2013 Honda Civic Si Coupe Russ Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2013 Honda Civic Si Coupe


DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

Reviewed Vehicle: 2013 Honda Civic Si Coupe

The Si has been the performance leader of Honda's Civic line since the original debuted in 1986. Its history since then reflects larger changes at Honda.

"Si" originally meant Sport, injected, high technology back when fuel injection was a rarity. Back then, 91 horsepower from a 1.5-liter engine was enough to ensure sprightly performance, with surprising fuel economy. Those characteristics have been Civic Si hallmarks ever since, even with the car changing considerably over the years, and despite hiatus periods.

Twenty-five or more years ago cars were lighter, and often smaller, than today. Less power is needed to move less weight, and less power consumes less fuel. All very good, but since then crash-safety legislation worldwide has added structural weight to cars, and many of the safety and convenience features demanded or required today didn't exist then. Consumer demand has also resulted in roomier, larger cars. So if today's Civic is as large, or larger, than some Accords of the past -- the same is true for many competitors.

But the Civic Si still has the same sport-with-economy character, and is more comfortable, easier to drive, safer in a collision, and has conveniences undreamed of back in the late 1980s. Then, need to figure out how to get somewhere? Pull out a fold-out paper map or road atlas. Now? Ask the navigation system. Want tunes? Then - AM and FM radio and good luck going across the country. Or a cassette tape player, until it ate your tape. Now? Add satellite radio, CDs, MP3 players and iPods, or streaming internet radio, and listen to what you want to listen to, whenever you want.

The engine is a car's heart, especially for a car like the Civic Si. It got the VTEC variable valve timing and lift system developed in Formula One competition in 1992, got a snarling 100 hp per liter VTEC engine in 1999, and then yet more power -- and as of 2012, actual useful midrange torque thanks to a larger, more softly-tuned engine and the abilities of the i-VTEC system. There is still a heady top-end rush, but actual midrange torque, too. If there are fewer bench racing points, it works better in everyday driving.

Which is most of the time.

There's no need to wring the engine to redline, although it has no problem doing that, and with the strong midrange and fine flexibility, it can be a relaxing car to drive -- something that really couldn't be said about most of its ancestors. Like other Civic sedans, the Si Sedan got an early styling makeover for 2013. Like the lesser coupes, the Si Coupe is unchanged. It's offered in "base" form, with or without summer tires, or with a built-in satellite navigation system with voice recognition, same tire choices.

I've just spent a week with a new Si coupe, with the navigation system. For those times when you can't go flat out -- which is, let's be honest, most of the time -- it is a much-improved piece of machinery. As much as I found the top-end scream of the previous generation (and 1999 model) entertaining, for a week at least, the midrange power and engine flexibility of the current model make it a much better for day-to-day use. Don't think the car has been softened. It hasn't. And it's still not for the shiftless -- like every Civic Si since the beginning this one is manual-only, a six-speed. The suspension is matched well to the Si's abilities (with Honda Factory Performance sport kits available for a warrantied upgrade), there is less engine and mechanical noise heard inside, so greater refinement. It has matured, in a good way.

APPEARANCE: The face is familiar, but further evolved. Spaceship Modern? With its short hood, highly-raked windshield, and fastback roofline, the coupe almost has a one-arch profile. The Civic Coupe is further differentiated from the sedan at the front by a unique front clip featuring a small five-sided upper grille (shades of 2002!) between long, low headlights and a modified-trapezoid lower grille with the bumper cleverly concealed. The Si is best told from other current Civic coupe models by the small "Si" badge on the driver's side of the grille and, shades of the 80s, prominent "i-VTEC / DOHC" stickers on the lower sides behind the doors. The rear spoiler is pleasantly integrated into the trunk lid, so it's functional without being overly obvious.

