by Gabe Beita Kiser
Compact sedans don't come much better than the Civic Si. With practicality, a wealth of standard features, and, most importantly for us car enthusiasts, a fun drive, little offers as much bang for your buck as the Civic Si. Sure, there are sportier compact alternatives, like the ultra-focused and garish Civic Type R or the Subaru WRX, but at a starting price of just $25,000, few can come close to offering the value and thrills that this car does. Powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-pot, the Civic Si sedan sends 205 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels, and with a short-ratio six-speed manual as the only offering, Honda's commitment to the #SaveTheManual movement is a laudable choice by the Japanese giant.
Despite a nominal price increase of just $735, the Si has received a number of updates for the 2020 model year. A redesigned front bumper with a new grille is complemented by LED headlights and fogs, while the rear bumper has also been tweaked. Blacked-out 18-inch wheels are also new, and inside, a number of red accents have been added across the cluster and other focal points. The seats have also got more red to tie them in closer to the Type R and reaffirm the Si's sporty side. Also new is a bevy of driver aids that fall under the Honda Sensing umbrella. Finally, the final drive ratio has been shortened to improve acceleration. This has worsened fuel economy slightly, dropping figures by two mpg across the board.
The Civic Si sedan gets new bumpers for 2020, the rear of which is updated very subtly. In addition, matte black 18-inch wheels are now standard, with more aggressive pinstriped 18s optional and larger 19-inch wheels available at an extra cost. LED headlights, fogs, and taillights add more modernity, while a body-colored fixed trunk spoiler is a nod to the car's performance aspirations. A standard sunroof is also included. Those who find the outgoing 2019 Type R too comical will appreciate the Si's restrained aggression.
The Si is a relatively lightweight car, particularly when compared to the all-wheel-drive Subaru WRX which weighs 3,294 lbs compared to the Civic Si's curb weight of 2,906 lbs. That said, the Si is a little heavier than a regular base Civic, which only weighs 2,762lbs. Despite its trunk, the Si is still compact in size, measuring 182.8 inches from bumper to bumper with a wheelbase of just 106.3 inches. Height is 55.5 inches, 0.2 inches lower than a regular Civic, while the width is a slim 70.8.
The Civic Si comes with just one powertrain configuration and it's a good one. A turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder sends 205 hp and 192 lb-ft to the front wheels via a six-speed manual. If you see an Si on the road, the owner is likely a keen driver, as no CVT is available with this model. The 2019 model managed the sprint from 0-60 mph in a spritely 6.6 seconds, but thanks to a shorter final drive, Honda says that the 2020 model should accelerate a little better overall on its way to a top speed of around 137 mph. Although it lacks the blistering shove-you-into-your-seat power and acceleration of the Type R, this is a car intended to be fun to drive, and you won't find yourself wishing for more power when trying to overtake on the freeway.
With a helical limited-slip differential controlling output to the front wheels, and adaptive damping as standard, the Civic Si sedan is a joyful machine. The harder you drive, the stiffer the shock absorbers become, offering more confidence and allowing you to push harder. While the steering lacks the outright quickness of the Type R, this Si was launched at the Circuit of the Americas, showing that Honda is supremely confident of its abilities. As you'd expect with a front-wheel-drive car, pushing too hard will eventually lead to predictable understeer, but it is easily manageable. A nifty feature that may get irritating, is a perfectly timed beep from the car 200 rpm before you run into the redline and the electronic management cuts fuelling, which means that you needn't look down at the cluster to gauge when you need to shift. If that becomes annoying or you learn the car well enough to do without it, Honda has mercifully made it possible to deactivate this feature in the settings. On the road, the adaptive dampers again show their worth, offering a firm but compliant ride and soaking up bumps and undulations without too much impact on comfort. A well-rounded package, then.
Thanks to the re-tuned transmission that improves acceleration through a shorter final drive, the 2020 Civic Si is slightly less economical in all environments by two mpg compared to the 2019 model. Even so, that means a respectable 26/36/30 mpg on the EPA's city/highway/combined cycles and an average mixed-driving range of around 371.7 miles between 12.39-gallon fill-ups of gasoline. By comparison, the manual Volkswagen Jetta GLI, another relatively low-cost performance-enhanced sedan, manages 25/33/28 mpg, with the auto faring 1 mpg worse on the freeway.
With five seats, the Civic Si sedan is a practical option for families, but if taller individuals are housed in the rear, it's best to keep that number down to four occupants in total. The sloping roofline compromises entry and exit for said lofty individuals and slightly impacts legroom, but not so much as to make drives unbearable or claustrophobic. Legroom is similarly admirable and the overall feeling from the cabin is one of roominess.
The Civic Si sedan's trunk is a respectable 14.7 cubic feet in volume, enough for four to five full-size suitcases; but for those who decided against an SUV in lieu of this sedan, the seats do fold in a 60/40 split for more capacity when required.
In the cabin, small-item storage is well catered for, with numerous bins and large door pockets allowing for easy placement of pocket contents. A pair of medium cupholders is fitted to both the fore and aft of the cabin too, so no complaints from the kids after a drive-through at the local Wendy's.
If you want to spend extra on options, your baller status is going to take a knock here. Honda knows what kind of practical person buys their cars and has looked after these individuals with an extensive list of standard features, including heated front seats, push-button start, heated mirrors, a sunroof, dual-zone climate control, hill-start assist, and a multi-angle rearview camera with dynamic guidelines. If you do want to spend a little extra, wireless charging is a $300 option. In terms of driver aids, Honda Sensing is standard, offering adaptive cruise control with a low-speed following function, automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, and automatic high beams. Not everything works perfectly, though, as the automatic braking can be a little over-zealous and thus negatively impact your ability to make smooth stops. However, this can be turned off with the press of a button.
