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2006 Honda Civic Si: First Take

2006 Honda Civic Si: First Take

The Honda Civic is the sensible workhorse of American middle-market autos. With its low price tag, high safety ratings, and reliable engine, it's the car you buy for your kids, the dependable and familiar--if rather dull--favorite auntie of the road. Well, imagine that auntie decked out with makeup, dressed up to the nines, and dancing on the tables in a downtown bar.

That's what it's like to drive the 2006 Honda Civic Si.

We just got back from thrashing this latest souped-up iteration of America's most popular car around some of San Francisco's most winding roads, and we have to admit: on first impressions, we're impressed. The Si's zippy two-liter iVTEC in-line four, which redlines at 8,000rpm, delivered more than adequate acceleration off the line and was responsive right through the manual six-speed box, although the car felt happiest when driven above 3,000 revs.

Adding to the driving experience was a small, chrome-topped, leather-wrapped shifter, which allowed us to blaze up through the gears with the minimum of wrist movement. A matching leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel, Si-branded bucket seats, and chrome pedals completed the sporty interior ensemble. Outside, a tastefully integrated rear spoiler told the rest of the world that this was no ordinary Civic, while air conditioning and a power moonroof kept us feeling--as well as looking--cool.

Handling and suspension on the Si were solid and well calibrated to our enthusiastic driving style, despite a touch of oversteer and a suggestion of torque steer at takeoff. After a turn behind the wheel, Senior Editor Wayne Cunningham said that this car was even more fun to drive than the 2006 Mini Cooper S--high praise indeed.

If the open road is not entertainment enough, the Si delivers admirably in terms of interior technology features. Its 350-watt Premium Audio System handles CD, WMA and MP3 audio formats, providing detailed ID3 (artist, track, and album) information for the latter. An auxiliary input gives drivers the option to play music directly from a portable MP3 player, and to complete the comprehensive audio lineup, the Si offers XM Satellite Radio as an option. On a first listen, we found the seven-speaker system put out solid bass but let itself down with tinny treble when turned up loud.

Also optional is the same satellite navigation unit that we recently saw in the 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid, although our $20,000 Si test model was not so equipped. Our token gripe is that there is not much room in the backseat.

The 2006 Honda Civic Si has won a raft of awards, including Motor Trend Car of the Year and Kelly Blue Book's Best Redesigned Vehicle of 2006. We can see why.