COMFORT: Evolution here, too, as the Civic Coupe builds on the interior design of the previous generation, with a double-layer instrument panel that may at first look video-game gimmicky but is very functional. The economy-awareness bits of the regular Civics are replaced by the VTEC indicator system. The Si's digital speedometer readout is on the top level, further away from the driver's eyes for less focusing adjustment. The lower section of the IP houses an electroluminescent tach and warning lights. Windows and mirrors are power, seats and steering wheel adjustment are manual. Front seats are well-bolstered, comfortable and supportive, with grippy cloth fabric. The color scheme is black with red stitching, and Si badging adorns the front seats and steering wheel. The driver's seat cushion is height-adjustable, and the steering wheel is adjustable for both tilt and reach. The steering wheel rim and shift knob are leather; information, audio, Bluetooth phone, and cruise control system controls are found on its spokes. If the navigation system is specified, it's in the center of the instrument panel, angled toward the driver but accessible to the front passenger. Controls are a simple and intuitive combination of touch screen and hard buttons. Rear-seat access is aided by a front passenger seat that slides forward and flops the seatback forward when the seatback lever is pressed. Once in, there is good room for two outboard passengers because of the deeply-contoured cushion, but the center is definitely the penalty box. No demerits -- this is a coupe so rear passengers are not a primary concern. There's a sedan for that. The rear seatback folds 60/40 if extra cargo space is needed. The trunk has plenty of space but access is through a relatively small opening as this is not a hatchback. A space-saver spare, not a fix-a-flat kit, lives under the trunk floor.

SAFETY: Safety features found in the Honda Civic Si Coupe include dual-stage front, seat-mounted front side, and side airbags, a strong "Advance Compatibility Engineeringā„¢" structure around the passenger cabin augmented by front and rear crumple zones, four-wheel antilock disc brakes with brake assist, the Vehicle Stability Assistā„¢ (VSAĀ®) electronic stability system , and the new Motion Adaptive Electric Power Steering System.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Greater use of lightweight high-strength steel in the Civic's unibody structure improves rigidity and helps keep weight in check. The fully-independent MacPherson strut / multilink suspension has a firm but compliant tuning that is both comfortable in daily driving activities and gives excellent road manners when pushed harder. Compared to the other Civic coupes, the Si has stiffer springs and shocks, larger stabilizer bars, and a lower ride height. It uses the same electric power steering system as other Civics, but with a different setting that improves road feel and steering response. Earlier Sis were not the best choice for a long highway journey; this one should do just fine. And even better on the scenic route.

PERFORMANCE: Performance, with good fuel economy? That's been a Honda specialty since, well, forever. The larger and allegedly more softly-tuned engine in the current Civic Si combines both very well. Specific horsepower output may be down, 83.75 hp/liter to 98.5, but more torque is never a bad thing, and here makes the Si much more pleasant in getting from point A to point B. 201 horsepower (at 7000 rpm) and 170 lb-ft of torque (at 4400 rpm) are nothing to complain about. Great shift linkage adds pleasure, even if there is less demand for constant shifting. And if not hybrid-fuel thrifty, mileage is nothing to sneer at. Worst-case was 18 mpg on a short city drive where the engine never warmed up. Usual city and surface street mileage was 22 to 25, with 32+ on the highway. Figure 28 overall, less with more time in the VTEC Zone but that goes on your entertainment budget.

CONCLUSIONS: The Honda Civic Si may have matured, but it hasn't gotten out of shape.

SPECIFICATIONS
2013 Honda Civic Si Coupe (with Navi)

Base Price			$ 24,015
Price As Tested			$ 25,188
Engine Type			dohc aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder with i-VTEC variable cam phasing and valve lift
Engine Size			2.4 liters / 144 cu. in.
Horsepower			201 @ 7000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft)			170 @ 4400 rpm
Transmission			6-speed manual
Wheelbase / Length		103.2 in. / 175.7 in.
Curb Weight			2897 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		14.4
Fuel Capacity			13.2 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91 octane unleaded premium gasoline
Tires				P215/45 R17 91W Michelin Pilot Sport 3 
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, BA standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent MacPherson strut /
				  independent multilink
Drivetrain			transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		22 / 31 / 28
0 to 60 mph				6.8  sec

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
XM Satellite Radio			$ 383
Destination and handling		$ 790
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