by Roger Biermann
With no Civic Type R sedan, the Civic Si Sedan forms the top performance echelon of the four-door compact performance sedan segment. Taking the already exemplary and class-leading Civic Sedan as a base, the Si upgrades the suspension, equips a limited slip differential, bumps up the power to 205 horsepower from the 1.5-liter turbocharged engine, and crucially equips a driver-involving six-speed manual gearbox, all while keeping the price tag below $25,000. But it sacrifices none of the practicality lost in the Coupe, and comes style with a little more subtlety, which places it in good stead against its chief rival, the new VW Jetta GLI. The Civic Si represents affordable performance, something lost somewhere along the line, but bear in mind that in achieving that affordability, items like the Honda Sensing driver assistance systems had to be overlooked.
In the changeover to the 2019 model year, Honda has kept the changes to the Civic Si Sedan to a minimum. But what changes have been made will be noticed and lauded by those who experienced the old model, with larger front cupholders, and crucially, physical controls for the infotainment and climate control systems, including the addition of a traditional volume knob and fan-speed buttons. The steering wheel controls have been revised to be more intuitive, while the electronic parking brake switch has been redesigned. The Si Sedan also gets a new exterior color choice of Platinum White Pearl for 2019.
It’s all about the driver
One of the best front-wheel drive chasses
Six-speed manual gearbox is a joy to row
Spacious, high-quality interior
Great performance at a bargain price
Engaging chassis begs for more power
No Honda Sensing driver assistance features
Updated infotainment is unintuitive
Sport bucket seats don’t accommodate broader drivers
The Honda Civic Si Sedan receives many of the same styling attributes as the Coupe, like a pronounced trunk spoiler, 18-inch machine-finished alloy wheels, underbody spoilers, and Si badging. The HFP package equips additional underbody spoilers and 19-inch alloy wheels along with HFP badging. Other highlights include halogen projector headlights, LED-integrated taillights, a central exhaust outlet, and a power sunroof. Platinum White Pearl represents a new addition to the color palette for 2019.
Riding on the same 106.3-inch wheelbase as the Civic Si Coupe and all other Civic variants, the Si Sedan measures 5.5-inches longer than the Coupe at 182.8 inches and 0.8 inches taller at 55.5 inches. But it still rides 0.2-inches lower than non-Si variants courtesy of a dropped suspension, while riding on 18-inch alloys as standard. Being larger, the Si Sedan is also marginally heavier than the Coupe with a curb weight of 2,906 lbs.
The Civic Si Sedan is the fastest Civic sedan available in the absence of a Type R sedan, deriving 205 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque from a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Like all other Civics, the Si Sedan is front-wheel drive, with power routed via a six-speed manual transmission. With the extra power and a limited slip differential to put the power down, 0-60 mph takes a little more than six seconds on its way to a 137 mph top speed. The powertrain is robust, and the manual gearshift is slick, but the Civic Si ultimately feels underpowered for its chassis - testament to the chassis engineering rather than an indictment on lack of power.
Power increase and styling upgrades aside, the Civic Si Sedan’s crowning jewels are the upgrades made to the chassis. A lowered suspension with adaptive dampers and two driving modes turns the standard Civic’s chassis into something truly magical. The addition of a limited slip differential further improves the offering, sharpening up handling dynamics and improving turn-in and mid-corner power delivery. There’s an abundance of grip, particularly when equipped with the HFP packages summer tires, rivaling hot hatches through corners, while the Civic Si feels light on its feet. Turn-in is quick and the revised suspension setup gives added feedback through the steering wheel.
Despite the additional performance, the Civic Si Sedan still rides with the excellent road manners and composure of the standard Civic sedan, filtering out bumps and undulations and responding well over changing surfaces and cambers.
Gas mileage estimates according to the EPA are 28/38/32 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles for the Civic Si Sedan, matching the Coupe’s figures. Buyers can expect a range of 396 miles on a 12.39-gallon tank of fuel, but if you want the full 205 hp on offer then you’ll need to top up with premium gasoline. However, drive the Si like it begs to be driven and you won’t come close to achieving those estimates.
It’s not all performance without practicality as the Civic Si Sedan pairs high-quality materials with easy access and an abundance of passenger room. The bulk of the additional body length over the Coupe goes towards rear legroom, while the sedan body shape ensures generous headroom. In the rear seats, there’s genuine room for adults with seating capacity overall at a total of five. Sports seats are exclusive to the Si, upholstered in black and gray combination cloth with red contrast stitching.
The Civic Si boasts one of the largest trunks in the compact segment, verging on midsize with its 14.7 cubic feet of volume, but due to the center exhaust, the Si’s trunk is smaller than the standard Civic Sedan. The rear seats fold in a 60/40 split to increase storage volume further, but with space for two large suitcases in the trunk, it’s unlikely you’ll need the extra space often.
The cabin itself features numerous storage bins, including a large cubby underneath the center armrest, a decently sized glove box, and front door pockets capable of holding most water bottles. For 2019, the front cupholders have been enlarged, adding further practicality to the Civic Si Sedan’s interior.
