- Thrilling, powerful ride
- Lovely, easy handling
- Practical LaneWatch feature
- Lag in power between shifts
- Lilliputian back seats
- No retro handbrake to match stick shifter
Canadians have long loved the Honda Civic. Indeed, it rated third on autoTRADER.ca’s Top 10 list of most searched vehicles last December. Which is interesting, because we Canadians also love all-wheel drive and that option’s not available on any Civic trim. More interesting for driving enthusiasts is how the Civic Si, the sportiest trim for both the coupe and sedan body styles of our beloved compact, is only available with a manual transmission. “Si” stands for “sport-injected”, but takes on new meaning in my idiom. Because when you say si to the stick and learn to drive the way God intended, you shall be rewarded.
You’ll notice the power rating contains an asterisk. Were it not for the momentary delay between shifts and difference in power, it would be an easy nine or perhaps even higher. The six-speed manual transmission governs a 1.5L direct-injection, turbocharged four-cylinder engine that puts out 205 hp at 5,700 revs and 192 lb-ft of torque from 2,100 to 5,000 rpm.
Driving Feel: 9.5/10
There’s more than enough power for this light (1,330 kg), feathery-feeling vehicle that dances to the touch on meaty 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. A rear wing spoiler forces air pressure down on the rear, pinning your backend when you need it most. While we’re still segueing between power and drive experience, try the Sport mode button for a pleasant surprise. Unlike any of the other Civic sedan or coupe trims, the Si eschews its Econ button in favour of something more playful. Part of the difference is cosmetic, featuring a red-and-black treatment of the dials, but then an already rigid chassis and stiff suspension tighten further. It’s very satisfying.
Fuel Economy: 6.5/10
With city/highway/combined numbers of 8.4/6.2/7.4 L/100 km, you can’t really call this a cash- or earth-saving ride. Then again, mileage is not likely a priority if you’re considering a vehicle with this sort of tuning and treatment. When it flies on the highway, you’ll be impressed with the speed. And that may make attaining those numbers more challenging. Lastly, a warning: Remember the second word in the above phrase is “economy”. The Si only drinks from the top shelf, meaning pricier trips to the pumps.
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User Friendliness: 8/10
Let’s salute the marketers who invent the descriptive feature names. For instance, someone recognized early that “agile handling assist” will shorten to AHA! Included in all trims, AHA provides us more-mediocre drivers moments of insight into the life of much better ones. It corrects some more errant sloppiness. So, piloting this light coupe feels a bit like a thrilling, easy-to-play video game.
Provided you know how to drive stick, the machinery works well. If you’re greying at the temples, you may miss using the de rigueur handbrake. The car’s electronic one takes a bit of getting used to, even after you’ve survived traffic lights on hills. Perhaps it’s simply too bloody user-friendly.
Some of the nerdier knobs and infotainment software are difficult to suss. Read on.
The 425-watt audio system boasts 10 well-positioned speakers, including a subwoofer that massages your sore lower back if the right hip-hop song is cranked. The upper-level trims include satellite radio. I identify as a middle-aged white guy and don’t normally listen to hip-hop, but when you’re acquainting yourself with a new interface (see previous category) you end up discovering stuff. Two steps forward for features, one back for interfacing tech.
The stereo system also comes with a CD player, but even I’m not old enough to know what to do with that. I suppose it’s one of those anachronisms that lingers on, unaccounted for, in many cars. Sportier cars like this coupe are full of them. Take the pedals. Remember in Grade 4, when you believed those leather stripes sewn into the wings of your trainers made you run faster? Got that picture? Now, do you really need the Si’s aluminum-trimmed sport pedals to go fast? Of course, you do!
The front seats are heated but the leather-wrapped steering wheel isn’t. The other essential tech features you’d expect are included in the price: Apple CarPlay, Android Audio, texting, Wi-Fi tethering, two USB connectors, Bluetooth streaming, and access to the commands you want immediately at your fingertips built into the steering wheel.
Like fuel economy, if you’re hoping for a comfortable ride you can spread out in, you’re probably not considering this category, never mind this car. First, we’ve already talked about the tight suspension that you can adjust to tighten further. The corollary of stiffness is not cushiony softness.
As with its competitors, why do the manufacturers bother at all with those tiny back seats that border on useless? If your friends are fully grown, they will resent being stuffed back there. Or say you have small kids and legroom isn’t an issue yet. The child seats will look, umm, incongruous. And installing/removing them and installing/removing your children will be a major pain in the, umm, lower back. A review of this same car in a rival Canadian publication said the rear seat was “surprisingly useable.” Perhaps so for carrying extra groceries. When I sat back there, I developed an instant crick in my neck and nearly choked on my knees. The rear’s headroom clearance is just 876 mm, which, to be fair, sounds close to the front’s 928 mm. But unlike the driver’s seat and its six-way adjustability, you can’t crank the rear seat any lower.
At least the three-point front seat belts with automatic tensioning are remarkably snug and comfortable. Maybe this is a good time to discuss safety features.
Above, I mentioned the electronic handbrake. Thank you, hill start assist. And as good as it is to know that it’s there, the Si comes with useful interventionist anti-slip nanny controls that can be turned off.
However, here’s one feature that I think every category and car should contain: Honda’s LaneWatch blindspot camera. When you indicate to turn right, the LaneWatch display projects in vivid high-definition on your infotainment screen. The LaneWatch picture is enhanced with animated arrows indicating the distance between you and impending tragedy. So, you can watch in real time that Uber driver who’s trying to merge with your passenger door while staring at his phone.
Sadly, a recent article in an American publication revealed that Honda is quietly phasing this wonderful feature out. Something to do with production costs and the quasi-redundancy this specific live lane-watching tool provides, versus those ubiquitous generic bleeping blind spot monitoring technologies that do less-specific tasks but cover more territory.
The Si-stitched black cloth is sporty but attracts and retains heat in the summer. In the dog days of August, it gets hellish. And with that cloth, you’re just one coffee spill away from losing that new car smell prematurely. The rear becomes more useful if you have no friends and fold the back to expand the 289 litres of cargo space.
To be fair, since when do you want a fun sporty little coupe to be practical? Do you need ten speakers for two ears? Do you need aluminum-trimmed sport pedals? This is about style.
The impracticality of the Civic Coupe, regardless of trim, is part of what makes it so charming. Languid lines, a hale and hostile posture, and low-to-the-ground manner say this car goes all the way on the first date. So, if you’re on the rebound from a nasty breakup, maybe leave the credit card at home.
Technically, the Si is the top trim, so everything is included in this car. If you appreciate fun and whiplashing driving dynamics, give this a try. If not, the Touring trim comes well-equipped while leaving the sport-tuned mechanical bits behind. Regardless, you’ll also notice the value rating remains stubbornly high.
The Civic Coupe Si is an unnecessary little miracle that’s always fun to drive but includes enough of the bits and bobs you need to keep the passenger as happy as you. At least say si to a test drive.
|Engine Displacement||1.5L||Model Tested||2019 Honda Civic Coupe Si|
|Engine Cylinders||I4||Base Price||$29,490|
|Peak Horsepower||205 hp @ 5,700 rpm||A/C Tax||$100|
|Peak Torque||192 lb-ft @ 2,100–5,000 rpm||Destination Fee||$1,655|
|Fuel Economy||8.4/6.2/7.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb||Price as Tested||$31,245|
|Cargo Space||289 L|