With four doors, you might think the 2007 Honda Civic Si Sedan is more grown up than its coupe sibling. The fact that you can strap a baby seat in back doesn't detract from the Civic Si Sedan's wheel-spinning glory and general penchant for being pushed hard around corners. And its tech apparel comes with one of Honda's better audio systems, complete with bass-thumping subwoofer, which doesn't suggest a diet of adult contemporary or light jazz.
Last year, we reviewed the coupe version of the Civic Si, and found it one of the best car tech values around. Adding two doors for the sedan version raises the price just a little, but not enough to detract from the value. For a little over $23,000, you get an excellent navigation system complemented by one of the best voice command systems available. Combined with the fun and efficient power train, you'll want to spend a lot of time in this car.
That is, if you like the looks, which can be polarizing. The Civic Si Sedan looks great from every angle but the front. It has a nicer roofline than the coupe version, holding its height a little longer and creating a more graceful slope down to the trunk. The lip spoiler on the back adds a nice touch, improving an otherwise boring rear end. But the big, curvy fascia covering the bumper gives the front a hovercraft look, making the car look less agile than it is.
Test the tech: Mountain drive
We had a lot of fun driving the Civic Si Sedan on flat city streets where we could get a fast start off from a light and jam it around 90-degree corners. But to see what it would do in real terrain, we brought it up above 6,000 feet to Lake Tahoe. Up here, the car would have to handle long, winding highways with significant grades.
For the trip from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe, we appreciated the extra doors and spacious trunk. Three people and their luggage fit easily into the car, and four would have been just as comfortable. Our passengers found the automatically locking doors annoying. The locks snap shut as the car starts moving, and must be opened with the lock buttons. We would have preferred if the doors unlocked when you pulled the interior handle.
Although we were well above sea level, the car seemed unaffected by the change in altitude. It was the hills that gave it trouble, sucking up all that flatland sprightliness. As we ran over the Mount Rose Highway, we found the throttle response and acceleration significantly weakened. The car's saving grace is its 8,000rpm redline, which let us downshift to third gear even at speeds over 60 mph. Making use of engine speeds between 6,000 and 8,000rpm, we had adequate power for hill climbs and got to hear the engine's VTEC whine.
The Civic Si Sedan has a limited slip differential as standard equipment, but we didn't find its cornering as strong as that of the similarly equipped Mazdaspeed 3. Taking it around long highway corners at speed, the Civic Si Sedan felt like it was leaning out, instead of in, to the curve. On the plus side, we didn't get any wheel slip and were able to take the corners at speed, but it didn't feel as settled as we would have liked.
In the cabin
As the Si, this Civic gets sport seats covered by grippy fabric, embroidered with the Si logo. The seats look good, are fairly comfortable, and offer height adjustment along with recline and forward/back. Bolsters combined with the fabric help you stay planted in hard turns.
As we've noted in previous Civic reviews, the car uses a bilevel instrument cluster, with a digital speedometer and fuel and temperature gauges in the top portion. The lower portion houses an analog tachometer. The car only has a basic trip meter, with no advanced trip computer functions, so don't count on the car to tell you how many more miles you can go.
The top tech items in the Civic Si Sedan are its navigation system, voice command, and stereo. The best thing about the navigation system is its points-of-interest database, which includes Zagat-rated restaurants and a wide range of retail establishments. We found it easy to set destinations by selecting one from the database, manually entering an address, or choosing one from the map. Once we had a destination programmed in, it offered multiple routes. But unlike the navigation system in the Lincoln MKZ, you can't enter a string of waypoints and have the car optimize the route.
Although the touch screen and the mini joystick work well for entering destinations, voice entry is perfectly feasible with the command system. We amazed friends by getting into the car, pushing the voice command button, and telling the car where we wanted to go. The voice command isn't perfect, but it usually understands what you are trying to say. If it doesn't, then it shows a number of possibilities on the screen, so you can pick the right one, again using voice command. Voice commands also work for choosing display options, selecting music, and telling the time.
The stereo in the Civic Si Sedan is in keeping with the car, loud and brash. It uses seven speakers, which include tweeters and mids on the front doors, mids on the rear doors, and a subwoofer, along with a 350-watt amp. The audio is just a little muffled, especially at the high end, but overall very good. It has decent separation and range, while the subwoofer adds a nice thump. There are also a good set of controls for adjusting the sound quality, with a nice visualization screen for the LCD.
There is no visible CD slot on the dashboard; rather, the whole LCD flips down, revealing not only the CD slot, but also a PC Card slot. While we appreciate this nod toward digital music, we hope Honda does away with it in the next iteration. PC Card flash storage or adapters are not very common. A USB pigtail in the glove compartment or console would be much more useful. There is an auxiliary audio input in the center console, suitable for an MP3 player. Likewise, the CD player can read MP3s and offers a good interface for choosing music from even the fullest discs. XM Satellite Radio also comes with this system, but choosing channels isn't as easy as it could be. We would like to see a list of channels, by category, onscreen, rather than having to use a rocker switch to move back and forth through them.
The Civic Si Sedan doesn't offer a complete tech portfolio, lacking Bluetooth cell phone or iPod integration. However, there is an optional eight-disc changer, which, unfortunately, mounts in the trunk.
Under the hood
Honda squeezes 197 horsepower out of the Civic Si Sedan's 2-liter, four-cylinder engine without the aid of a turbocharger. But that peak horsepower only comes in at 7,800rpm. Likewise, the engine's 139 lb-ft. of torque comes in at 6,100rpm. As we noted in recounting our mountain driving above, this engine gives its best kick at high revs. You will get good throttle response at lower rpms as long as you are on flat ground, but letting the tachometer needle run past 6,000 puts this car in real performance mode.
We also really enjoyed this car's six-speed manual transmission. With its metal shifter, it feels solid and cold in your hand and snaps the transmission into gear with a very precise feeling. The fifth and sixth gears offer economical cruising gears for the freeway, but you'll need to keep it below fourth for real sport driving. As we mentioned above, it does OK in the turns, but we've driven small cars that did better. Among its own family members, the Honda S2000 shows it up.
Although the Civic Si Sedan is designed as a performance car, it isn't shabby in fuel economy. The EPA gives it 20 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. We pulled off a freeway-biased 26.4 mpg during our time with the car. It gets good fuel economy because you can drive it normally at low rpms, where it works just fine. During sport driving, when you have the rpms above 6,000, it's not going to get nearly as good mileage, but that probably won't be the bulk of your driving. For emissions, it only gets California's minimal LEV II rating--with a 2-liter engine, we would expect better.
Honda offers navigation at the trim level, so our 2007 Honda Civic Si Sedan, with navigation and summer tires, came in at $23,240. You can get an Si Sedan without navigation for $21,490, a $1,750 reduction, but it's such a well-integrated and useful system, we can't imagine going without it. Also, $23,240 for such a fun, well-teched-out, and practical car is a great bargain.
There are a number of similar small, sporty cars around that compete pretty directly with the Civic Si Sedan. The aforementioned Mazdaspeed 3 performs a little better but doesn't have the same quality or quantity of cabin tech. A Mini Cooper S won't run as fast, but it's equally as fun to drive and can be loaded up with more cabin tech, but for more money. Finally, the Volkswagen GTI also comes in sedan form and has a turbocharger and a Direct Shift Gearbox. But the cabin tech in the GTI is vastly inferior to that in the 2007 Honda Civic Si Sedan.