The Honda Civic is now in its ninth generation; the Si, its seventh. The Si sedan, however, is only in its second. With almost two extra inches of length and wheelbase but only 38 additional pounds (2902 versus 2864), the Si sedan is faithful to the coupe experience. Both feature a 2.4-liter four-cylinder pumping out 201 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. In both cars, that engine is mated to a delightful short-throw shifter that we could row all day long.
And row we did. Since peak horsepower doesn’t arrive until the 7000-rpm redline, we found ourselves constantly winding out the engine. Pushing a highly stressed four-cylinder to a screaming redline is the point of choosing the Si in the first place. At least there is some low-end torque, unlike in Si models of yore. Whereas its predecessor’s 2.0-liter made only 139 lb-ft at a sky-high 6000 rpm—before screaming all the way to 8000 rpm—the new Si’s 2.4-liter inline-four makes 170 lb-ft at a much more accessible 4400 rpm but tops out at a far-less-thrilling 1000 rpm lower.
Farewell rpm, Hello Speed
It seems to be a fair trade-off: At 6.1 seconds, the Si is quicker than a five-door VW GTI to 60 and beats the old Si sedan by more than half a second. The Si coupe, too, lands in the losers’ column with its 6.3-second sprint. The quarter-mile flashes by in 14.7 seconds at 97 mph, neck and neck with the GTI. Those numbers are surprisingly good, considering the relative paucity of torque. They make us wonder what the Si could do if, like most of its competitors—including the GTI, Mazdaspeed 3, and Subaru WRX—it had a turbocharger.
Hot-shoeing is a sure-footed affair, thanks to a limited-slip differential and virtually no torque steer. The Civic circles the skidpad at 0.88 g compared with a best of 0.93 for the GTI. As for fuel economy (this is a budget-minded car, after all), the EPA promises 22 mpg in the city and 31 on the highway. We achieved 23 mpg in a pretty even mix of city and highway driving.
Mature and Practical Exuberance
If opting for the Si allows you to have more fun than you would in a lesser Civic, opting for the Si sedan allows you to do so without the compromises of the coupe—specifically, a small, difficult-to-access rear seat and a narrow trunk aperture. Besides offering easier rear-seat ingress and egress, the sedan’s 1.9-inch stretch in wheelbase and 1.5-inch-higher roof afford rear passengers nearly two more inches of headroom, 5.4 extra inches of legroom, 1.1 more inches of shoulder room, and enough space for a third seatbelt. Cargo volume is up by almost a cube to 12.5 cubic feet, and a wider trunk opening makes it more accessible.
The sedan’s interior features the same red stitching and race-car-style shift lights as the coupe’s. Unfortunately, our gripes about overwrought displays and awful materials in the two-door apply here as well. But then there’s price: At a base of $23,175 ($24,675 with nav), the Si sedan costs nearly $1500 less than the cheapest Mazdaspeed 3 and undercuts the GTI five-door by about $2000. In this class, money matters, and in that regard, the Honda makes a compelling case.
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan
PRICE AS TESTED: $24,675 (base price: $23,175)
ENGINE TYPE: DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, port fuel injection
Displacement: 144 cu in, 2354 cc
Power: 201 hp @ 7000 rpm
Torque: 170 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 105.1 in
Length: 177.3 in
Width: 69.0 in Height: 56.5 in
Curb weight: 2902 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS:
Zero to 60 mph: 6.1 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 15.7 sec
Street start, 5-60 mph: 6.4 sec
Top gear, 30-50 mph: 8.8 sec
Top gear, 50-70 mph: 8.4 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 14.7 sec @ 97 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 136 mph
Braking, 70-0 mph: 170 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.88 g
EPA city/highway driving: 22/31 mpg
C/D observed: 23 mpg
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