2015 Honda Civic Si Sedan Review by Carey Russ
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
2015 Honda Civic Si Sedan
It has appeared in hatchback, coupe, and sedan form over the years. In any body stye, Honda's Civic Si has been an icon in the affordable sports category since its debut as the CR-X Si coupe in 1985. "Si" originally meant "Sport, injected". Back then electronic fuel injection was an unusual performance feature. Now, all cars have fuel injection. But an intact and unmolested CR-X is a highly sought after rarity.
If today's Civic Si had existed back then, it would have been considered a seriously high-performance machine, with exotic technology. And here "technology" does not mean "infotainment and distraction electronic gadgetry" but it's original use -- applied engineering. Electronic fuel injection existed thirty years ago -- but Honda's VTEC valve control system didn't appear in production until 1989, although it was tested, successfully, in racing. Pre-VTEC, an engine could be optimized for efficiency at low revs, at the expense of power at higher engine speeds, or for power at high revs, at the expense of drivability at low revs. Race cars don't idle‚€¶¬†street vehicles need to. VTEC -- Variable Timing and lift Electronic Control -- uses electronic and hydraulic control to shift between cam lobes optimized for low- and high- speed operation to provide the best of both. The later i-VTEC system, as used currently, adds phasing of the intake camshaft for further efficiency. The result? Engines that run smoothly and efficiently at regular speeds and still produce prodigious power up top when desired.
The CRX Si got 91 horsepower from its 1.5-liter engine, one horsepower per cubic inch. The early VTEC system in the 1999 Civic Si made 160 horsepower from its 1.6-liter displacement -- 100 horsepower per liter, an output that was the province of pure racing engines not too long before that. The original S2000 got 240 hp out of 2.0 liters for an astounding 120 hp/liter, even better than the high-budget Italian exotics of the day.
The early VTEC engines produced that horsepower by high engine speeds. Honda was no stranger to that, having built 20,000-rpm Grand Prix motorcycles in the mid-1960s. The `99 Civic Si had an 8000-rpm redline, and the 2.0-liter S2000 revved happily to almost 9000. Lots of horsepower, but low- and mid-range torque was lacking. Loads of fun at the top, but let revs drop below the cam changeover point and it seemed like there was nobody home in the engine department.
Si development after that went toward larger engines with less specific output for similar horsepower ratings and more torque. The 2002-05 Civic Si had the same 160 hp, but from a 2.0-liter engine. Further development gave the 2006 version 197 hp, at a high 7800 rpm, and 139 lb-ft of torque at 6200 rpm. It was still a revver, but at least had a bit of torque. As the saying goes, horsepower is what you brag about but torque is what you feel.
From 2012 on, Honda followed the old maxim "there's no replacement for displacement." 2.4 liters meant 201 hp --four more? big deal‚€¶¬†and 170 lb-ft worth of torque, since increased to 205 hp and 174 lb-ft. Which means that response is much better at real traffic speeds, and the engine does not need to be run up to redline to get anywhere quickly. There's still that good old VTEC top-end rush, but less shifting is necessary and the current Civic Si is as pleasant to drive around town as it is out on an inviting back road or autocross or track day. And as ever, it's not a car for the shiftless -- you can have any transmission you want as long as it's a six-speed manual.
The 2015 Civic is offered in coupe and sedan body styles. Other than body shape, the number of doors and an additional two inches in wheelbase, there is little if any difference between the two. The coupe is sportier looking; the sedan is more practical. As is Honda's way, both are offered in standard trim, with summer performance tires for an additional $200, or with a built-in voice-actuated navigation system for an additional $1500 over base. At any level, the sedan costs $200 more than its coupe counterpart. Doors cost money‚€¶
I've just finished a pleasant week with the line-topping Si Sedan with Navigation. It's far more relaxed in character than the more highly-strung earlier versions, and in no way deficient in performance. It's quick, it's fun, handling characteristics are first-rate as are brakes -- and it's also light on thirst for unleaded premium. It is a Honda, after all. Even with as much enjoyment of the powertrain as possible, I still saw 18 to 26 mpg around town and low 30s on the highway. Like most cars, the Civic has gotten bigger over the years, but it's still reasonably-sized and the extra wheelbase of the sedan translates to extra interior room, especially in the rear seat and trunk. It's still the class standard.
APPEARANCE: The current Civic builds on the styling of its immediate predecessor for instant recognition. As in lesser models, the Si Sedan and Coupe share little exterior sheetmetal but are recognizable. The Si is best told from other current Civics 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 of the rear doors. The rear spoiler is pleasantly integrated into the trunk lid, so it's functional without being overly obvious. If you must, there is an available wing.
COMFORT: The interior design is also evolutionary, plus stylish, functional, and comfortable. The instrument panel places VTEC information, a digital speedometer, the fuel gauge, and a configurable information display at the top, further away from the driver's eyes than the lower tachometer. Instruments are of the bright electroluminescent variety for easy visibility. 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 body-color center sections, and Si badging adorns the front seats and steering wheel. 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. As with other Civics, the sedan's rear seat room and access are better than the coupe's, and a nearly-flat floor makes the center position reasonable, at least for smaller people and short distances. There's another cubic foot of trunk space versus the coupe, and a space-saver spare is found under the trunk floor.
SAFETY: Safety features found in the Honda Civic Si Sedan include dual-stage front, seat-mounted front side, and side airbags, a strong "Advance Compatibility Engineering‚„Ę" structure around the passenger cabin augmented by front and rear crumple zones, four-wheel antilock disc brakes with brake assist, the Vehicle Stability Assist‚„Ę (VSA¬ģ) electronic stability system , and the Motion Adaptive Electric Power Steering System. Like every 2015 Honda, it has a standard backup camera.
RIDE AND HANDLING: Use of lightweight high-strength steel for more of 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 sedans, 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 and good fuel economy? This is a Honda, so no surprise. The larger and allegedly more softly-tuned engine -- 2.4 liters, 205 hp at the 7000-rpm redline and 174 lb-ft at a useful 4400 rpm -- combines both very well. Specific horsepower output may be down, but more torque is never a bad thing, and here makes the Si much more pleasant in getting from point A to point B. And horsepower is hardly lacking, especially up top. Great shift linkage adds pleasure, even if there is less demand for constant shifting. 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 26, 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 has matured but has not gotten old and weak. Not. Even.
2015 Honda Civic Si Sedan
Base Price $ 24,490 Price As Tested $ 25,310 Engine Type DOHC 16-valve aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder with i-VTEC variable valve lift and cam phasing Engine Size 2.4 liters / 144 cu. in. Horsepower 205 @ 7000 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 174 @ 4400 rpm Transmission 6-speed manual Wheelbase / Length 105.1 in. / 179.4 in. Curb Weight 3002 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 14.6 Fuel Capacity 13.2 gal. Fuel Requirement 91 octane unleaded premium gasoline Tires 225/40R18 92V Conti Pro Contact Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, BA, VSA 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 Destination Charge $ 820