Our first short drive in the 2006 Honda Civic Si left us with a very positive impression, and the car's recent week at CNET headquarters did nothing to change this. Praise for the rev-happy engine and slick transmission was universal, and everyone who drove the Si came away smiling.
The previous-generation Honda Civic Si was largely a disappointment to the Si faithful, without the zip and the agility that had defined the earlier versions. This eighth iteration is heavier and larger than the car it replaces but is also substantially quicker, making it both more comfortable and inspiring behind the wheel.
Also satisfying longtime fans is the return to a true two-door coupe layout, with decidedly aggressive styling further separating the new car from the unloved hatchback it replaces. Rated trunk volume is down slightly from the hatchback's capacity, but the 2006 Honda Civic Si's rear seats and trunk both offer usable space, given the car's overall dimensions.
Interior tech features are well designed, with satellite navigation differentiating the two available trim levels. Our test car wasn't outfitted with the voice-recognition navigation system, which also includes an in-dash PCMCIA card reader and an XM radio tuner, but the auxiliary audio input and the MP3/WMA playback capability are fine standard features. We tested the navigation unit in our earlier review of the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid and concluded that it's a first-rate, worthwhile option.
At a list price of $20,540, including a $550 destination and handling charge, the 2006 Honda Civic Si offers overall performance that none of its direct competitors can better and rounds out the value equation with good build quality, up-to-date tech features, and fuel economy that will save dollars over the course of ownership.
The interior of the 2006 Honda Civic Si sets itself apart from its less-sporty Civic brethren with bolstered sport seats, a thick-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel, and textured aluminum pedals. The short-throw shifter for the six-speed transmission is also aluminum, with a leather grip.
The Civic coupe's steeply raked windshield makes plenty of room for the two-tiered dashboard layout, with a large analog tachometer dominating the lower portion and a digital speedometer flanked by temperature and fuel gauges in the upper hump. The low, broad dash translates to great forward visibility, and the stubby rear overhang offsets the rising waistline and rear wing to make the view out the back nice too. A standard power moonroof adds to the airy feeling in the cockpit.
The 2006 Honda Civic Si's standard seven-speaker, 350-watt audio system has no trouble filling the car's interior. Bass response is strong from the 8-inch subwoofer, and overall, the sound remains clean within reasonable volume levels. While the navigation system with card reader ($1,750) would be the obvious technophile choice, the simple, large knobs and buttons of the non-navi layout win points for ease of use. That said, the single-line LED readout is inadequate for song info coming from an MP3 player or burned CDs, and had the XM radio tuner been present, we would have been really frustrated. On the plus side, the readout can display a customized message on powering up, cell phone style. Steering-wheel controls are available for volume, audio channel, and the usual cruise-control functions; the nav option adds further controls to the wheel.
The navigation option, as tested in other Hondas, comes with a truly usable voice-command feature. The nav system gives fast and accurate route calculation and has a large database of businesses, facilitating weekend errand running. The voice-command interface is easy to learn and extends to control the temperature and the stereo.
No provision for Bluetooth cell phone integration is available, although the center console of the 2006 Honda Civic Si houses a second 12V outlet; you could, for example, charge a phone while using the dash outlet for another gadget. The cup holders between the shifter and the adjustable center armrest accept different-size drinks well.
The rear seat backs split and fold 60/40, with releases from both the interior and the trunk. With the seat backs up and the front seats in the midrange of their adjustments, there is a fair amount of legroom in back. There are seat belts for three rear passengers, but they would make for a very tight fit.