The Honda Civic Si is a legend in the sport compact scene. Tuners everywhere adore it, and there’s a huge aftermarket following for the car – almost cult-like. Rightfully so too, because it’s absolutely fantastic. Each year we make it a point to book some or the other iteration of Si, and our enthusiast friends at Honda conveniently make sure there’s at least one available for testing on their summer fleet. This year, it has been given a mid-cycle refresh. I took out a 2014 Honda Civic Si to see if the fresh face packed just as much punch as the last one.
The Civic Si is fantastic to drive. Our editor-in-chief tracked this exact car at a Honda event last month, and he literally won’t stop raving about just how controllable it is, and how fun it is to drive right to its limits. I wasn’t able to push it to its limits on the streets, but I did get a small taste of what the Si has to offer. The 2.4L inline 4-cylinder is naturally aspirated, but has Honda’s signature i-VTEC technology, giving it that extra pop that the high-revving motor is so famous for. The new Si puts out 205 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque, and these numbers don’t really seem like a lot. They’re not – the car isn’t what you would call exceptionally fast.
It’s surprisingly quick though, and hangs right in there with turbocharged competitors such as the Mini Cooper S and the Ford Fiesta ST. The Si is only available with a 6-speed manual, and is geared relatively short. The short ratios mean you’re rowing your gears more often than in other cars, but this is a very good thing. This is by far the best clutch and shifter combination on the market right now, no matter what the price tag. Clutch engagement is perfect, and the slick shifter means even sitting in gridlock on the 401 is pleasurable (Really, the 401? -Ed). Honda engines love being revved right up, and this one is no exception. It sounds great anywhere in the powerband, particularly when i-VTEC kicks in. There are some cool lights in the instrument cluster that illuminate when it does.
For a front-wheel-drive car, the Honda Civic Si handles beautifully. Many argue that the legendary Acura Integra Type-R is the best-handling front-wheel-drive car of all time, and the current Si seems to pay homage to that. The steering wheel is the perfect size for being tossed around, and the ratios are quick. There isn’t as much feedback as I would like, but the car’s demeanour is direct and easy to point where you want it to. As our editor discovered on the track, it does understeer a bit (typical for front-wheel-drive cars), but it’s surprisingly composed. The new Civic Si does have a limited-slip differential.
One of the key factors in the Si’s favour is value. For $26,710, this top-trim Civic comes with literally everything. There’s no concept of having to pay $500 for navigation or add $1,000 for a power moonroof. It’s all included – the seats are upholstered in a premium sport fabric rather than leather, but the material itself is great and hugs you perfectly even in tight corners. There is navigation, a sunroof, a rear decklid spoiler, 18″ wheels, and Bluetooth connectivity. Heated seats and fog lights are also standard, and one pleasant surprise is an HDMI port located right beside the USB port – very neat for additional connectivity.
The infotainment suite in the Civic Si is something I used to love. It was based off an aging system in a standard double-din size, and while it wasn’t the most modern, it worked well. Now though, Honda has replaced it with a touch-based unit that’s very confusing to use. It has things like Siri Eyes-Free and a plethora of new features, but it’s not the best execution and can be a bit infuriating. For instance, the volume isn’t adjusted by a regular knob or two buttons – there’s a touchpad that you must slide with your fingers. I found myself accidentally hitting the volume pad when going for “Home” to bring up the navigation screen. To make life easier, I just used the familiar steering wheel controls to adjust the volume.
Fuel economy has always been consistent on the Civic Si. No matter how much of a lead foot you have, the car returns about 8.5L/100km on premium gas. I’ve never seen a number better than 8.3L/100km, or worse than 8.7L/100km. Its short gearing means it revs a bit high on the highway, resulting in slightly worse fuel economy. The text on the gas cap says that Honda only recommends premium fuel and that it isn’t required, but Si gurus on the Internet agree with me that it’s a must for maximum performance. After all, isn’t that why you bought this model in the first place?
Competitors such as the Subaru WRX and the Volkswagen GTI may be either a bit more refined or a bit faster, but they have evolved quite a bit from their roots. The Honda Civic Si is still exactly what it was twenty years ago; affordable, fun, and offers insane value for your dollar. There’s somewhat of a boy-racer stigma around the car, and there really shouldn’t be. It’s a perfectly presentable vehicle in any setting, and it’s a great buy. I’m not a huge fan of the new front end or the blacked-out grille, but the rest of it looks awesome. This car is definitely on my “recommended” list.