The latest Honda Civic is also the best Honda Civic. That’s an easy statement to make, but it’s not quite as simple when you add the “Si” designation on the end. Because despite a raft of bad Civics for the current model to overshadow, the reality is that the Si range has been a much more consistent entry, offering fantastic driving dynamics in an affordable, reliable package.
The 2017 Honda Civic Si ticks those boxes easily. And considering how disappointing the last-generation Si was, the 2018 automatically feels like a standout. But compared to great Si models, like the spectacular eighth-gen car or the famous sixth-gen model, it’s much more difficult to judge this new entry.
So I borrowed one for a week, and packed on nearly 400 miles. I’d have happily done another 400, too. This Si is going to be one of the good ones.
The Good: The first turbocharged Civic Si is unlike any other. Torque from the 1.5-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder isn’t only easy to access, it’s difficult to ignore. There’s 192 pound-feet and it’s all available between 2,100 and 5,000 rpm, so if you don’t feel like downshifting to make a freeway pass, then don’t. The torque is so abundant that simply digging into the throttle in sixth gear allows the Civic Si to gather speed unlike any of its predecessors. Even around town, the accessibility of this powertrain makes the latest Si the easiest to drive by a huge margin.
The Bad: It’s turbocharged. The best Civic Si I ever drove had a meager 132 pound-feet of torque. But its 2.0-liter, VTEC four-cylinder revved to the moon and back—its 7,600-rpm redline is 1,100 revs above the new turbocharged 1.5-liter. Getting pace out of that car was a full-time job that left its owner sweaty, stressed, and with a slack-jawed smile. The new Civic Si, though, is easy. Getting the best from the engine doesn’t require thought or patience or strategery, because all you need is your right foot. It feels clinical where the old car felt emotional, and that’s a loss for fans of driving involvement.
The Good: Unsurprisingly, Honda has produced yet another buttery smooth six-speed manual transmission. The shifter is precise and the gates receptive, while the short throws and minimal effort they require are exactly what we want from a manual gearbox.
The Bad: The clutch pedal lacks bite at the catch point, making it occasionally difficult to decide when to start feeding in throttle. Likewise, throttle response just isn’t sharp enough. Combined, the two make smooth launches more challenging than they should be. Also—and I hate to say this—but Honda could stand to offer an automatic transmission.