Honda rolled out the ninth-generation Civic for 2012, and it met with a lukewarm reception. Critics found fault with its interior quality and its new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. (We detected some cost-cutting in cabin materials, but still thought it a solid sport compact.) As a result of the criticism, Honda quickly refreshed the Civic for 2013. Our tester was the performance Si Coupe. Having driven previous Si models, we were eager to try it.
Appearance: Not much has changed externally for the Civic coupes. (The sedans got a more noticeable makeover with new front and rear ends.) The design is aerodynamic, with the hood sloping into the windshield, which continues into an arched roof. You can almost visualize the air flowing over it in a wind tunnel. The rear is chiseled with an integrated deck-lid spoiler. The Si trim comes with distinctive badging, as well as a chrome exhaust tip, piano-black accent under the rear bumper and 17-inch alloy wheels. Our tester's Rallye Red paint was visually loud and sporty.
Performance: The Civic Si sports the same 2.4-liter 16-valve DOHC i-VTEC 4-cylinder that puts out 201 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. There were complaints that Honda had tamed the Si in the ninth-generation Civic by lowering the redline, but we were more than satisfied with the engine's performance at all points on the tach. We like the increased torque; it's easy to chirp the tires. Still, numbers don't tell the story of the Si. For the price, Peter thinks it's one of the most enjoyable driver's cars on the market — competing with the rear-wheel-drive Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S — and responds well to aggressive input and produces a nice engine growl. The car's 6-speed manual is the only transmission and one of the best on the market; its short-throw shifter with its grippy aluminum knob is incredibly smooth, and the clutch is light. A limited-slip differential helps in handling. We didn't detect any torque steer. The steering feel is light and its response precise.
Interior: This is where the 2013 Civic Si has seen the most changes. The quality is much improved with better soft-touch materials. There are Si-specific touches such as dash panels with a carbon-fiber look, aluminum trim and stitching on the dash and seats. The textured fabric seats are well-bolstered and comfortable. Our tester had the navigation with 5-inch LCD display and voice recognition with a rearview camera that has three viewing angles. The instrumentation has Honda's split-level design. Some may find the gauges a bit confusing: Front and center is the red-glowing tach. Above that in the second tier is the digital speedometer and the intelligent multi-information display, which includes vehicle stats, a trip computer, power monitor and sequential shift lights. Best of all, the Si coupe has a usable backseat.
Our 3 favorites
Rear-view camera angles: Wide, normal and overhead view of the rear bumper.
Transmission: Good car to teach someone to drive a manual.
Better interior: Carbon-fiber look, aluminum accents, soft-touch surfaces.
Transmission: The 6-speed is simply effortless.
Interior: A few interior tweaks — including better soundproofing — go a long way.
Drivable: The shifter, clutch, handling and the engine sound all make it a joy.
The bottom line: We didn't want to give it back. The Civic Si may not be as brutish as its turbocharged sport-compact competition, but it is a great marriage of performance and practicality. There's even a sedan version.