No question, the 2015 Honda Civic Si is fun to drive. The boy-racer aesthetics aren’t for everybody, but the Si’s performance, value and livability make it a rare find among compact family sedans.
The Si is the top gasoline-powered car in the Civic lineup; the EX-L with leather and an automatic is $250 less than the base Si’s $23,090. The Si stays true to its sporting heritage by coming only with a six-speed manual shifter. The Si coupe is $200 cheaper than the sedan, making each door worth $100.
The Si is sporty while some others make efficiency a uniformly top priority. For instance the Chevy Cruze has an Eco and Diesel but no SS. The Toyota Corolla has a 1.8-liter, 132-horsepower engine in even its more serious-looking S trim, and it’s there mostly to get the mileage figures up.
Balls to that, says the Si’s 2.4-liter i-VTEC engine with its 205 horses under the hood. We’ve known and loved Honda’s high-revving VTEC system since the ’90s, and it just keeps getting better. This one was docile up until about 4500 rpm and then transitioned into a full battle cry up to the 7000-rpm redline.
It’s easy to find yourself comfortably over the speed limit, because the Si fairly begs for you to rev it, and the boomy exhaust just underlines your adventures. At 31 mpg highway, the Si concedes six mpg to the Corolla’s 37, but that seems like a worthy trade-off for the 72 extra (and eager) horses.
Of course, the Civic Si isn’t the only sporty compact. The Mitsubishi Lancer GT’s 168-hp puts it in the ring but at the outer edges. High on everyone’s list is the Mazda3, but its larger 184-hp engine is 18 hp short.
So the two likeliest alternates to the Civic are the 210-hp Volkswagen GTI/GLI and 252-hp Ford Focus ST. The GLI is $3,830 pricier, and the similarly-priced Focus has a track-star’s harsh ride.
There’s a bit more texture to the VW’s and Ford’s driving experiences – a little more tickle in the steering and a little more feedback overall. The Si compensates with firm steering feel and a suspension that dips hard once and takes a set; there are few surprises with the Si, and getting it to understeer means your passenger has probably already said that you were going too damn fast anyway.
Now’s a good time to mention the typically wonderful Honda shifter. It needs just a flick to do its job.
Inside, the Civic Si is typical Civic with a colorful edge. Red stitching and inserts accent seats with deep side bolsters that help you feel clamped in. Visibility is aided by a relatively low cowl line.
The rear seat is typical Civic in being short on headroom – its 36.2-inch measurement is about an inch less than the Corolla and nearly two inches less than the Focus. You feel it if you’re over six feet tall; I’m six-one and had to tip my head forward to fit. Nice that the split-folding seatback incorporates a fold-down center armrest, and over-the-shoulder visibility is better than most.
The Civic’s two-tiered instrument has grown on us, with an emphasis on the horizontal easing the video-game aspect of the displays. Even though it’s two levels, its relative lowness makes it unimposing.
The seven-inch center screen is big and clear, but it unfortunately continues Honda’s move away from even one single control knob. The gamble here is that you’re probably using the steering-wheel controls anyway, but it feels silly to have to press and hold for volume.
So is the Si for you? Depends. The Focus ST whomps the Si with power and handling to spare, but it also rides with a much harder edge. It’s also a little more serious, where the Si is little more silly, as its rear wing would indicate.
Of course there’s an answer to the Si’s extroversion in the Acura ILX, the six-speed manual version of which is basically an Si in a business suit. The ILX weighs about 25 pounds less, which is interesting – usually you’d think the more luxurious one would be larded up. If you want a manual ILX, get one now, because the freshened 2016 ILX deletes it in favor of an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic.
The Si continues as a reliable option in the dwindling manual-transmission sports sedan market. If you’re in this price range and think you might like it, you owe yourself a drive.
2014 Honda Civic Si Sedan With Navigation
Base Price: $24,490
Price as Tested: $25,310
Destination Charge: $820
Powerful i-VTEC engine
Knobless center screen