2017 Honda Civic Si new car reviews

The new Honda Civic Si was not built to win the internet. If you’re a hardcore autocrosser, you probably shouldn’t ditch your latest flavor du jour. If you wish that the 4x100mm bolt pattern was still common on all new cars, then this also isn’t for you. This isn’t a Focus RS or a Civic Type R. It’s also not a unicorn–like, turbocharged, stick-shift diesel wagon wearing brown paint from the factory.

Instead, the Civic Si is a car clearly built for the more common enthusiasts driving on normal public roads. It’s through that lens that this latest, all-new Civic Si becomes much, much more appealing.

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Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard

Okay, let’s first do the numbers: 2889 pounds (add 17 more if you want four doors), 205 horsepower, 192 lb.-ft., $23,900 and 38 mpg. Why’d we throw highway fuel economy in there? Because for a sporty daily driver, it’s that impressive.

What do you get for your $23,900? Actually, quite a bit. There are no options available (aside from a $200 set of summer tires), so every Civic Si will be delivered with a six-speed manual, a limited-slip differential, driver-adjustable shocks, a rear wing, a power sunroof, a good stereo with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, automatic climate control, heated seats, keyless entry, fog lights and a leather-wrapped wheel. You’ll get 18-inch alloy wheels and 235- width tires, too. The only choice you’ll have to make is coupe or sedan–sorry, no Si-trim hatchbacks will be sent here.

We started our drive on the Honda Proving Center’s winding road course in the Mojave Desert. This track mixes together flowing corners with some banking and a few manmade hills to roughly approximate a twisty mountain road, albeit one meticulously designed and maintained by the same company that makes robots capable of love. In this context, we were a tad underwhelmed.

The first thing we noticed was the new Si’s engine: Though it produces the same peak horsepower number as the outgoing model, this new turbocharged 1.5-liter engine trades nearly a full liter of extra displacement for a turbo that pumps out 20.3 psi. Also gone: VTEC, signaling the end of an era.

The result of this technology is a ton more torque–192 lb.-ft.–available over a much wider range, 2100-5000 rpm. The outgoing Civic Si didn’t make its 174 lb.-ft. of peak torque until 4400 rpm, with max horsepower sitting by the sidelines until 7000 rpm.

In short, the new Civic Si feels much more like a normal car, and it’s easier to drive, too. No more shifting and hunting for that VTEC wail–the new Civic Si just quietly pushes itself along. It’s not the fastest small car, and it doesn’t sound fast or feel fast, either. It accelerates like a bureaucrat, a helpful one that’s only been working a few years and still wants to impress their boss and get another promotion or two before settling down.

The exhaust is also Si-exclusive, and Honda told us it had a “Sporty Sound and Increased Output.” We’ll have to take their word for it, because we couldn’t really hear it while driving. They did prove their statement with a graph charting interior sound pressure against engine rpm, though neither axis lists its units.

Once we’d gotten up to speed, we pushed the Sport button in hopes of stiffening up the chassis. Oops–it was already enabled.

The new Si has a solenoid on each shock that adjusts the damping force, but we didn’t really notice much of a difference. Sorry, pushing the button doesn’t magically sub in a set of race-valved dampers.

Overall, the Civic Si was too soft on track, though to be fair that’s a complaint any racer would level against almost any mainstream production car. It understeered at the limit, but we found ourselves trail-braking to rotate the car with success. Compared to the standard car, the Si gets a slightly stiffer front spring rate and anti-roll bar (7 percent for each), while the rear is substantially stiffer: 32 percent more spring rate, and a 26 percent stiffer rear anti-roll bar, which explains its ability to rotate when asked.

Power and spring rate aside, we actually quite liked the bones of the car. Gone are the new fluid-filled bushings found on the standard Civic. On the Si they’re replaced with solid rubber pieces.

The variable-rate electric power steering rack gets a bigger motor than on the standard Civic, presumably to cope with the wider wheels and tires. We’re big fans of the new car’s steering feel, and it was one of the few things that reminded us of past models.

The shifter was awesome, too— but you expected to read that in a Honda review, right? We didn’t have any issues with the brakes— also larger than standard Civic parts, but the test track used for the unveil didn’t seem too taxing. (The cars we drove were all fitted with Honda Performance Development brake pads.)

Once we were done with our laps on track, we changed cars and headed out for a driving loop, winding through the Mojave Desert’s craggy mountains. Here, the car shined. The suspension was supple but didn’t fall on its face through the switchbacks, while the torquey engine stopped sucking the life out of the experience and became a helpful companion, there only to keep you twisting through the canyons.

We hit the Sport button a few times, too, but by that point we assumed it was as effective as that crosswalk button at an intersection. Still, we pressed it: When in Rome, right?

Here’s our big takeaway on the Civic Si: This is one of the best daily drivers we’ve ever sampled, and in that context we were thrilled with its performance. It’s why we have owned so many of these over the years. It’s the right mix of performance, practicality, reliability and price. You can’t put a number on it, but that familiar Honda feel is still there, one we have been enjoying for decades.

So, should you buy the sedan or the coupe? Take our advice: Buy the sedan. You get a bigger trunk and much easier access to the back seat, but that’s not the real reason to choose the sedan.

