Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: September 26, 2017
Last year when we drove the tenth-generation Honda Civic, we couldn’t stop praising it. We enjoyed its communicative steering, playful chassis, and radical but daring good looks. It may have been draped with love-it-or-hate-it styling, but that didn’t stop our friends and colleagues from taking our recommendations and buying them.
So when the 2017 Honda Civic Si Coupe came up on our driveway, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. The Si is the middle child in the Civic lineup, sitting above the standard Civic and below the Civic Type R. The changes are performance-oriented, plentiful, and positive, but does that ruin the balance we enjoyed in the last Civic Coupe Touring we drove?
The Civic Si uses the same engine as the Civic EX-T and Touring trims, a 1.5-litre turbocharged inline-four, but the Si beefs it up with bigger turbos and better exhaust flow, leading to a power bump of 31 hp and 25 lb-ft. Total output is now 205 hp and 192 lb-ft. That power is routed through a short-throw six-speed manual (the only transmission choice available) to the front two wheels. The Civic Si also weighs less and is more rigid than the outgoing model. It’s fitted with a sports suspension, a variable electric powered steering rack, two-mode adaptive dampers, a helical limited-slip differential, larger front brakes, and wider 18-inch tires.
The big game changer here is that turbocharger, and Honda isn’t shy about slapping a “turbo” sticker on the side sills to let people know. Not only does it add more power, but said power comes much sooner in the powerband. It’s a whole new ballgame. Where you had to rev the outgoing Si until its lungs exploded to get any ounce of power, the new Si has much more grunt on the left side of the tachometer. The four-pot engine wakes up once you hit 2,500 rpm, and doesn’t let up until its steamy redline. Sure they could have added more power, perhaps a detuned 2.0L from the Type R, but that might have upset the balance and chassis that Honda wanted to instill into their middle child Civic.
On the flip side, the 1.5L engine doesn’t rev as quickly as before. The relationship between the gas pedal and forward acceleration feels somewhat delayed and disconnected. With the outgoing Si, the revs would quickly rise and I could rev-match and shift in a smooth and quick transition. Now instead of jabbing the pedal, I have to hold it for an extra second before the revs rise up to the RPM I desire. It’s frustrating when you want to drive aggressively but it’s not something I’m not willing to get accustomed to.
The short-throw shifter is a sweet companion. It’s well-defined gates, polished knob, and forgiving clutch make it a beginner-friendly vehicle. However, the Si can be quite difficult to drive smoothly until you get used to letting the revs hang a little before shifting. And with the gas pedal spaced rather far forward from the brake pedal, it becomes a challenging to heel-and-toe shift.
The biggest downside of adding a turbocharger to the engine is the exhaust noise, and while many of my pundit friends have told me the new Si sounds like a muffled lawnmower, I beg to differ. It sounds decent, maybe seven-tenths of the outgoing naturally aspirated Si. You can check out our Exhaust Notes video below to hear it for yourself but I’d say the new exhaust still stirs some emotional appeal and it will even emit a thrilling set of pings when you let it hang on the redline. It doesn’t stir the soul as much as the Focus ST or Golf GTI, though.
The shining trait of the new Si is how it tackles corners. When you first get into the car and take it around a bend, it understeers and runs wide. There’s almost no bite and the body rolls like no tomorrow. That all changes when you hit the “Sport” button on the center console. The dampers stiffen up, the throttle responds much quicker to input, and there is a bit of weight added to the steering. It may not sound like much, but these recalibrations transform the Si from a blunt instrument into a scalpel.
The Si now changes direction in a smooth but crisp manner and the body stays flat and buttoned down. The steering is phenomenal: light at low speeds and weights up naturally and firmly when you start to turn harder and faster. Understeer is minimal but it will forever be the bane of a front-wheel drive setup this side of a Type R. The wheels will still chirp and the steering will mumble and whirl around when you’re adding power and turning, but the overall experience is more thrilling than before. The suspension may be stiffer and potholes may be more apparent, but it was never taxing enough for me to spend another second in Normal Mode.
The design of the Si Coupe, while already radical and sporty in the standard Civic Coupe, is given even more aggression in the form of a revised front bumper, mail-slot exhaust tip, and a hefty rear spoiler to complement the full-width light bar. The design is reserved when compared to the Gundam Type R and I wouldn’t call either of them handsome, but the Civic Si is definitely attractive enough for its main boy-racer audience to find emotionally appealing.
The interior is quite the opposite. Bland and uninspiring, Honda didn’t do much to spruce up this cabin other than by adding sportier front seats, red stitching throughout, aluminum sport pedals, red lighting around the gauges, a leather shift boot, and an aluminum shift knob. The scratchy fabric they used to cover the armrest and door lining was rough enough to earn some complaints from our passengers. On the bright side, the layout of controls and storage cubbies are great. The center storage tunnel is well engineered with deep pockets, a wide portal, and it has slidable compartments to fit your drinks, keys, and wallets.
And don’t forget that the Civic Si also comes in a four-door variant. We had the opportunity to test both the Sedan and Coupe back to back, and they hardly felt any different in terms of performance. They handled with the same verve and vigour in Sport Mode, and the extra length of the Sedan did not hinder our experience. The Sedan has a more discreet rear spoiler and hence, appears less aggressive than the Coupe and less indistinguishable from the regular Civic. On the other hand, both models suffered from poor front and rear headroom, whereas legroom was more than abundant. There are even a few cupholders in the back of the Coupe.
Aside from the option of two- and four-door variants, and paint choices, the Civic Si only comes in one flavour. That means no blind spot monitoring, lane departure warnings, or the rest of Honda’s suite of safety technology. It does have LaneWatch, which utilizes a camera under the passenger’s side mirror that lets you view your right-side blind spot when changing lanes.
The Honda Civic Si has been greatly improved over its predecessor with the help of a buttoned down chassis and added power from the turbocharger. It has enthusiasm but ultimately lacks the drama and excitement that made me fall in love with the rivaling Volkswagen Golf GTI and Subaru WRX. The Si doesn’t stir the pot with its muffled exhaust and the engine, though powerful, just doesn’t feel eager to wake up from its slumber. If I had to put my money where my mouth is, I’d be going home with the Golf GTI. It may be a tad more expensive but it offers just as much practicality as the Civic Si Sedan but with better interior materials, overall refinement, and enough emotional appeal to keep me coming back for more.
型号 Model: 2017 Honda Civic Si Coupe
顏色 Paint Type: Rallye Red
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $28,890
試車售價 Price as Tested: $28,890
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,700
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,505 / 1,878 / 1,390
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,330
引擎 Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged inline-four
最大馬力 Horsepower: 205 hp @ 5,700 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 192 lb-ft @ 2,100 - 5,000 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed manual
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 8.4 / 6.2 / 7.4
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 8.8
輪胎尺碼 Tires: P235/40R18