by Roger Biermann
Since 1984 Honda has marketed its topmost performance derivative in the US under the Si banner, not offering a true halo Civic like the Type R until 2017. Now, with a hardcore Type R available on US soil, the Civic Si continues to lives on but as a midpoint between the humdrum model and the Nurburgring-hammering hot hatch. Offered exclusively as a Coupe and Sedan derivative, the manual-only Si retains an athletic front-wheel drive chassis with sportier suspension tuning and bigger brakes, while power is derived from an uprated 1.5-liter turbo engine producing 205 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque. Priced at $24,300 the Civic Si Coupe is a huge performance bargain, and while acceleration might not quite match genuine performance coupes, the experience is one that shows Honda still cares about the enthusiasts. With few midsize rivals, closest competition comes in the form of the new Veloster Turbo which itself lies below a halo performance derivative.
For the 2019 Civic Si Coupe, Honda has retained the exterior styling - garish wings and all - adding an additional paint color to the mix dubbed Tonic Yellow Pearl. It’s on the inside where the biggest changes have been made, however, with the infotainment and climate control systems finally receiving a volume knob and physical controls. Cupholders have been made larger, while switchgear on the steering wheel and for the electronic parking brake has been updated.
Differentiating the Civic Si Coupe from the standard coupe, the gloss black grille receives a red Si insignia, while gloss black details have been added to the lower front bumper mimicking air intakes. Wheels are 18-inches by default with black detailing, but the HFP package upgrades these to 19-inches with a black finish. The Si Coupe also receives a centrally-mounted tailpipe, Si badging on the rear, and a more pronounced rear wing. In addition to larger wheels, the HFP package adds lower side skirts and a red-detailed front underbody spoiler.
Despite riding on the same 106.3-inch wheelbase as the standard Civic Coupe and all other derivatives for that matter, the extra body appendages and sportier suspension see the Civic Si Coupe measure 0.4 inches longer at 177.3 inches, while it rides 0.2-inches closer to the ground thanks to the sportier suspension setup. The bodywork also swells by 0.1 inches at its widest point to 54.7-inches. Both the front and rear track have actually been narrowed compared to the standard coupe, now measuring at 60.5 and 61.2 inches respectively, while a curb weight of 2,889 lbs is the heaviest of all the Civic Coupes on sale.
For 2019, the Civic Si Coupe gets a color palette of seven hues to choose from. Rallye Red is the classic hero color and corresponds with red accented badging and the available red-detailed HFP front lip spoiler - it’s the striking choice without sticking out too much. However, there are also three metallic options, Aegean Blue, Lunar Silver, and Modern Steel, and three pearl options including Crystal Black, Platinum White, and Tonic Yellow. The latter two are new for 2019, replacing the White Orchid Pearl and Energy Green Pearl shades of last year. Tonic Yellow is particularly luminous, highlighting the Civic Si’s stand-out styling.
Type R aside, the Civic Si Coupe is the quickest Honda Civic money can buy, with the 205 horsepower turbocharged engine propelling the Coupe from 0-60 mph in the low six-second bracket before continuing on to a top speed limited to 137 mph. That’s not exactly much quicker than a regular turbo Civic Coupe, despite the extra power, but it’s not bad going for a manual-only front-wheel drive coupe, and the key element to the Si Coupe’s performance is its ability to handle corners. Fuel quality also plays a part as the 205 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque are only available on the recommended premium unleaded fuel.
Powering the Civic Si Coupe is the same Earth Dreams 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as you’ll find on higher derivatives of the regular Coupe. But in this instance power outputs are increased to 205 horsepower and 192 lb-ft, increases of 31 hp and 30 lb-ft. The figures are channeled to the front wheels through one of the best six-speed manual transmissions on the market, and if you’re looking for an automatic then you’re not the type of buyer Honda’s targeting here. Despite the extra power and torque, the Civic Si doesn’t feel vastly different to a standard Coupe in the way it accelerates. There’s a small difference, but the chassis composes itself so well that you almost wish there was more power. Still, it’ll race up to the speed limit from an intersection quite competently, and overtaking is a cinch even at highway speeds. Throttle responses are relatively immediate, but with no automatic transmission, the onus is on you to ensure you’re in the right gear. That’s the Si’s true ace up its sleeve, however, as the manual is short of throw and positive of action, firing from gear to gear in a manner that really begs you to shift as frequently as possible. The clutch takes a little while to get used to, though, as it’s pretty heavily sprung.