The real reason is simple: People will make fun of you for driving a poky coupe that has a turbo and driver-adjustable shocks but won’t win any autocrosses. But people will commend your practical decision-making skills for driving a slightly sporty sedan that can stiffen itself up a bit during that mountain-road vacation, but won’t ride harshly enough to wake up your sleeping baby, or drone on the highway enough to give your passenger a headache.

Honda hasn’t built a Focus ST beater, a Volkswagen Golf GTI fighter, a Subaru WRX alternative, or a BRZ autocross foe. Instead, they’ve built a less expensive option–something with just enough sporting pretense to tackle the daily commute.

And for those who wish that Honda offered a faster Civic, soon you’ll get your command: The Type R is finally headed our way.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

TL;DR: I want one. There, how’s that for a review?

Full disclosure: I liked the previous Civic Si sedan so much that we bought a new one. It’s been my wife’s daily driver for three years. Trips to the dealership? Zero. Problems? Zero. Complaints? Zero. Okay, one small complaint: It lacks the edginess of our 2000 Civic Si—her previous daily driver—but she does admit that her newer one is more comfortable. Plus the four doors work well in daily life. I like the limited-slip diff. And, I admit, the modern air bags, stability control, and other safety features are good piece of mind. Around here, at least, I watch a lot of people run lights and basically drive like idiots.

The new one just adds on more good stuff—like torque. It’s weird being in a Civic Si that pulls from down low. A B16A this is not.

The unconventional two-tier dash board is also gone. The new one works fine. Happy to see some red/orange around the gauges. Thanks, Honda, for keeping that tradition alive. The electric parking brake is now par for the course. I love the seats. Glad to see that they’re dark, too. That’s one thing about our ’14 that doesn’t thrill us: the red seats. My wife was happy to see that they’re now heated. That’s the one thing she wishes our ’14 had.

Exterior styling? I really like it. I love the Aegean Blue of our test car. It recalls our Electron Blue 2000. I’m digging Honda’s new styling DNA. I don’t think it looks forced. I know that the internet has been critical of the fake bumper vents. Know what? The 2006 Volkswagen GTI also had them. I don’t remember such an uproar. The stance looks right, too, and I don’t feel like it has to be lowered. The center-exit exhaust doesn’t make it faster, but I dig it.

I have been there with the Civic Si since my first days here at the magazine back in 1994. At the time Tim had just finished restoring a 1500S—the predecessor to the Si. An ’86 Si soon followed. And then I had my own ’86 Si. And a ’92 Si. And that’s ’00 Si. And our ’02 Si project car lived with me for a while. And then throw in two second-gen CRXs. All of that leads up to our current ’14 Si.

It’s like the Civic Si has grown up with us. Yes, it’s gotten bigger and heavier—and I’m totally okay with that. Like we said in our initial review, it might be the perfect daily, especially at that price.

Will I trade in our ’14? Haven’t ruled it out.

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mazdeuce MegaDork
5/30/17 2:55 p.m.

I salute them for building a "pedestrian" Civic Si and keeping the LSD. Well done Honda.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/30/17 4:17 p.m.

Yeah, happy to see the limited-slip and manual box remain, too.

Gearheadotaku GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
5/30/17 8:47 p.m.

LSD, 6-speed and a choice of 2 or 4 doors? Why can't everyone do this? Thank you for keeping the small coupe alive!

Datsun310Guy PowerDork
6/1/17 6:01 p.m.

It seems like the new Sentra Nismo is a little bit tamer than the last version - I understand with Honda coming out with the Type R to blow you away so the Civic Si is a little tamer now.

Maybe Nissan is coming out with a Sentra Nismo Spec V 510 version that will blow us away? Nah, that would never happen.

Robbie GRM+ Memberand UberDork
6/1/17 6:16 p.m.

The big question is, will we talk about the CTR in ten years like we talk about the ITR today?

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
6/1/17 7:53 p.m.

Also, I should mention that I'm a long-time Civic Si owner. Right now my wife daily drives our 2014 Civic Si sedan. Before that, a 2000 Si Coupe that bought new. And before that, we had a '92 and an '86. And we lived with our '02 Si project car for a while. Plus we had a pair of CRXs.

Today, I admit, faster options exist. Still, we keep coming back to the Si. For a daily, it's hard to beat. We got our '14 new. Trips to the dealer so far? Zero. I like that.

JeffHarbert GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
6/1/17 8:11 p.m.

Glad that the red paint makes those jowls look smaller.

mazdeuce MegaDork
6/1/17 8:36 p.m.

I just saw an ad on TV for the Ridgeline, Si, and TypeR​!
I don't watch much network TV, but I was surprised.

Datsun310Guy PowerDork
6/1/17 9:59 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens:

I drove a 2011 5-speed Accord for 6 years - 152,000 miles with no problems. I would buy an Si next but I can't 800# of conveyor belt in it like I did in my truck today.

I miss my little 5-speed, 4-cylinder Honda - that little engine just sang.

sjd New Reader
6/1/17 10:10 p.m.
David S. Wallens wrote: Today, I admit, faster options exist. Still, we keep coming back to the Si. For a daily, it's hard to beat. We got our '14 new. Trips to the dealer so far? Zero. I like that.

We have a 2015 Si sedan as well as a 2000 Si and couldn't agree more. In two years with the 2015, we haven't had a single issue either, which is attractive in a daily driver. In Canada it was a lot cheaper than those faster options too.

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