Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2015 Honda Civic Si

AutoTrader SCORE
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

So I was building and pricing a 2015 Honda Civic Si Coupe on the Honda website as one does, when I noticed that the cost of freight/PDI was a mere $820. Well, that was a surprise. Good for Honda, was my first thought. That’s about what they charge in…

Then I checked the URL and realized I was on, not Of course. Back to reality.

$26,850 is the MSRP for the Si Coupe here in the true north (a sedan version is also available at the same price), plus $1,629 for freighting it to your town from Alliston, Ontario where it’s built. $28,254 is the as-tested price for the Dyno Blue Pearl model we’re driving, plus you can select from a choice of factory accessories ($1,494 Aero Package, $443 Day/Night mirror are examples) that you may or may not want if you’re in the market for an Si.

Six-speed manual is the only transmission available.

The accessories, by the way, also include a set of 10-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels without tires for $2,356. I’ve harped on this before as I’m thinking this is not a great deal, but I may have just woken up in a rather impecunious state of mind.

However, what you won’t find in the options list is a back-up camera, navigation system, 350-watt audio system, rear spoiler, sport seats, climate control, heated seats, LaneWatch system, sunroof, keyless entry and start, and the already appealing alloy wheels. That’s because these items and more are standard equipment on the Si, making it a very well equipped Civic indeed.

Then again, you also won’t find an automatic transmission, as the Civic’s auto ‘box is a CVT and that wouldn’t do for the sporty Si. Six-speed manual is the only transmission available.

But the point of buying a Civic Si is not so much about the generous level of standard equipment. The point is the 2.4L engine that makes 205 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 175 lb-ft of torque at 4,400, the six-speed gearbox, limited slip differential, uprated suspension and the promise of an exciting driving experience.

Before taking a spin, take some time to look at the Si Coupe. I think it’s an eye-catching design that builds on the already smart lines of the standard Civic Coupe. During my test drive, it turned heads frequently. Open the big coupe doors and you’re greeted by a stylish and tasteful two-tone red and black interior, a stubby gear shifter capped with a simple aluminum ball, bright stainless steel pedals and Honda’s sleek new Display Audio infotainment interface.

Entry to the rear, however, is challenging, as the front seat doesn’t move forward when you release the seat back. It’s kind of a crawling, clambering experience to get in and harder, actually, to get out. It’s a true coupe, though, with a sloping roof that predictably reduces headroom and provides accommodation for rear-seat passengers as a courtesy rather than a priority.

No, you want to be in the front, where occupants are treated much better with excellent leg, shoulder and headroom and a real feeling of spaciousness and airiness due to the huge windshield and abundant glass to the side and above. The seats are comfortable and well bolstered and the instrument panel looks very contemporary with its gloss surfaces and digital instruments. The tachometer takes centre stage, though, as befits the performance posture of the Civic Si.

Keyless entry and start is appreciated, but on several occasions when attempting to start the Si I pressed the similarly styled button for the emergency four-way flashers rather than the starter. The former is in plain view just high and to the right of the steering wheel; the latter, for me at least, was behind the wheel and not visible.

Find the right button and press it and the engine barely cranks before starting, then purrs quietly. The small steering wheel with its Si logo feels good in the hands and the gearshift easily finds first. Scanning the cockpit, the sweeping design endures, the build quality seems high and the environment is nicely trimmed. It looks like careful attention was paid to its construction and presentation.

Release the light clutch and you’re away, spinning quickly to four, five thousand rpm. Shifting is precise and satisfying; a lovely gearbox, I thought. Redline is 7,000 and the Si will go there in a blink. At about 5,500 rpm the i-VTEC’s second camshaft profile kicks in and you get a little extra thrust and now you’re flying. It’s fun to do; fun to drive this way. It is, in my opinion, where the real fun is found in the Si, with the engine on the boil and well-timed gearshifts keeping it there. But you can’t really drive this way much of the time if you want to keep your composure and your licence.