Even if the Civic Si Coupe had no increase in power or torque, the handling dynamics alone would be worthy of the Si badge. While the Type R combines power and handling, the Si seeks to give buyers a driver’s car at an affordable price and advances on the already class-leading chassis of the standard Civic to create something truly special in the Si. It starts with a mechanical limited slip differential to help put the power down more effectively through corners, but the effects are amplified by a 0.2-inch drop in ride height on stiffer suspension and reworked adaptive dampers. The addition of the HFP package adds even better adaptive damping and summer tires, which increase the levels of grip to truly tremendous levels.
The result of all the upgrades is a Civic Si Coupe that breathes with the road, flowing along bumps and undulations rather than fighting to overcome them. It rushes through twisty sections of road with joy, riding firmer than a standard model but soaking up secondary bumps even better and maintaining grip with the road surface at all times. The chassis communicates better with the driver too, giving intimate feedback of the road surface and grip levels at all times, and it thrives on being pushed to its limits. The chassis is so well sorted that it feels underpowered, this despite being able to conquer a set of twists more rapidly than most would dare. No other front-wheel drive vehicle in the United States grips and handles this well.
However, there’s little sacrifice when it comes to impeccable road manners, and changing from Sport into Normal driving mode sees the dampers slacken off to a placid demeanor that does justice to the high standards set by the regular Civic. The ride becomes buttery smooth to the extent that you may well forget this is half-way to being a Civic Type R.
With the addition of extra torque and power along with a manual gearbox - notoriously a bad idea when it comes to fuel economy as opposed to Honda’s typical CVT - the Civic Si Coupe sacrifices economy for the sake of driver enjoyment. The EPA-rated mileage estimates are claimed at 28/38/32 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles, losing two and three mpg off the city and highway figures respectively when compared to the most efficient standard Coupe models. The cost, however, increases slightly more due to the higher state of engine tune, which requires premium gasoline to access the full 205 hp. With the same 12.39-gallon gas tank, the Civic Si Coupe should still be capable of a driving range of 396 miles on a full tank with a mixture of town and highway driving.
Like we’ve come to expect from the Honda Civic range, the Si Coupe packs a well-appointed interior with solid build quality, premium materials, and an attractive design. With updates to the steering wheel controls, cupholders, and media/climate controls for 2019 the latest version rectifies previous gripes too, making this possibly the best Civic interior yet. Items like a leather-wrapped sports steering wheel and aluminum shift lever are specially included for this Si derivative, but it's the heated sports seats that grab the most attention. Firmly bolstered with an exceptional driving position, the snug seats dominate the conversation, while the rear seats are all but useless in this coupe body format.
Despite identical proportions to the standard Civic Coupe, this Si derivative boasts one key difference - firmly bolstered sports seats. The low-slung buckets give an ideal driving position for a performance orientated vehicle, with manual seat adjustment and a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel catering to drivers of all heights. While head and legroom are to be found in abundance up front, the snug sports seats won’t be to the liking of those broader at the hips and shoulders, as the bolstering is perhaps a little too snug for bigger folk, and it hampers climbing in and out. There’s no option to switch them out for regular items either, so if you buy an Si, you’re stuck with them. Visibility is good on the whole, but the more pronounced rear spoiler blocks the view in the rearview mirror. Seating is claimed at five occupants, but no sane adult will find a means of cramming themselves into the rear seats with the lack of headroom back there. But that’s the price to pay in the Coupe - if you want practicality then you’re better off looking at the Sedan with more headroom and an extra 1.5 inches of legroom.
