by Ian Wright
The first Honda Civic Si arrived in 1986 when Honda took the Civic S (Sport) and replaced the carburetors on the 1.5-liter engine with a fuel injection system. Over the decades, the engine grew and the Si model became the grounded enthusiast's choice. Always sporty, always practical, and always affordable. For 2022, the Si has returned to having a 1.5-liter engine. However, unlike that original model, this time it's turbocharged and instead of 91 horsepower, the eleventh-generation of Civic Si makes 200 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. That's less power than is on offer in the Volkswagen Jetta GLI and even the previous-generation Civic Si, but the Civic is a lighter, more dynamically gifted sedan than VW's offering. Like every other Civic Si before, the new one has a manual transmission only, but Honda hasn't been resting on its laurels. Honda promised us that this is the best-performing Si yet and has taken chassis tuning to a whole new level. We traveled up to the canyons of Los Angeles county to spend a day getting to know the new Si.
There was no Civic Si for the 2021 model year as Honda got to work getting the all-new model ready. The 2022 model is, therefore, an all-new arrival. It arrives with a fresh new look, a slick interior, and numerous improvements to make it even better to drive. For instance, the standard six-speed manual transmission now has 10 percent shorter throws and a rev-matching system from the Civic Type R. The new Si also has a 1.4-inch longer wheelbase, 54-percent stiffer rear spring rates, and a 60-percent stiffer torsion bar that connects the steering shaft to the steering rack pinion gear. Interestingly, the turbocharged engine is slightly down on power compared with its predecessor, at 200 horsepower relative to 205 hp previously.
See trim levels and configurations:
1.5L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
When we drove the previous-generation Civic Si, we found its limits on back roads fairly quickly. That was not the case with the new model. You can still find the limits without going crazy, but you have to push harder, and when you find them, the chassis is just as forgiving. The tighter chassis and reworked suspension are remarkably composed and are so good that it's almost begging for some old-school automotive journalism cliche. Stick shift that snicks into place with the smoothness of a well-oiled rifle bolt? Check. Controls fall easily to hand? Check. Corners like it's on rails? Check. Except this Si is far from old-school. The engine doesn't rev out to 8,200 rpm for a start. Instead, you'll bounce off the redline at 6,500 rpm. Honda has tuned the sound, but the wind-up is slow and peaks too soon if you're looking for an aural thrill.
The good news is that the engine is excellent for the car and can take advantage of the extra grip to push out of a corner. Add in the limited-slip differential and Sport mode to change the engine mapping, and it all adds up to a genuine corner carver.
If you drive a manual transmission and rev-matching is a habit, it's still worth leaving the automatic rev-matching on - at least for a while. It does a great job, but if you want to keep your foot in practice and do it yourself, the pedals are pretty much perfectly aligned. As for that stick shift, the throw is shorter than before, and it's one of Honda's finest yet.
After a while, we were looking for faults and couldn't find much. If you're going to push really hard or take the Civic Si to the track, you would be well advised to upgrade the brakes. Or save up for a Type R because the beauty of the Si is in how it handles itself in day-to-day driving as well as on a back road. Around town and on the freeway, it's basically a manual Civic with a firmer suspension and more supportive seats. That may sound like damning with faint praise, but the eleventh generation of Civic really is a consummate sedan. The Si trim simply heaps spoonfuls of fun into the proven formula.
The Civic Si is a great car. On paper and on the road, it's truly excellent, but there's just one thing stopping it from being an all-time great. The chassis is excellent, the suspension tuning is on point, the transmission is a joy, but the engine doesn't have any genuine excitement to it. It's not a bad engine, far from it, but the weight of history demands that an Si has an engine that excites. This 1.5-liter turbo doesn't. The earlier access to torque isn't too noticeable, but the lack of real punch or happiness to rev is. Without the weight of history on its back, the eleventh generation Si's engine is one element in an excellently executed package. That's what we're bearing in mind when we call it a great car.
Honda hasn't yet unveiled the new Civic Type R but the outgoing model remains one of the best of its breed. Of course, the Type R is a hatchback and the Si only comes as a four-door sedan, so that's the first way in which these two Hondas are quite different. The Type R also looks a lot wilder than the more refined Si. Under the hood, it's no contest. The Type R is over 100 hp more powerful so it will leave the Si for dead in a straight line or around the corners. That doesn't mean the Si isn't a seriously fun sedan to drive, and both have wonderful manual gearboxes. Inside, the newer Si has moved the game on with a much nicer dashboard layout. That said, the Type R hatch has a far bigger trunk. There's also a price difference of over $10,000 between these two so the Si is much friendlier on the wallet. It simply depends on whether you want a higher-value, less extreme family performer, or something altogether hardcore in the case of the Type R.
Subaru has just taken the covers off its new WRX Sedan. Like the Civic Si, the Subaru is a rare compact sedan built for the driver, without sacrificing the space needed for a family. The WRX is much more powerful with 271 hp from its 2.4-liter turbocharged Boxer engine. It also gets AWD as standard whereas the Civic sends power to the front wheels only. The Subaru is even more customizable, with the driver being able to configure damper settings and more. We'll reserve judgment on the driving experience until we get to drive the Scooby. We'll also have to wait a bit longer for the WRX's pricing. The Subaru is ultimately going to be quicker but the Civic Si is beautifully built, impeccably balanced, and is a nice car to look at. As things stand now, we'll take the Honda.
Check out some informative Honda Civic Si Sedan video reviews below.