The 2012 Honda Civic has taken its lumps over the past year for a makeover that critics felt robbed the car of its ride quality and cheapened its interior. Consumer Reports didn't recommend it — a first. (We felt the Civic was still a solid compact.) Does the 2012 Si — the sporty Civic — suffer in comparison to the previous generation?
Appearance: For 2012, Honda's redesign for the Civic was more of a tweak. The body got a few more curves, and the shape of the grille changed slightly for a more aggressive and streamlined look. The chiseled rear has an integrated spoiler. Our tester's Dyno Blue Pearl paint was set off by the Si's 17-inch V-spoked alloy wheels and a chrome exhaust tip. The overall effect is sporty, but subtle — only a few Si badges and i-VTEC decals hint that this is not the standard Civic.
Performance: Most of the changes to the Si took place under the hood: The high-revving 2.0-liter inline 4 was replaced by a 2.4-liter i-VTEC 4 that's used in the Acura TSX. The horsepower output ticked up only slightly from 197 to 201. The most noticeable difference is more torque at lower rpms, which, for us, meant more grunt (and fun) in city driving. The 6-speed manual (sorry, no automatic) shifts smoothly and the clutch has just the right amount of resistance. The Si also gets a sports-tuned suspension, which makes for a composed ride. Lyra found the steering a bit light in city driving, but solid at higher speeds. The estimated fuel economy is 22 city and 31 highway, which isn't bad for a performance model.
Interior: The differences from the regular Civic are in the Si touches: red stitching in textured fabric seats, leather-wrapped shifter and steering wheel. The seats are well-bolstered for cornering and feature the red Si logos. The pedals are textured aluminum and have rubber nubs to keep your feet from slipping. The Si has a sequential rev-limit indicator that lights up from yellow to red when the i-VTEC system engages. Peter thinks it helps in finding the right shift points and makes the driving experience more engaging. But high-revving makes it louder in the cabin. That gauge rests to the left in the Civic's split-level dashboard panel, which takes some adjustment. Still, the digital speedometer and fuel gauge sit high and are easy to read. The large tach is the dominant gauge on the dash in the bottom level, which you see through the steering wheel; thankfully, it tilts and telescopes so you can find the right angle. Our tester didn't come with a navigation screen, so the media control buttons are simple. It does look and feel like Honda is cutting corners on some of the Civic's plastics.
Our 3 favorites
Civility: The Si is not a beast for city driving.
Second: As in gear, which is a fine example of the 2012's low-end power.
Zippy: Fun to drive, fun to shift.
Torque: Much improved at lower rpms. More competent off the line.
Handling: Nimble and precise with great road feedback.
Seats: Well-bolstered fabric seats add interest with textures and red stitching.
The bottom line: We've heard the Si criticisms: It's too conservative in styling and power when compared to competitors, but that's exactly why we found it to be a fun and practical daily driver. We like it better than the 2011 Si.