Since 1986, the Civic Si has waved Honda's flag brightly among affordable sport compact cars. Before Honda ever ventured upmarket with theor S2000 roadster, the Civic Si was its chief overture to gearheads, attracting disciples on the strength of its manic, high-revving engines, taut handling and telepathic manual gearboxes. A generation of enthusiasts -- including me -- were born and raised on a steady diet of Si models.
Honda rested on its small-car laurels for a while, though. And over the last decade, the entire Civic range grew frayed around its edges as new rivals stepped up with more power, improved technology and sharper handling. Thankfully, Honda finally roared back when it introduced a newline for the 2016 model year.
As a whole-cloth redo, today's Civic is once again well executed from grille to taillights, with smart packaging, able handling, enviable efficiency and modern (if fussy) styling. And this year, the sportier Civic Si is back to battle models like the, , and .
In a marked departure from past iterations, this 2017 Si is the first to employ a turbocharger. Powered by a higher-output version of the 1.5-liter four-cylinder found in many ordinary Civics, the 2017 Si musters the same 205 horsepower as its predecessor, but it does so in a completely different way.
Turbocharging helps deliver more power lower on the tachometer, along with a bigger slug of torque — 192 pound-feet — so you don't have to rev the bejeezus out of it to achieve strong acceleration. That's excellent news for around-town drivability, but it comes with a price: Whereas previous Civic Si models sounded and felt special because they revved sky-high like a motorcycle, this car's engine checks out at humdrum 6,500 rpm. It's a perfectly well-behaved engine, it just isn't as charismatic as its predecessors.
On the plus side, EPA fuel economy estimates are solid, at 28 miles per gallon city and 38 mpg highway -- and they're achievable results in the real world.
Overall, though, the Si's powertrain fails to feel significantly peppier than a regular 1.5-liter Civic Sport -- 0-60 mph happens in around 6.5 seconds, at which point it's staring at most of its competitors' taillights. And whereas Honda was once legendary for its manual gearboxes, the short-throw shifter in the Si is merely good, nothing more. The clutch's engagement also isn't as linear as one might hope.
Available as both a front-wheel-drive two-door coupe and a four-door sedan, the Si is recognizable thanks to its more aggressive front fascia shared with the Civic Sport hatch, 18-inch wheels and prominent center-exit exhaust. Sedans are treated to a spoiler, while coupes like my Rallye Red test car brandish a look-at-me rear wing.
Still, the Si appears only slightly more pugnacious than garden-variety models -- today's 10th-generation Civic already looks so brash that perhaps Honda didn't feel the need to push the envelope with this model's aesthetics. In fact, it's arguably less assertive visually than the five-door Civic Sport hatchback (a bodystyle unavailable in Si-strength) with which it shares its front fascia.
For those watching their weight, the Si has gone on a diet versus its forbearer, with coupes tipping the scales at 2,889 pounds and sedans registering 2,906 pounds (before options). That's commendably light for a new car in this day and age, and that lack of mass helps pay handling and efficiency dividends.