With only one trim and no interior options, the Civic Si’s interior finishes are limited. The steering wheel is wrapped in black leather, while the shift-lever features an aluminum and leather shift knob with a leather shift boot. Seating surfaces are upholstered in model-specific black cloth with gray checkered inserts and Si embroidery on the seatbacks of the front bucket seats. The seats, shift lever boot, and steering wheel all feature red contrast stitching, while the pedals are aluminum with rubber studs. The soft-touch dash features aluminum-look detailing while the inserts are carbon fiber weave in appearance but not the genuine item. With the HFP package equipped, the Civic Si Coupe also receives HFP specific carpet floor mats.
While the Civic Si Coupe’s 11.9 cubic feet of cargo volume is the smallest of any of the Civic body styles, it’s comparable to the cargo volume of several compact sedans - a testament to Honda’s mastery of packaging. There’s enough volume to fit a couple of large suitcases with some planning, and the rear seats split in a 60/40 manner and fold to increase cargo volume. Honda’s cabin storage is prone to the same prowess, with an abundance of large and small cubbies for personal items. Front door pockets are decently sized, while the two cupholders in the center console enlarged for 2019 for extra practicality. The storage under the center console armrest is large, and the glove box is decently sized too. The rear seats don’t lend themselves to genuine seating, so they could be used for additional storage if needed.
With a budget price attached to the Civic Si and a substantial upgrade to performance, the trade-off was inevitable, and it’s in the standard specification that Honda has managed to find savings. There are no Honda Sensing driver assistance features, not even optionally. However, Honda has equipped the Civic Si Coupe with a rearview camera and Honda’s LaneWatch blind spot camera. Other features include heated front sports seats, a power tilt-and-slide sunroof, dual-zone climate control, and cruise control, while the seats offer manual adjustment only. It’s worth mentioning that Honda has added physical controls for the climate control system for the 2019 year model, which has improved the system’s usability.
Thankfully, Honda hasn’t cut back on the infotainment system in the Civic Si, equipping a seven-inch touchscreen setup with a premium ten-speaker audio system including a subwoofer. For 2019, physical controls have been added including a volume knob, rectifying our complaints on previous year models, but the system is still clunky and unintuitive. The infotainment system features dual front USB ports, boasts AM/FM/SiriusXM/HD radio capabilities, Bluetooth media streaming and hands-free, and importantly caters to full Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality, which is just as well as with no option for navigation, you’ll need to use your smartphone. A wireless charging pad is optionally available.
While the 2019 year model Civic Si hasn’t been privy to any recalls, the 2018 model was subject to three, two for incorrect information on certification and the owners manual, and one for a loose magnet on the steering system affecting the weighting and required inputs. Despite this, the Civic Si Coupe is still impressively reliable, with a J.D. Power overall reliability rating of 77 out of 100 placing it in the above average reliability segment. Honda’s three-year/36,000-mile limited vehicle and five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranties apply.
The Honda Civic Si Coupe scores high safety ratings from the NHTSA, with an overall rating of five out of five stars, only dropping marks in the frontal impact test. The IIHS has not specifically tested the Civic Si Coupe, but the standard Civic Coupe scored best available scores of Good in most metrics. Notably, the Si Coupe doesn’t get the advanced forward collision warnings found in the standard Coupe.
Unlike the rest of the Civic range, the Si doesn’t receive the Honda Sensing suite of driver assistance and collision avoidance features. However, it does receive a standard reverse camera with dynamics guidelines and Honda’s LaneWatch system which monitors the passenger side blind spot via a mirror-mounted camera. In addition to standard ABS, EBD, and stability control, the Civic Si Coupe features six airbags: dual front airbags, front side airbags, and side curtain airbags.
