Return of the Boy Racer
The Civic is easily Honda’s most popular nameplate. It is one of the best-selling economy sedans of all time and a worldwide icon. Since its debut in 1973, Honda has sold nearly 9-million Civics in the United States alone.
The first Civic Si premiered in United States in 1985. The Si has always been geared toward those who wish to own a reliable, Japanese economy vehicle with additional performance and driving enjoyment.
The Si version of the Civic differs from the standard Civic in many ways. Not only does it look sleeker, it also has a more powerful motor and sport-tuned suspension.
For 2012 the Civic Si is all new and continues that same economical performance legacy into the next decade. Since last year’s model, Honda has given the 2012 Si a new motor, new chassis, and new looks all around. The 2012 Si is available in both coupe and sedan versions.
The Si Gets Angry
To the untrained eye, the new Si doesn’t look significantly different from the previous generation. Deceptively, however, quite a few things have been tweaked for 2012.
The new Si body is the most aerodynamic Honda has ever offered in the breed, which means it’s more fuel-efficient. Not only does it cut through the air more easily, it’s also much more aggressive looking. Honda widened the front fascia-including the grille and the headlights-and made the bodylines more angular. Though they don’t share many of the same outward body components, the coupe and the sedan are the same underneath and only differ in wheelbase and overall length by a few inches.
The interior of the Si also differs from that of the standard Civic. In the Si, Honda has added special firmly bolstered sport seats that hold your body better in the corners. Unique to the Si as well are the interior color scheme, perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel, and textured aluminum pedals. It all works together to remind the driver he’s driving a specially built sports machine.
Honda claims their new interior has segment-leading style and convenience. Certainly, the 2012 Si is roomier and more tech-centric than its predecessor. Carried over from the previous incarnation is the heads-up speedometer, which allow drivers to monitor road speed without taking their eyes off the road. New interior features include a Sequential Rev-limit Indicator and a Power Monitor integrated into a new screen that Honda is calling the i-MID.
The i-MID is designed to give the driver more information and replicate a smartphone experience. The i-MID will display radio and other media information, paired cell phone phonebooks, and performance data. The i-MID is customizable and drivers can even upload custom background images.
Next to the i-MID on the dash is the new Sequential Rev-limit Indicator, which is essentially a rudimentary heads-up tachometer. Amber lights light up from left to right as the engine revs increase and when the engine hits peak power, the lights shift to red.
The Power Monitor, which is a screen within the i-MID unique to the Si, is also another way to track engine power output. At any given point, the Power Monitor will show you the percentage of peak power being utilized at that moment.
Like every Honda before it, interior build quality and materials are impeccable. Though visually spare, interior technological amenities are surprisingly abundant and easily accessed through the touch-screen navigation system. Honda brilliantly integrates interior features without suffering from a cluttered dash or an interior choked with buttons and knobs. The interior is simple, yet tastefully laid out.
The New Powertrain
Big news to Honda enthusiasts is the upgrade from the previous Si 2-liter inline four-cylinder engine to the 2.4-liter, which can also be found in other Honda models including the CR-V. For years, Honda enthusiasts had been swapping out their stock motors for the 2.4-liter. Now, Honda has done it for them at the factory.
The 2.4-liter engine in the 2012 Si produces 201 horsepower (up 4 horsepower from the previous model) and 170 lb-ft of torque. Up, too, is fuel economy. The EPA estimated fuel economy for the 2012 Si is 22 in the city and 31 on the highway with a combined miles-per-gallon rating of 25.
Bolted to the 2.4-liter are a six-speed manual transmission and a limited slip sequential differential, ensuring engine efficiency and power delivery.
Honda goes its own way in the motoring world. While other manufacturers move toward direct injection, Honda is content to find efficiencies in other areas. Proving Honda is a company still heavily driven by engineering. Sadly, this fact is the root cause of the biggest downfall of the Si: it’s too calculated.
The Si is a better car on paper than it is during real world use. Though surprisingly quick in a straight line (especially in the higher RPMs), the Si falls short during spirited driving on curvy roads. Unfortunately, under steer gets the best of the Si and the driver quickly loses confidence. And though more throaty than the standard Civic, the engine and exhaust notes of the Si are surprisingly buzzy.
On the plus side, just about everything else on the Si works well. The clutch is delightfully light and the transmission shifts smoothly. Hands-free Bluetooth is easy to set up, as is the navigation system. The stereo is strong and has a good punch to it. By and large, it’s a great little car. It just lacks the pocket-rocket soul of its predecessors.
The 2012 Civic Si is competitively priced between $22,000-24,000. For the money you get a peppy little vehicle with impressive reliability. Civics also hold their value extremely well so should you ever decide to sell your Si, you won’t take a huge financial hit.
If this were the standard Civic, it would be outstanding. But since it’s the Si version, we hold it to a higher standard. And though it’s pretty good, it’s not great. It drives with ease, it’s good to look at, but ultimately it’s a sewing machine in a rocket ship outfit. It’s fun, useful and easy to operate but it lacks the pure excitement we were hoping for.