Honda Civic Si — Affordable performance

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

If you want fun-to-drive fuel-efficient sporty transportation at a very affordable price, if you enjoy carving up winding roads on the weekend, and if it's important to have a stylish expensive-looking vehicle parked in the driveway Honda has you covered. The Honda Civic Si is one of the most entertaining vehicles in showrooms for under 30 grand, and for 2020 it has been refreshened with styling tweaks, some performance tuning, and the addition of standard safety tech.

The Civic Si makes 205 horsepower from its 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and you would be correct to ask, what's the big deal? But to make a final judgement you must get behind the wheel of a Si with its slick-shifting six-speed manual and marvel at its overall balance, outstanding handling traits, and the willingness of the little engine to keep the driver involved.

The compact Civic comes in six trim levels with the Si at the top — and with the choice of a coupe or sedan giving people who want or need the convenience of four doors and comfortable seating for four adults to buy into the Si, which started life years ago as only a coupe. We wish that with this mid-cycle refresh, Honda would have included the Si trim on the hatchback body style to give buyers even more flexibility.

We think it’s noteworthy that in this age of the vanishing manual transmission, Honda not only considers it a viable alternative, but offers one of the most user-friendly stick shifts on the market. The downside is that the many people who have never used a manual transmission can't experience all the motoring goodness of the Civic Si.

The mid-cycle redesign includes subtle tweaks to the front end and rear bumpers, the inclusion of multi-element LED headlights with a wider and longer beam, and the addition of new standard matte-black 18-inch wheels wrapped in all-season performance tires. On the performance front, Honda has revised the final-drive ratio for more responsive acceleration. And the Honda Sensing safety system is now standard equipment.

Inside, the Civic Si gets updated sport seats with red accents on the seat bottom and seat back, sport pedals and new red trim highlights the instrument panel. The changes compliment interior upgrades made last year that included an updated Display Audio system with physical buttons and a much-needed volume knob replacing a finger slide control, which was difficult to operate while keeping eyes on the road.

While the Si does not have the horsepower to match such competitors as the Volkswagen Golf GTI or the Subaru WRX, the Si projects a sportier persona with a stiffer suspension than the standard Civic, standard adaptive dampers and retuned steering. The Si stays incredibly flat in hard cornering and can be a joy to drive on a winding mountain road keeping the rev band in optimum range as you row up through the gears. Just for the record, don't think the Si is slow — it's been measured at 6.3 seconds from 0-to-60.

A fun driving experience is not the only thing that awaits the owner of a new Civic Si — they can also revel in outstanding gas mileage rated at 26 mpg city, 36 highway and 30 combined in both the sedan and the coupe. There is a downside — higher-priced premium gas is recommended.

Included with the Si are such amenities as dual climate control, heated front seats, 60/40 fold-down rear-seatback, seven-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, and a 10-speaker audio system with satellite radio.

The standard Honda Sensing safety package includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and lane keeping assist, and forward collision warning with automatic braking. Also standard on the Si is Honda's LaneWatch blind-spot camera that projects an image of the passenger side of the car in the center screen. Even though the image is helpful, we don't think it's enough because there is no blindspot warning on the driver side of the car, which we consider more important than the right side.

It seems Honda has come to this realization because it has installed dual standard outside mirror blindspot warnings on a number of its other cars and crossovers.

The Honda Si can be purchased with a load of standard equipment including all the handling and performance bits for a remarkably affordable price of $26,130 including a $930 destination charge. That was the price of our Civic Si sedan test car. There are no options available.

Included is a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile drivetrain warranty and three years or 36,000 miles of free roadside assistance.

Base price: $25,930; as driven, $26,130
Engine: 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 205 @ 5,700 rpm
Torque: 192 foot-pounds @ 2,100 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Drive: front wheels
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 106.3 inches
Length: 182.8 inches
Curb weight: 2,906 pounds
Turning circle: 37.8 feet
Luggage capacity: 14.7 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 12.4 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 26 city, 36 highway, 30 combined
0-60: 6.3 seconds (Car and Driver)
Also consider: Subaru WRX, VW Golf GTI

The Good
• Outstanding overall performance
• Comes in sedan and coupe
• impressive cabin
• Excellent gas mileage

The Bad
• Polarizing styling

The Ugly
• Need standard blindspot monitors