There are many ways to determine whether a car that is claimed to be sporty lives up to the promise. Take it out on a track, put it on a dyno, examine the upgraded components and a perfectly academic answer will be found . While these methods are tried and true, I prefer a simpler approach, one that in my mind leaves no room for debate. When I’m given the opportunity to drive a car that aspires to stir the hearts and minds of the automotive enthusiast community I seek an answer to a singular question, do I want to drive it just for the sake of driving?
You’d be surprised how many cars failed to have me answer in the affirmative. I’ve had some serious hardware in my garage over the years and not all of it has had me dragging myself out of bed at an ungodly hour to head up to the canyons. So it was a bit of a surprise, much to my delight, that I found myself so happy to rise with the birds and get out for a drive in the 2017 Honda Civic Si coupe.
Having already spent some time with the new Civic in hatchback form I had high expectations for the new Civic Si. An excellent platform is the core of the new Civic and on top of that lies an interior that is drastically improved over the previous generation. For buyers to opt in on an Si over the regular Civic it I figured it would have to offer a noticeable improvement in personality, because the hardware alone couldn’t possibly make that much of a difference. Again, I was pleasantly surprised to find that wasn’t the case, although I wasn’t entirely wrong.
In coupe form the Civic Si does possess a great deal of character, especially when wearing Energy Green Pearl as was the case with my loaner. A surprisingly decent amount of flake can be found in the bright green paint which gives it depth in various lighting conditions and really accents the many sharp angles of the new body. The color certainly amplified my awareness that I was driving around in a Civic with a giant wing and an exhaust outlet that looks as though it were pulled off an industrial strength Hoover; but over the course of my time with it, I came to enjoy the ridiculousness of it all. While I’d certainly opt for Aegean Blue Metallic that is reminiscent of the “Si Blue” (Electron Blue) of my adolescence, I know there are plenty of folks out there who enjoy head turning exterior colors, especially in the import tuner scene.
With shouty paint and aggressive styling going for the hard sell on the outside, I set out on some of my favorite roads to see if what was underneath lived up to the visual hype. The 1.5 liter motor is the same unit that was in the Civic Sport I drove, save for a larger turbocharger that ups the horsepower from 174 to 205 and torque from 167 to 192. While these are not jaw dropping numbers, they’re immediately noticeable when hustling the Si, especially the extra torque as it is available from 2,100 rpm to 5,000 rpm. No more waiting for “VTEC to kick in yo”, that meaty torque band is there to play with all the time. This translates to less time spent shifting and more time spent soaking up all the feedback coming through the steering wheel. It’s worth mentioning that when gear changes are necessary, they’re as enjoyable as ever thanks to a superb short shift box that is just the right amount of notchy and a classically styled round leather knob atop the lever.
During stretches of spirited driving, deep thumb notches at 9 and 3 kept my hands happy on the wheel while the variable ratio rack delivered the aforementioned piles of information. There are far more expensive cars that aim to deliver an engaging driving experience and miss because they don’t have steering this communicative. It’s a damn good thing the Si allows you to chase it’s limits; and when you find them, you know right away.
Credit is most certainly due to that dual-pinion, electrically assisted system, but adaptive dampers that firm up in SPORT mode and all around stiffer suspension components are essential to the equation too. I drove the absolute piss out of this thing and only on 3 occasions did it fail to comply with my wishes. A certain friend of mine ,who is no slouch behind the wheel, can attest to the validity of that claim as he followed me in an M235i during my early morning asphalt assault. It takes a lot of effort to trip up the Si and induce understeer in a corner, quite an accomplishment for any front-wheel-drive car, let alone one that starts at just $24,100.
Ah yes, value, that which usually makes or breaks the deal. With Honda it is typically make, though in recent years they’ve been known to stumble on occasion. The new Si is by no means perfect, the exhaust note (when you can hear it) is lackluster and there’s a whole lot of black plastic on the exterior masquerading as “styling” that I’d prefer to be banished from existence on all vehicles in perpetuity. You can have any color interior you want, so long as it is black and there’s no factory nav system, just Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity. Those are my only nits with the Si.
On top of everything else that I’ve already touched upon with regard to performance driving, the Si is also just a great daily. The seats are well bolstered yet comfortable for long stretches of normal operation, the 450 watt sound-system offers legitimate clarity vs just being plain ‘ol loud, and some brave passengers confirmed my suspicion that the backseat isn’t so bad after all. As I see it the Civic Si offers the best of both worlds to anyone with a desire to regularly enjoy some spirited driving and not have the daily slog be a total bore. It’s good enough to pull you out of bed early in the morning, or off the couch late at night, just for the sake of running through the gears. And honestly, what more can we ask of our cars that that?