Interior features offer the basic luxuries with dual-zone climate control, a reverse camera, a power tilt-and-slide sunroof, heated front seats, LaneWatch blind spot monitoring camera, adaptive cruise control, tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel adjustment, and push-button start. Much of the standard Civic’s advanced features are sacrificed here in favor of performance at a budget price.
The Civic Si Sedan boasts a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with AM/FM/SiriusXM/HD radio functionality, Bluetooth connectivity, and full Android Auto/Apple CarPlay functionality. The setup has been updated for 2019 with a volume knob and physical controls to make it easier to use, while a ten-speaker sound system includes a subwoofer. The addition of physical controls improves usability, but the system is still one of the least intuitive in the compact segment.
The current Honda Civic, including the Si Sedan, has been recalled a couple of times. The most serious recall pertained to the 2017-2018 year models which had a magnet potentially come loose from the power steering system, causing problems with vehicle control, while lesser recalls included the lack of an owner’s manual in the vehicle. J.D. Power scored the Civic Si Sedan 77 out of 100 on its overall reliability rating scale, matching the Coupe’s above average reliability. Honda covers the Civic Si Sedan with three-year/36,000-mile limited vehicle and five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranties.
The IIHS has not tested the Civic Si Sedan, but scored the standard sedan highly with best available scores of Good in most metrics. However, it’s worth noting the Civic Si Sedan doesn’t get the standard model’s Honda Sensing features. The NHTSA scored the Civic Si Sedan five out of five stars overall. Standard safety features include a reverse camera, LaneWatch blind spot camera, and six airbags: dual front airbags, front side airbags, and side curtain airbags.
With all the performance upgrades equipped to the Civic Si Coupe and less of the garish styling the Civic Si Sedan seems like the perfect performance sedan on a budget, and truth be told, there’s little to fault it on. It pairs an athletic chassis with phenomenal handling attributes without compromising on the plush ride comfort of a regular Civic. But it does this all with the added practicality of a full-size trunk, two rear doors, and space for six-foot adults in the rear with ample headroom and legroom. Where it falters is in the compromise it takes to achieve an affordable price tag - paring back on safety features standard across the rest of the Civic range. It also lacks an intuitive infotainment system, although the addition of physical controls for 2019 makes the system far easier to use. These may be negatives for a regular commuter-compact, but the Si moniker exists to satiate one desire - affordable performance for the layman - and the Civic Si Sedan gives us the most engaging driver’s sedan this side of $30,000.
With just a single trim and matching specifications to the Si Coupe, the Civic Si Sedan matches its two-door counterpart on price with a base MSRP of $24,300 before tax, registration, licensing, and a $920 destination charge. Dealers are responsible for their own prices and the prices paid by buyers do vary, so it pays to look around as you may find a couple of great deals lurking. The Honda Factory Performance (HFP) package will cost an extra $3,999 adding summer tires, black 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive damper tuning, and extra underbody spoilers for additional sportiness.
Honda makes this an easy decision by only offering the Si in one take-it-or-leave-it trim with a limited number of additional extras to equip. For the money, you’ll get a 205-hp turbocharged engine, a six-speed manual, enhanced sports suspension, limited slip differential, and exterior styling upgrades. You get sporty interior cloth upholstery and heated sport bucket seats, dual-zone climate control, power windows, a power sunroof, reverse camera, automatic headlights, and a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with SiriusXM, HD radio, and full Android Auto/Apple CarPlay functionality. Safety is enhanced by Honda’s LaneWatch blind spot camera.
Volkswagen has finally given us a full performance version of the Jetta with the new Jetta GLI. It equips Golf GTI running gear in a sedan body, but also the fairly sedate styling rather than the Civic Si’s overwrought wings and vents. The GTI running gear means it’s got more power and displacement than the Civic with an extra 23 horsepower and 66 lb-ft. Performance is swifter in the Jetta, too. But the Civic Si has a more exciting chassis, greater levels of driver engagement, and more grip. Both are equally composed in regular driving, but the Civic feels more alive when pressed. In terms of interiors, both seat five in relative spaciousness, but the Jetta’s interior is more upscale, offers better amenities such as leather seating surfaces, and has a more intuitive infotainment system. Pricing for the Jetta GLI starts off at $1,695 more than the Civic Si Sedan, but for what you get that’s arguably a bargain. Objectively, the Jetta is a better commuter, but as a performance sedan, the Civic Si makes you feel infinitely more heroic behind the wheel. Pick your poison, both are brilliant in their own right.
There aren’t many compact performance sedans currently on sale - hot hatches find favor in this segment - so if you’re in the market your budget may need to stretch to the Subaru WRX’s $27,195 base MSRP, nearly $3,000 more than the sticker price of a Civic Si. The Subaru gives you an additional 63 horsepower and 66 lb-ft of torque along with all-wheel drive and a great six-speed manual gearbox. From a performance perspective, the WRX competes closer to Type R territory. However, the WRX lacks the sophisticated ride comfort of the Civic, and the driver enjoyment only comes out at nine-tenths of its ability. The Civic is lighter on gas, too, and feels more athletic. Both cater to five occupants with loads of interior room and cavernous trunks, but the Civic Si has the more upscale interior finishes. If you need a more serious performance sedan, the WRX is capable of giving you far more, but if smiles per mile are what you live for, the Civic Si Sedan can’t be beaten.