2020 Honda Civic Si: Affordable with Sporting Intentions
Words and photos by Jennifer Jensen
Throughout the nineties, Honda was my go-to vehicle for daily drivers. From Accords to Civics to Preludes, Honda had serious mojo and it translated to everything that rolled off their production line.
The design language was clean and simple, dare I say, even elegant. If you look at a 1992 Honda Accord today it sill looks good! And how I yearn for a comeback of the Prelude.
The last new Honda we purchased for our household was a 1998 CR-V.
That “cute-ute” was innovative and exciting. We really enjoyed it, as did our dogs.
I personally feel that Honda started slipping in the late nineties. They stopped innovating and started resting on their laurels. Why sink a bunch of development dollars into new and exciting when you can change a few pieces of sheet metal and call it new instead?
I’ll answer that question for you.
Because people will lose interest.
After the turn of the millennia Honda simply put their feet up on the footstool and let things ride.
Certainly during this time frame Honda made efforts to add more technology to their vehicles, which seemed to be a big focus for the company.
They also brought to market such eccentricities as the FR-V and Fit, but like many manufacturers they also focused on the SUV game which meant their bread-and-butter family sedans and economical cars were lost in the mix.
WHERE’S THE MOJO?
Honda started getting back to their stride about five years ago. The 9th generation Accord (2013-2017) really started to bring things back into focus…at least in the car market.
In contrast, the 9th generation Civic (2011-2015) was just weird.
BUT, the 10th generation Civic is quite similar in characteristics to the fondly remembered late eighties and early nineties generation cars.
THE 10TH GENERATION
Debuted in the fall of 2015 for the 2016 model year, there are Civic versions for every taste. Coupe, sedan, hatchback, manual transmission, CVT, 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder, 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, and engine outputs of 158hp, 174hp, 180hp, 205hp or 306hp (in the Civic Type R).
There is literally something for everyone.
We were blessed with the opportunity to experience the 2020 Civic Si sedan with a 205hp 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. And a manual transmission!
Our time with the car was in sunbaked Arizona and I am able to report the air conditioning system held up just fine.
While the Civic is finally coming back to its roots as a driver and performer, my personal opinion is that the looks are not quite there yet.
The design is overwrought with fussy details. There are what appear to be vents that are not vents. There are what should be massive air intakes under the headlights that bulge out with extreme prejudice but all they house are driving lights and they don’t bring in any air whatsoever.
A character line down the side that doesn’t go anywhere does little to draw my eye. And the back end looks like a sketched out origami design.
On the plus side, the center mounted exhaust outlet looks pretty badass and all of the fussy details do lend an air of aggressiveness to the Si model that is non-existent in the base model Civics.
ON THE INSIDE
Another huge benefit to the design is interior room. Honda Civics have always had a fair amount of interior room and this current generation model is no different.
There is ample room for four or even five people with all their stuff packed neatly in the trunk.
The Si model offers up standard sport seats with red trim. They are comfortable during long hauls and do a fair job of holding occupants in place when the road gets a bit twisty.
The instrument cluster is okay with tach and speedo sharing space direct in the middle with temps on the left and fuel to the right. The gauges did present some challenges when trying to read them quickly especially depending on steering wheel placement.
There is a touchscreen on top of the center stack with quick access buttons for volume and no-nonsense HVAC controls directly underneath. Thank you Honda for making this work. Simply.
As soon as we got into the little red sedan we hit the road to drive about 200 miles through the desert.
It was hot, but also late in the afternoon which meant by the time we reached our destination things would be dark. Not dark like in the city at midnight dark, but dark like the sun was extinguished and the moon blew up dark.
All the more to test those bug-eye-like LED headlights.
Of course the first thing we hit was end of the day road construction traffic heading out of Phoenix.
Through the two hours of stop-and-start traffic the clutch proved light and delicate and only mildly annoyed my tender left knee. So far, so good.
Once traffic cleared I was finally able to see what the little 1.5-liter was capable of. Short answer, not much.
Honda’s specs show that peak torque of 192 lb-ft is available from 2100-5000 RPM, but there is definite turbo lag and the engine really needs to be wound up to get going.
Once over the 5000 mark on the tach, things become much more sprightly. But the fun is put to an end at the 6500 RPM redline. That’s a pretty narrow band to play in.
But the manual shifter is such a joy to row that I didn’t mind finding that sweet spot over and over and over again.
The electric steering is light and the car is endowed with plenty of under steer but it doesn’t detract from the fun factor.
The brakes don’t have a very challenging job as the Civic Si weighs in under 3,000 pounds, and they function well. They are not necessarily confidence inspiring race brakes but they get the job done.
PUTTING THE POWER DOWN
Like all Civics, the Si is front wheel drive but it does add a limited slip differential along with an adaptive damper system paired with MacPherson struts and rear multi link suspension.
The Si holds the road better than you would think a small sedan like this rightfully should. Driving into the night and off the straight road highway system of Arizona, the Si truly began to shine.
The harder you push the Si, the more it responds.
Hard on the accelerator, quick shift just above 6K on the tach, back on the throttle, hard turn coming, brake, quick heel-and-toe down shift (with perfectly spaced aluminium pedals), hit the apex and feed the power back on.
The Civic Si becomes fun and exciting. Not quite roller coaster ride thrills, but definitely better than your average family sedan.
DAY IN DAY OUT
The next few days were spent commuting back and forth to a very boring national convention. That meant my time in the car became the highlight of each day.
The touchscreen is very intuitive and standard (on Si) Apple CarPlay pumped through the 10 speaker 450 watt audio system helped make those drives even more enjoyable.
I LIKE IT
I will admit that I went into this driving review with a jaded opinion thinking that I would not like the Civic Si. But over the course of a week with this little redhead, my affinity began to grow.
From the sweet shifter to the playful power plant and sporting suspension, the Honda Civic Si is a step up from the typical mundane entry-level sedan into something that you will look forward to driving.
When you add in the fact that you get a 205hp engine, a manual transmission, upgraded suspension, standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and a bevy of safety features including airbags just about everywhere, vehicle stability assist, electronic brake distribution, tire pressure monitoring and “Honda Sensing” with adaptive cruise control, collision mitigating braking system, lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation all for $26,130 as-tested the Honda Civic Si is an excellent buying proposition.
Welcome back Honda. I missed you.