2017 Honda Civic Si first drive: looking the part

The ascending shift lights dart along the tach, green to yellow to red, before the revs bounce and the 2017 Honda Civic Si stretches its legs in the tawny California desert.

As the center-mounted exhaust bellows a convincing growl and a short throw from third gear easily finds fourth, the new Civic Si makes its most conclusive argument yet: this is a new page for Honda’s accessible entry-performance sedan.

What this Civic Si retains in heritage—namely affordability, precision, and fun—it also leaves behind a noticeably absent VTEC wail and a historically blank canvas for personalization.

DON’T MISS: 2017 Honda Civic Si arrives with $ 24,475 price tag

Confidently from Honda, the new Civic Si is a car that’s improved from prior generations. But unlike those earlier versions, the 2017 Honda Civic Si now lives in a long shadow cast by the forthcoming Civic Type R.

Shine a light on the new Civic Si and its newfound younger-sibling complex starts to be revealed. It’s a people-pleaser now, for better or worse.  

Out with the old, in with the news

To make the new Civic Si, the 8th generation for the performance name, Honda started with its most advanced chassis, and perhaps most competent. The new Civic bones are nearly flawless in execution; Honda’s even so confident in the setup that they’re offering bodies-in-white to racers. The world is a better place for it.

From there, the new Si was sharpened with a lower, wider, and longer track in both sedan and coupe forms compared to the last generation, which was shortened for overall maneuverability and rigidity. The new Si didn’t need tricks to make it stouter; the 10th-generation Civic was already 25 percent stiffer and 68 pounds lighter when it was introduced almost two years ago.

This new Si also benefits from larger brakes, MacPherson struts up front and an independent multi-link setup in back, similar to last time around, but with greater effect this time.

Adding to the party, the Si’s newest trick is adaptive dampers, which utilize a solenoid valve to vary the damping force between “Normal” and “Sport” settings. The Si may very well be the least expensive car on the planet with adaptive dampers, but it’s only sheet music without a piano.

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