2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe review: 2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe

Audio sources for our Si with Navigation were AM/FM radio, a single-CD slot with MP3 playback, USB connectivity with iPod control, an auxiliary audio input, and Bluetooth A2DP wireless audio streaming--which I'm pleased to report finally supports metadata for compatible devices and apps. The previous two Civics we tested featured a basic six-speaker audio system that was good, but not great. Our Civic Si came equipped with a 360-watt, seven-speaker audio system that adds a subwoofer to the mix. Still, this is a system that straddles the line of mediocrity and your enjoyment will depend heavily on what genre of music you prefer. When playing hip-hop, electronica, or jazz with a heavy double bass, the Si's subwoofer is able to mask some of the harshness of the other six speakers. However, for rock, bluegrass, or other genres that rely more on bass "kick" than "boom," you'll need to fiddle with the three-band EQ.

Bluetooth hands-free calling joins audio streaming in the Civic's bag of tricks. The system features address book sync and, with the aid of Honda's slightly improved voice command system, makes it possible to initiate calls by voice. The system isn't as seamless as, for example, Ford Sync, but it is more fully featured than Hyundai's system. A new help screen is shown when you press the voice button, useful for those who may have struggled with the previous voice command system.

The power monitor displays the amount of power being generated by the engine.

Located at the top of the dashboard--under the eyebrow that houses the digital speedometer and fuel gauge--is the Civic's new i-MID, a secondary 5-inch LCD that interfaces with the trip computer and infotainment system to mirror vehicle information within the driver's field of view. By pressing a button on the steering wheel, you can change the display between audio source information, turn-by-turn directions, trip computer and fuel economy information, and even customizable photo wallpaper that can be imported via USB. We found the i-MID to be extremely useful, particularly for displaying upcoming turns while navigating. Unfortunately, the crisp graphics of this secondary display had the side effect of making the primary display look even worse by comparison.

The Si's cabin is littered with small changes that add up to a very different behind-the-wheel experience than other 2012 Civics. Unlike the standard and Hybrid models, which feature blue illumination for the dashboard elements and a color-changing Eco gauge, the Si's dashboard and displays glow in all red, all the time. Where other 2012 Civics feature a big green Econ button to the left of the steering wheel, the Si has only a button to disable the traction control. Below the dashboard, the Si driver stomps aluminum pedals with rubber studs and grips a cold metal shift knob with baseball-stitched leather trim. The Si's grippy sport seats have contrast stitching and are embroidered with bright red Si logos.

'Si'-embroidered seats with contrast stitching indicate this Civic's sporting intent.

To the left of the digital speedometer, where lesser Civics house a fuel economy readout, is the aforementioned i-VTEC indicator that illuminates a red LED when the i-VTEC system is engaged and displays a five-stage shift indicator that illuminates three amber LEDs in sequence as you approach the redline, a red LED when it's time to shift, and a second red LED to indicate that you've maxed out and hit the rev-limiter. Within the i-MID interface is a power meter screen unique to the Si. This graph measures how much of the engine's maximum output is currently being generated, much like the Nissan Juke's torque meter. It can be cool for your passengers to look at, but at anywhere near 100 percent, your eyes should definitely be on the road.

In sum
Once upon a time, I used to own a 2004 Acura RSX Type-S, a car that--for all intents and purposes--was mechanically identical to the previous-generation Honda Civic Si (model years 2006 to 2011). So my time spent with the 2012 Civic Si puts my nostalgia for what the Si was into conflict with my excitement about what it is.

On one hand, the old 2-liter engine's lack of low-end power was annoying, but the sudden burst of power could be downright exhilarating! The engine's two modes highlighted one another with a stark contrast that was core to the character of the car, and taking away that change is like picking up a comic book and finding that the Hulk and Dr. Banner have been blended into a new character of moderate temper--it's not really what I signed up for.

This i-VTEC light is one last nod to the old Civic's bipolar personality.

On the other hand, there's no denying that the new 2.4-liter Civic Si is a much easier car to live with on a day-to-day basis and it's just as fast as it's ever been. As much as I love firing off a quick heel-and-toe downshift on a back road, it is nice to not have to fiddle with gear selection just to pass a Prius on the freeway.

Whether the new Civic Si is better than the old is a toss-up, but where it fits among the competition is pretty cut and dried. The 2012 Civic Si coupe bases at $22,205 but jumps to $24,475 with the addition of the Navigation package and destination charges. A similarly equipped 2012 Scion tC would be about $3,000 less, but nowhere near as fun to drive. Likewise a 2012 Volkswagen GTI would be about $3,000 more, but with much better creature comforts. And buyers who are serious about all-out performance in this price range should consider a step up to the Hyundai Genesis Coupe R-Spec's class.

Tech specs
Model 2012 Honda Civic Si coupe
Trim with Navigation
Power train 2.4-liter i-VTEC gasoline engine, FWD with limited-slip differential, 6-speed manual transmission
EPA fuel economy 22 city, 31 highway mpg
Observed fuel economy 22.3 mpg
Navigation yes
Bluetooth phone support yes
Disc player single-slot CD
MP3 player support analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB connectors with iPod compatibility, Bluetooth audio streaming
Other digital audio satellite radio
Audio system 7-speaker premium audio system including subwoofer
Driver aids n/a
Base price $22,205
Price as tested $24,475

What you'll pay

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