Honda is one of the few companies that listens to its customers and quickly finds a solution when a design or manufacturing issue is discovered. One of the past gripes with their infotainment system was the absence of a physical volume knob - but that has since been rectified, making it much easier to adjust volume without deviating one's gaze from the road ahead. Alternatively, you can let the speed-sensitive volume adjustment do its thing automatically. The factory-fitted seven-inch touchscreen display also manages an improved smartphone connectivity experience with updated Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. SiriusXM and HD Radio are standard along with Bluetooth, all of which broadcast music through an impressive ten-speaker sound system.
No recalls have yet been issued for the 2020 Honda Civic Si sedan, and the 2019 model was also trouble-free in this regard. 2018 models, however, did suffer three recalls, but with no recent issues, the Civic Si has matured beyond its early teething issues. J.D. Power has also scored the car with 82/100 points for quality and reliability. When the chickens come home to roost, Honda covers the Civic Si with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/50,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The Civic Si sedan scored an impressive five stars out of five in each of the NHTSA's side and rollover tests, and four for frontal evaluations. The car scored the best possible score of Good from the IIHS in their overall evaluation too. The forward-collision mitigation system on this car also got the best possible score of Superior from the IIHS. Standard safety equipment includes a multi-angle rearview camera, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, auto high beams, hill-start assist, and dual front- and side-impact airbags as well as curtain airbags. Instead of a blind-spot monitoring system, the Civic Si features a blind-spot camera, but this is less intuitive to use than a conventional system as images are projected onto the central infotainment screen.
One could be forgiven for thinking that the Civic Si is a watered-down way to sell slower versions of the Type R, but the Civic Si is proving itself to be a competent performer as a quick, fun, and more civilized all-rounder. The Si doesn't have the wealth of power and deftness that the Type R does, but that just makes it all the more approachable and perhaps even more enjoyable as a car that you can use every day and still enjoy. It's a sharp-shifting, nimble, and capable performer that has an effervescence to its power delivery that allows you to enjoy using more of the rev range, more of the time. Coupled with its impressive fuel economy, a wide array of standard features, and a very competitive price, it's an attractive choice. Add in the fact that it's both comfortable and practical, and you have to ask what more you could want from a car in this segment. It's just brilliant.
The Civic Si sedan is affordably priced, starting at just $25,000 before its $930 destination charge and other fees. You can spec wireless charging and bigger wheels too, but the Civic Si is almost fully loaded from the factory. Add in the aforementioned options, summer tires, and some HFP badges and spoilers with the Honda Factory Performance package and it's still difficult to make the Civic Si exceed $30,000. Compare that to the base Subaru WRX's starting price before options of $27,495, and the plucky Honda makes an outstanding case for itself as a forerunner for a fun and practical family sedan.
1.5-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
Whichever of the six available colors you choose, none costs extra, but we're quite fond of Rallye Red, which matches the interior accents. With a nearly fully loaded spec list as standard, the only issue one might have is with the fabric interior. If leather is a must for you and you don't care too much for performance, we'd suggest looking at the EX-L or Touring versions of the regular Civic. If you're happy with cloth upholstery and like a bit of zing from your Civic, add wireless charging and 19-inch wheels to your Si for a more aggressive look and summer tires for a bit more fun in the corners. All in, that adds less than $3,000 worth of options and your Civic Si will cost $27,280 before destination and other charges. For a fun and easy-to-live-with sedan, that's hard to beat.
While Honda fanboys wait with bated breath for the fastest lawnmower yet in the 2020 Civic Type R, the 2019 version has set the brand's performance bar high. Fitted with a 306 hp 2.0-liter turbo and numerous enhancements under the skin to make it handle like it's on rails, the current Type R has already cemented its name in history as one of the greats in hot hatch culture. Much like the Si, it too is fitted with a six-speed manual only and sends power to the front wheels alone. However, with a base price of $36,595, it's not the cheapest. Factor in the ridiculously over-the-top styling and wings sprouting from all corners and one can't help but think that if it were an alien spaceship, the occupants would not be coming in peace. While this makes it appeal to a select few, almost no one can argue that it's a phenomenal performance car. However, all of this comes with a glaring caveat - it's not the kind of car that flies under the radar, and for that reason, we'd rather have the Si. It's more approachable, more economical, and less expensive. For the average individual, the Civic Si does everything you need it to with just enough flamboyance to be special, and not a nuisance.
If you want a fun sedan, the Civic Si and WRX are both a blast to drive in their own way, but with undeniable rally heritage and an unmistakable exhaust note - plus permanent symmetrical all-wheel-drive - the Subaru has a distinct reputation for speed and accessible performance. With 268 hp and 258 lb-ft, the WRX is undoubtedly a much faster alternative. However, the trade-off is considerably worse fuel economy. It's also heavier which makes it a little less chuckable at low speeds. Its interior isn't going to win any awards for design or ever be mistaken for that of a Mercedes either, and with a 12 cubic-foot trunk, it's a bit less practical than the Honda. On the plus side, every drive in the Subaru feels like an occasion, and its outstanding all-wheel-drive system inspires confidence no matter the conditions. Yes, it costs more than the Civic and has its foibles, but as a practical and engaging drive that has real power and most importantly, character while still offering usable practicality, its capabilities edge many of those in the Civic Si.