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2006 Honda Civic Si Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

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Honda's Boy/Girl Racer
By Steve Purdy
TheAutoChannel Detroit Bureau

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Honda

More accolades for Honda. Civic has garnered praise and awards from all automotive quarters since its introduction late last year for innovative design, top-drawer engineering, unmatched performance and, of course, a reputation for flawless quality. Our test car this week is a slick, red Si version – 2.0-liter, high revving (8-grand), 4-cylinder with a close ratio 6-speed stick.

Just look at this thing! The windshield is so steeply raked there’s hardly room for the hood to open. The big Michelins grip the road from positions so far out to the four corners that it has nearly the stance of a water spider. The top slopes back at a low angle to the tail terminating in curvaceous downward and forward lines. I can easily visualize the stroke of the stylist’s pen as he/she integrates the character lines along the side leading rearward. This thing is stylin’.

On such a beautiful sunny summer day I decided to take back roads home from the city. That makes it nearly a two hour drive instead of about an hour. Good decision. I notice the 8-grand red line on the tach so I push it there a few times. Unlike last week’s Acura at 7-grand, this Civic Si doesn’t sound or feel effortless. Rather, it feels and sounds like a racer. The exhaust system is tuned so that even closed up tight we hear her scream. The revs come quickly but not quietly. With this car that’s not a criticism, it’s a compliment. The scream is exciting not annoying.

The normally aspirated, 2.0-liter mill makes 197 horsepower at 7800 rpm and 139 lb.ft. of torque at 6100 rpm. A high revver, you say? That’s for sure. This 16-valve, dual overhead cam, normally aspirated, Multi-Point fuel injected engine is CARB certified as LEV2 (Low Emissions Vehicle). Honda’s iVTEC™ valve control system uses cams with 2 profiles to maximize low end and high end efficiency. Compression ratio is 11:1. Of course, with that high compression premium fuel is recommended. With modest torque the low-end grunt is less than impressive, but get her over 4500 and feel the fun. There’s something exciting and race-car-like about driving at higher revs all the time.

The Civic Si weighs less than 3,000 pounds and EPA estimates are 23 mpg in the city and 32 highway. The fuel tank holds 13.2 gallons and I only got about 300 miles on the first tank of fuel before the warning light came on. I’m guessing I was at the lower end of the mileage scale since I was running her hard. I believe, in my heart of hearts, that the Civic Si will be great fun even driving gently and I’m going to try very hard in the next couple of days to check that out. It ain’t easy though.

The nice-looking black fabric bucket driver’s seat reminds me of my pretty blonde’s SLK – that is, it hurts my butt after about 45-minutes. We sit pretty low in both. Perhaps that is a controlling factor. Bolster is good. Adjustability is minimal. I had back seat passengers this week for a trip into the city. Fortunately both were pretty small guys and both remarked that they wouldn’t want to do a long trip back there. Ingress and egress are reasonable for this squat two-door. The seat releases and slides forward easily. Even my small passengers.

The dash features an unusual two-tiered design. The tach and odometers are in their own pod below, visible through the steering wheel, and the speedo, fuel gauge and temperature gauge are in another, sort of clam shell, pod above nearer the steeply sloping windshield. Very dramatic and way cool. The red halo in the tack face is cool too. But my favorite inside feature is the stubby little shifter, understated and functional but with personality as well.

The Si comes with 17-inch alloy wheels fitted with 215/45R17 Michelin all-weather tires. Z-rated tires are available for those who want to go really fast – or think they do. Suspension is independent all around with McPherson struts in front and reactive-link double wishbones in the rear. The power assisted rack-and-pinion steering is quick and turning radius is amazing, I found out when I turned down the wrong narrow street while shunpiking home on that first day. What this all means is quick, precise handling but with a reasonably easy ride. I didn’t find the Si’s ride to be unpleasantly harsh at all, though it is certainly a performance car.

Since this great little pocket rocket is targeted at young buyers the audio system and tech support features are important. Standard is a 350-watt AM/FM/XM ready/CD premium audio system with 7 speakers including subwoofer. My mirrors were vibrating to the base sounds even listening to NPR at normal volumes. It has MP3/Windows Media audio playback capability and an MP3/Auxiliary input jack. Navigation systems are XM satellite ready and equipped with digital audio card reader.

Speaking of the navigation system, I must say this Honda system is one of the more user-friendly and intuitive out there. As regular readers will know, I’m not a big fan of these systems finding them unnecessarily complex and counterintuitive. But I’m getting used to them and if I had to live with one this would be the one I’d choose - at least among those I’ve fiddled with so far.

Our 2006 Civic Si W/Navigation lists at $22,040, without Nav it’s $20,290 or with summer tires $20,490. Built in Alliston, Ontario Civic’s US and Canadian parts content is 70%. Destination charge is $550. Si comes in 7 brash colors (my favorite is the red) and you can get your interior in any color you like so long as it’s black. Warranty is 3-years/36,000-miles, plus 5-years/60,000-miles on the drivetrain.

For comparison the basic Civic sedan starts at $14,760 and $22,150 for the Hybrid Civic sedan. More on those later.

The Civic Si gets very high marks from this reporter for affordable fun with adrenalin on-demand.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved