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2017 Honda Civic Si: First Drive Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader June 2017

The 2017 Honda Civic Si is a car for aficionados of all things known as "sport compact." Over its previous seven incarnations, the Si model has usually been the speediest Civic -- a nimble, front-drive, affordable ride with a dash of street credibility. The automotive world has its various tribes and the Si (pronounced "ess-eye") has been a darling of the sport compact crowd.

Now we're into the eighth generation of Si, but the 10th generation of Civic. That's a great place to start, because the current Civic is an excellent car, with a body shell that's 25 percent stiffer than its predecessor, bringing benefits in crashworthiness and the ability to tune a chassis with greater accuracy. And this is the first Si to come from the factory with a turbocharger.

Civics Class

The regular Civic's styling tends to have a lot going on and the Si becomes a little busier, with things like larger air intakes and a deeper front lip. Out of the two Si versions, the coupe has a more pronounced rear wing, which may or may not be desirable.

The interior's color scheme is all black with red stitching. Embossed into the front seats are Si badges and the dash has some cabin fiber-effect accents (that reflect light and honestly don't look as classy as carbon fiber should). The plastics are relatively soft to the touch, but they're of a grade that's only one step up from being described as cheap. On the brighter side, aluminum pedals are standard.

The Si has its own dedicated front seat frames for greater lateral support than the regular Civic offers. So they can hold their occupants in place when corners are being taken at enthusiastic speeds. However, they're just as comfortable to sit in for extended periods.

The cabin itself is generally a decent enough place to hang out. A bit of road roar makes itself heard, but it's not likely to deter any sport compact enthusiasts.

Civic Center

The Si is propelled by a turbocharged 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine generating 205 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. This is connected to a 6-speed manual transmission; there's no automatic alternative. But for those who appreciate the involvement and joy of a stick shift, this one has a precise, short action, easily slotting through the gears. It also has a stiffened mounting bracket compared with the regular Civic's setup, in anticipation of quicker and more forceful operation. Which is necessary to get the most of the engine.

Imagine accelerating out of a corner, but then having to drive up an incline. The Si has no turbo lag to speak of, but neither is there much torque to get the car really moving. There's a logical argument for this, since Honda is also bringing over a more extreme version of the Civic, the Type-R, so the Si has to be pitched between that and the mainstream version. But a little extra muscle wouldn't go amiss, especially since the chassis is more than capable of containing and capitalizing on any additional power.

The best way to exploit what torque does exist is to make sure the engine is spinning at more than 2,100 rpm when maximum thrust is required. Fortunately, Honda is a master at making high-revving engines that remain reliable. And easy on gas as well. Fuel consumption is estimated at 28 mpg city, 38 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined. Premium fuel is recommended.

This progressive, predictable and adept chassis is enhanced by a helical limited-slip differential (standard equipment, by the way), which ensures high levels of front-end traction.

Civic Duty

Available as a sedan or coupe, the 2017 Honda Civic Si starts at $24,775 and has a lot of standard equipment, such as 18-in alloy wheels, selectable driving modes (Normal and Sport), adaptive dampers, power sunroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel, keyless entry/ignition, heated front seats, 7-inch touchscreen, rearview camera, g-force meter, lap timer, 10-speaker audio system, satellite/HD radio, Bluetooth and a sport exhaust. The only major option is a set of higher-performance summer tires for $200. Navigation is not available, but the car comes with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, so there should be some app that can help drivers find their way.

If rear passenger space has to be considered, then the sedan can just about accommodate an adult male of average height in the back seat (when someone of the same build is sat in front), with a little clearance before head touches ceiling. Apart from having two fewer doors, the coupe is still welcoming.

Si: Say Yes?

The crucial thing is, would this be preferable over something like a 2017 Volkswagen Golf GTI that comes with 220 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, an automatic transmission option, refined interior, roomy and practical cabin, a sophisticated ride quality, German cachet and it's one of the most well-rounded compact cars on the block? Even if the GTI costs roughly a couple of grand more? That's where the sport compact tribalism kicks in. Some people are just out-and-out Honda fans. For the rest of us, that's a tougher call to make.

 To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Honda Civic Si: First Drive Review - Autotrader