Honda's sporty two-door has been upgraded for 2013. We tuned in and checked one out.
Nobody knows what the future really holds, but it's pretty safe to speculate that "classic" Honda Civic Si coupes will be high-buck items at the 2050 Barrett-Jackson auction.
Presumably, that auction will be located on Mars, unless we've strip-mined the Red Planet by then.
Synonymous with the flippin' fast, freakin' furious crowd for over a decade now, the Civic Si has grown up slightly but remains a high-revving front-wheel-drive pocket rocket ready to be customized.
Right out of the box, the Civic Si was heavily upgraded for 2013 after Honda was universally panned for its mediocre 2012 redesign. We decided to take one out to see if Honda went far enough in rehabbing its tainted - but still strong-selling - compact performance car.
What is it?
The latest in a long run of sport-oriented Civics, the Si has remained focused on those interested in revving its 2.4-liter, 201-horsepower all the way up to its 7,000 rpm redline. In a sign of the times, a four-door Civic Si arrived in 2007 to cater to more practical pocket rocket needs; the coupe, of course, remains the image leader.
The much-maligned 2012 redesign brought with it a chintzier interior and an only modestly-revised exterior. For 2013, at the behest of its red-faced CEO, Honda made some relatively hefty upgrades inside - the most realistic-looking carbon fiber trim we've ever seen, an increase in soft touch materials and more sound deadening.
Only two Civic Si trims are available - with and without navigation. At a hair under $25,000 as tested, our Civic Si with navigation came fully-loaded.
What's it up against?
Sporty front-wheel-drive compact coupes are a rarity. The Civic Si squares off primarily against the Scion tC.
But if you more zip, the Civic Si range is worth cross-shopping against the Ford Focus ST, Mazda Mazdaspeed3 and Volkswagen GTI. All three of those are turbocharged hatchbacks and they rank high on the fun meter.
What does it look like?
Honda is one of just a handful of automakers to continue offering a coupe version of its compact sedan range. To that end, the Civic Si takes its standard, wedgy Civic Coupe sibling's looks and adds the expected upsized wheels (tasty 17-inch alloys) plus a tuner crowd-friendly VTEC sticker applied to each side of the car.
Truth be told, the go fast-style add-ons don't really change the look of the Civic Si much, especially compared to its tarted-up rivals. We surmise that Honda's intention is to give tuners a blank slate for customizing.
Still, the Civic Coupe isn't necessarily a bad looking car on its own. In fact, we think its two-door proportions are more balanced than the Civic sedan's.
And on the inside?
When Honda revamped its Civic line for 2012, the brunt of criticism of the then-new model was directed at its interior. Not only was it blocky and unappealing to look at, it seemed like Honda selected its plastics from recycled milk bottles. In short, it was nasty.
There's only so much an automaker can do in a single model year, but, to its credit, Honda really worked hard on the Civic line's inner trappings. For better or worse, the overall look is unchanged, but most of the switchgear and materials have been vastly upgraded. Most surfaces are now composed of price-appropriate materials in all Civics, but the Si range gains a highly convincing fake carbon fiber applique on its dashboard plus a sporty gear lever and a tiny - arguably too small - three-spoke steering wheel.
One major demerit remains the optional navigation system, however. Feeling more 2003 than 2013, the navigation's clunky menus, low resolution screen and basic display are outclassed by every rival.
Driver and passenger sit on heavily-bolstered thrones that proved comfortable, but, bucking the improvement trend seen across the board otherwise, we liked last year's suede-like material more than the conventional cloth fabric found in the 2013 edition. Oddly, leather seats aren't available.
Rear seat passengers get above average space, but, as in all coupes, access requires a certain degree of flexibility.
But does it go?
Unchanged for 2013, the Civic Si's 2.4-liter four-cylinder remains a hoot of a high-revving engine. Begging to be pushed into the upper reaches of the tachometer, the four-banger hits its 201 horsepower peak at a sky-high, redline-level 7,000 rpm. Where the Civic Si's need to be wound out has previously frustrated in day to day use, the latest model counters with more usable torque - its 170 lb-ft. peaks at a reasonable 4,400 rpm.
Though it doesn't induce a low-rpm torque boost grin like turbocharged rivals do, the Civic Si is nonetheless a joy to rev. Credit its ultra-smooth, 16-valve engine with Honda's renowned i-VTEC variable valve timing system. VTEC has become such a buzzword that Honda saw fit to capitalize on it by providing a low-tech indicator light to pop on at upper rpms when VTEC kicks in, yo. The light's a little goofy, but it somehow seems to fit the Civic Si's demeanor.
Sending all that power to the front wheels would overwhelm a standard Civic, so Honda saw fit to include a helical limited slip differential. Combined with the standard stability control system, the Civic Si offers nary a hint of torque steer, which makes it infinitely more drivable than some over-powered rivals.
The close-ratio six-speed automatic gearbox was a joy to operate, benefitting most from an appropriately light clutch. One demerit worth pointing out: The aluminum patch on the top of the gear lever is just waiting to singe its H-gate pattern in a driver's right hand on a hot summer day.
Drivers grip an attractive, leather-wrapped tiny-diameter steering wheel that imparts a borderline ridiculously sporty feel (seriously, Honda, this steering wheel is uncomfortably small). That compact tiller is backed up by precise and accurate electric power steering and a remarkably balanced chassis. Toss the Civic Si into a corner and it feels unflappable and thoroughly composed. A confidence booster, indeed.
Similarly, the Civic Si proved highly livable as a daily driver. The ride is firm but not punishing and, thanks to some additional sound deadening added for 2013, wind and road roar is kept to a minimum. A Lexus, Civic Si is not, but we were able to enjoy its surprisingly good audio system without having to endure the roar from its sport-oriented Michelin Pilot HX rubber.
Practically speaking, Civic Si is something of a fuel miser, too. We easily exceeded both the EPA's 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway ratings - on a road trip, we netted an impressive 34 mpg.
Leftlane's bottom line
Thoroughly Honda-like throughout, the Civic Si Coupe has been substantially improved for 2013.
Not quite as ultimately entertaining as its hot hatch rivals, Civic Si rewards instead with a refined and precise demeanor that's at odds with its tuner crowd positioning.
Overall, we think there's more fun to be had in rivals from VW and Ford, but the Civic Si's upgrades go a long way toward boosting its sport compact credentials.
2013 Honda Civic Si Coupe - Navigation base price, $24,015. As tested, $24,805.
Words and photos by Andrew Ganz.