 seconds
50-70 mph 2.87 seconds
50-70 mph up a 6-7 % grade 3.87 seconds
Top speed 150 mph easy
Fuel economy EPA rated at 26/36/30 mpg city/highway/combined. Expect 32 mpg overall and 41 plus mpg on the highway at legal speeds.