Growing up around cars in the 90s, the Civic Si nameplate meant a lot.
If anyone got a Civic, the first question you’d ask is whether it was an Si or not. The Si was the Civic to aspire to have, and now well into its tenth generation the Civic Si is still with us. I spent a week with a 2019 Honda Civic Si Sedan to find out whether or not it lives up to its reputation.
The Civic, as the best selling car in Canada for 21 years running, does have to grapple with the notion of being all things to all people. You’ll find just about anyone from grandparents to Uber drivers and just about everyone in between behind the wheel of a Civic. While the wide range of trim levels available mean it’s easy to equip your Civic for the job, one thing that can only be tweaked so much is the styling.
The good news for the Si though is that the tenth generation Civic styling really skews towards the wild and sporty side as opposed to the more conservative look of previous generations. This means trims such as the Si or the track weapon Type R (reviewed here) look more cohesive with the Civic’s slightly boy-racer styling, which seems a little off-key when equipped in the more refined Touring or more basic trims.
Our particular tester is quite an eye-catcher finished in Aegean Blue Metallic and sporting the unique 18” Si specific alloy wheels. The Si also gets more aggressive front and rear fasciae, a blacked out grille and a sporty rear wing – which Honda claims is functional. Perhaps the most interesting exterior feature though is a large center mount exhaust outlet, it looks almost exactly like a massive HDMI port – you can’t un-see it. Even with all of these performance inspired traits, only those in the know will recognize this as an Si, and that’s just perfect.
Inside the Si gets some unique treatment, most notably the large racing style seats up front with prominent red stitching and Si inscriptions. The buckets are well bolstered and finished with a grippy microfiber material to keep you in place under spirited driving conditions, yet the seats are supportive and soft enough to keep you comfy for the long haul. The Civic Si only comes with a six-speed manual gearbox with a nice and well weighted, aluminum shift knob with red lettering and stitching.
The rest of the interior is standard Civic, which is actually a great thing. The current Civic interior is the best yet with intuitive storage, plenty of rear legroom, and a tasteful dashboard layout that’s modern but not over the top. Thankfully, for 2019 Honda has added a real volume knob to the infotainment system after three model years of complaints. Now if they’d add a real tuner knob, I’d really be excited.
You’re not exactly roughing it when it comes to equipment; all Si models come standard with a power moonroof, heated front seats, seven-inch color infotainment screen compatible with Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, dual zone climate control, 452-watt premium audio, LED lighting all around and much more.
Unlike lesser Civics though, the Si is all about the drive, and that’s where its 1.5L turbocharged four-cylinder comes into play. It is the same basic engine as the Civic Touring (reviewed here), but the exhaust and other tuning upgrades bump the horsepower from 174 to a very healthy 205, and push torque from 162 lb-ft. at 1,700RPM to 192 lb-ft. at 2,100. This alone should be enough to justify the few dollars more for the Si over the Touring, but there’s more.
The Si also gets a real Helical limited-slip differential that ensures power is transferred equally to both front wheels even if one slips, helping immensely when powering through corners. In a similar vein, the Si also gets an Active Damper System (ADS) which stiffens the shocks at a push of the “Sport” button to take the ride from soft and commuter-friendly to firm and more precision oriented. Speaking of the Sport button; not only does it adjust the ADS, but it also sharpens up the steering response rate. The Si is a lot of proper performance kit for it’s price of $29,090 in sedan guise, a mere $1,000 more than the more refined, but much less exciting Touring trim.
The Si’s engine tuning does mean that you don’t hit peak torque until a little bit later in the RPM range than with the standard version, and as a result the Si can feel a bit sluggish off the line if you’re too conservative with the throttle. However, once you’ve got the hang of keeping RPMs up higher in the range, the Si is a blast to drive in just about any situation. Urban, backroads, highways; it just feels good everywhere. A big difference between this and previous Si models is the lack of Honda’s VTEC technology. Once you’ve accepted that realization and moved on from it, things are merry.
Commuting home from a long day at the office with the Civic’s sunroof open letting in the first sunshine we’d seen in weeks here in Toronto, everything felt just right. That said, the clutch is very light with very little feel, so it takes some getting used to. I genuinely would appreciate a bit more weight to the clutch for more spirited driving. The gearbox is typical Honda; very good, tight and smooth, but not necessary the best in the market. Another annoyance is how clattery the engine is at idle – the direct-injected small four-cylinder is smooth in operation, but sounds like an old diesel when the car isn’t moving.
One of the Civic’s strong points has always been the way its chassis feels and this one is no exception. It rides comfortably and remains quiet inside the cabin, but when you’re ready to have a little fun, hit the Sport button and the Si is right there with you. Turn-in is quick, as the car feels light and agile on its feet. Thanks to the limited-slip differential the Si is fantastic through fast corners, delivering surprising levels of grip and very minimal levels of understeer. It might have lost some of its raw steering feel over the years, but it’s still one of the better feeling steering setups in the segment, comparable only to Mazda.
When you’re not enjoying the Si’s performance it does make for a very competent commuter, and I happily drove it every chance I had during my test, returning a very strong fuel consumption average of 6.8L/100km, which is really quite impressive considering my rush hour traffic commute. The Si does recommend 91 octane premium fuel, and I could live with that at these consumption rates.
I would say that the answer to whether the 2019 Honda Civic Si Sedan lives up to its reputation, for me at least, is a resounding yes. it is exactly what it’s supposed to be, the everyman’s performance car. At $30,000 it’s well within the reach of most gainfully employed individuals. It makes for a very practical and efficient daily driver, and in the right hands has the performance to surprise cars trading at much higher prices.