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2017 Honda Civic Si First Review

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It’s fair to say the 10th generation Civic has been nothing short of a success on every level–including sales. But for enthusiasts, the best is yet to come. While the imminent arrival of the 306-horsepower Civic Type R continues to grab the lion’s share of headlines, the just-launched Civic Si is the one most likely to win the hearts and minds of those seeking a daily driver that’s born to run but still built to please. We recently drove the Si Coupe and Sedan on a closed course at the newly redone Honda Proving Center of California as well as on a selection of challenging high-desert roadways.

Expanding on the solid foundation of its baseline Civic, the new Si boasts its own selection of performance upgrades that create the most agile and best-handling Si ever. As in the past, the Si package centers on enhancements to the powertrain and suspension but also includes exterior and interior changes with the added benefit of being roughly 100 pounds lighter. 

Exhilaration on demand

Motivation for this eighth-generation Si comes from a high-output 1.5-liter direct-injected turbo 4-cylinder with dual variable cam timing that has been tuned to be more potent as well as more street friendly. While its 205 horsepower only matches that of its naturally aspirated predecessor, this time around that output arrives at a more civilized 5,700 rpm, 1,300 revs lower than before. Even more significant, max torque has been upped from 174 to 192 lb-ft but now peaks at just 2,100 rpm instead of 4,400 revs and holds steady at that level until 5,000 rpm. Backing the engine is a slick-shifting 6-speed manual transmission with short-throw linkage that ships power to the front wheels via a helical limited-slip differential.

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It didn’t take long to discover that combo brings the power up and puts it down in a scintillating manner, virtually lag-free and with sufficient intensity to ensure the new Si always remains an engaging partner. Although the engine requires premium unleaded to fully exploit its muscle, both Si variants earn 28-city/38-highway/32-combined mpg EPA ratings, figures that handily outpace the 22/31/25 stats of the previous generation. With its better power-to-weight ratio, 0-60 mph sprint times for the new Si also should move even closer to the 6.0 second mark.

Two-lane master

The other side of this hot Civic’s performance equation is crisp, confident handling, and here too, Honda stepped up the Si’s game. In addition to a wider track, stiffer springs, more rigid anti-roll bars and solid front/rear bushings, the new Si uses the same stout front upper control arms as the Type R and rolls on 18-inch alloy wheels that can be wrapped in 235/40 all-season tires or like-sized but even stickier “summer” alternative rubber that was fitted to the cars we drove. For the first time, Si spec includes adaptive dampers that offer a choice of Normal and Sport settings, the latter also increases the effort of the Si’s quick (2.11 turns lock to lock) dual-pinion variable-ratio electric power steering and quickens throttle response.

While opting for Sport mode imparts a noticeable edge, we found even the Normal setting does a good job of letting either Si variant carve corners with aplomb. Despite having the typical front-drive weight bias, this Honda displays an exceptional level of balance and predictability, which is further complemented by its larger front and rear brakes that help reduce stopping distances.

Stylishly civilized

The bolder visual cues of the new Si dovetail with its performance flair. Up front, the tasteful revamp brings a gloss black solid wing grille element framed by larger lower air intakes while the Sedan and Coupe each get their own more aggressively rendered and spoiler-bedecked tail treatments as well as a trapezoidal center exhaust outlet. Inside, the cars feature a “cool black” theme highlighted by well-formed, manually adjustable sport buckets covered in cloth and Alcantara with an “Si” logo and red stitching, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel plus aluminum sport pedals. The Si’s digital main instrument cluster gets a unique graphic look for each drive mode as well as bespoke display content that includes a G-meter and lap timer.

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While performance is at the heart of the Civic Si, Honda made sure it also boasts a long list of standard creature features. This includes everything from a tilt/telescoping steering column, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control and a power moonroof to a 450-watt premium audio sound system with a 7.0-inch touchscreen display, dual USB ports, HondaLink and a 60/40 split folding rear seat. While a navigation system is not in the mix, its absence is mitigated by integrated Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and the smartphone-based mapping systems each support.

Prices for the 2017 Honda Civic Si Coupe and Sedan start at $24,775 including destination. The sole factory option of summer tires adds $200 to that figure. Those numbers mean the new Si remains a serious value proposition. And while key rivals like the Ford Focus ST, Subaru Impreza WRX and Volkswagen Golf GTI may boast more absolute power, the new Civic Si makes a strong case for having greater overall appeal.

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