Such is Honda’s engineering tradition for decades, generally eschewing turbochargers and displacement; opting instead to generate torque at high engine speeds with smaller engines (although this 2.4L example is big by Honda four-cylinder standards, hence the 174 lb-ft torque, which is also big by Honda four-cylinder standards). With the right exhaust system you’d surely get a thrilling wail to amplify the experience when accelerating hard (you should hear my S2000), but the Si’s exhaust is a bit of a letdown in that department; more reserved, I think, more responsible.

I found the steering responsive and the car happy to zig and zag when requested although you do feel some lean when cornering sharply, and if the road is bumpy or broken you have to pay attention as it can get a little choppy. Ride height is five millimetres lower compared with the standard Civic Coupe and front track is four mm wider. Overall vehicle height, however, is the same 1,397 mm across the model range. Wide grippy tires for the Si, though: 225/40.

I loved the precise and smooth six-speed. You always know where you are, and moving from one gear to the next can be achieved with a flick of the wrist. Very satisfying, the cold aluminum cap of the shiftknob warming up in your hand as your enjoyment grows.

After you play in the upper reaches of the Si’s engine speed, you settle down to a more relaxed driving style and the Si feels much like a standard Civic Coupe. The engine is quiet, shifting smooth, ride agreeable, forward visibility good and it’s time to select some music, make some calls and maybe set a destination on the navigation system.

Here your front seat passenger will discover the driver-centric orientation of the Display Audio system toward whom the display is appropriately if selfishly angled, making it difficult for the passenger to operate the navigation and audio controls if asked.

The touchscreen works well enough and you can do things like pinch or spread your fingers to adjust the map view, as you would on a smart phone or tablet. But most of what you want to do requires taking your eyes off the road and going through a sequence of touches and swipes to get there. The system is ready for Siri Hands Free if you own a newer iPhone.

Many of the controls are also found on the steering wheel, however, and when listening to music you will get used to adjusting the volume via that steering wheel mounted control. There’s an additional multi-information display in front of the driver controlled by a suite of buttons on the wheel. In our car that display was set to French while the Display Audio was English. So it’s a bilingual car, but simultaneously. It would be better if the settings selected one or the other, not both at the same time.

I got 10.0 L/100 km from the recommended premium fuel after a week’s mostly city driving. The predicted fuel consumption is 10.8/7.6/9.4 L/100 km city/highway/combined so the Si performed pretty much as expected. Trunk space is a somewhat confined 331L (the sedan doesn’t offer much more at 353L).

While I enjoyed my experience in the Si, I do wonder if you would have similar everyday driving impressions in a Civic EX It, too, has a “sport-tuned” suspension, offers nimble handling, a pleasing ride, comes with the new Display Audio system and you can upsize its wheels to 17-inch for only $1,266 (you still lose your original equipment and have to buy a set of tires, though. The economics of this is a head scratcher, I’ve got to say.). And you’d save several thousands of dollars.

Competitors in this segment are the Volkswagen GTI and Ford Focus ST, along with the Subaru WRX, Mazda Sport GT 6MT and Kia Forte Koup. I guess the Hyundai Veloster Turbo could get a look as well. The GTI is brilliantly balanced, the Focus ST offers a more engaging driving experience, the Mazda is very capable with nice torque down low, the WRX (like the Mazda) is not a coupe, but it has lots to recommend it and the Korean cars are very entertaining and well equipped.

Compared with the Focus ST, for instance, the Civic Si is a somewhat milder interpretation of a performance coupe and I think it’s that orientation toward creature comforts and smoothness of operation that define this car. The question, though, is when will the all-new Civic Si debut? All Honda Canada will say is that “the Si is coming. We haven’t revealed what year it will be or when it will launch.”

We’ve already seen a next-generation Coupe Concept at this year’s New York International Auto Show. It didn’t have an engine or interior, suggesting its release is a way off yet. The all-new tenth generation sedan goes on sale this year, so if there’s a 2016 Civic Si it may be a late release next year, maybe as a 2017 model.

3 years/60,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 3 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance

Ford Focus ST
Subaru BRZ
Scion FR-S
Mazda Mazdaspeed3

Model Tested 2015 Honda Civic Si
Base Price $26,850
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,629
Price as Tested $28,254
Optional Equipment