Performance bargains don’t come along every day, and when they do, they almost certainly don’t measure up to the standard set by the Honda Civic Si Coupe. It sets the bar high with 205 horsepower and one of the best manual gearboxes available, but the powertrain is underwhelming due to an absolutely stellar chassis. The upgrades turn an already brilliant chassis from the base Civic into one of the keenest driver’s cars not just currently available, without compromising on ride comfort. With established reliability, upgraded infotainment for 2019, and a high-quality interior, the Civic Si Coupe is better than ever before but is still available for under $25,000. It cuts back on some frills, like the lack of advanced collision avoidance systems, but buyers here are looking for performance and driver thrills, and for that, the Civic Si Coupe comes out trumps every time.
However, if you’re considering an Si Coupe, you’ll need to put up with the overstyled exterior, bucket seats that impede ingress and egress and don’t suit broader drivers, and the requirement for premium gasoline for optimal performance. Practicality is also hampered by the unusable rear seats, but the Civic Si Sedan exists to compensate for that.
Still, there is no better performance bargain on the market right now.
Honda offers the Civic Si Coupe in one take-it-or-leave-it variant, establishing it as a marque on its own much like the Type R. The Si Coupe carries an MSRP $24,300 before tax, registration, licensing, and a $920 destination charge, but dealerships are responsible for their own pricing, so you may be able to find a great deal if you’re willing to look.
There’s just a single trim derivative available for the Honda Civic Si Coupe, with a 205-hp 1.5-liter turbo engine and a six-speed manual gearbox. The lone model gets the Sport exterior trim, 18-inch alloy wheels, a power sunroof, and a larger rear wing outside, while inside you’ll find amenities such as power windows, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather steering wheel, aluminum shift lever, heated sports front seats, and a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with a ten-speaker premium sound system and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration.
With a range limited to just one trim, Honda gives buyers the option of equipping several standalone extras, or an optional package. The $3,999 Honda Factory Performance (HFP) package upgrades the suspension with adaptive dampers, equips additional underbody spoilers, black 19-inch alloy wheels with Sport summer tires, HFP badging, and HFP-specific floor mats. The cosmetic extras are available as standalone items as well, while buyers can also option different wheel designs and a range of extra aesthetic accessories.
Various interior and electronic accessories are available, but the only few worth the outlay is an auto-dimming rearview mirror at $218, a wireless phone charger at $305, and some may be enticed into the red interior illumination kit for $125.
Honda’s made it easy by giving the Civic Si Coupe just a single trim giving you just about all you’d desire with visual appeal, upgraded suspension, and a fair bit of standard tech. We’d spring for the optional HFP package, as the adaptive dampers improve both ride comfort and control, while the summer tires are a must have for the enthusiast, especially if you're planning a track day.
Hyundai’s new generation Veloster Turbo takes a big leap forward with a more engaging drive thanks to the development of the Veloster N. The Turbo offers similar outputs to the Civic Si Coupe thanks to a 1.6-liter turbo engine developing 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque driving the front wheels, but unlike the Civic the Veloster offers a dual-clutch automatic gearbox in addition to a six-speed manual. But the Civic drives far better, has higher grip levels, feels lighter on its feet, rides more comfortably, and involves the driver far more than the Veloster does. The Civic Si is less practical than the hatchback Veloster, but employs higher quality materials inside and offers creature comforts like dual-zone climate control. While the Veloster Turbo is available in multiple trims, one of which undercuts the Civic Si Coupe’s price by $2,000, the Civic is the better performance coupe.
The Civic Type R breathes fire and eats lap records for breakfast, but it’s only available as a hatchback replete with garish wings and overwrought bodywork. The Type R is substantially more powerful, substantially quicker too, so this may seem a one-sided argument, but the Civic Type R is $11,000 more expensive. The Civic Si Coupe is exploitable on the road, unlike the Civic Type R which can only access its true potential at a track, which is one of the Si Coupe’s greatest traits. It offers affordable performance and road manners comparable to an ordinary compact coupe, whereas the Type R may be too hard-edged for daily use. If you’re willing to sacrifice comfort and accrue judgemental looks for the sake of the odd track excursion, the Type R will reward you immensely; but if you enjoy day-to-day comfort, exploitable power, and an affordable price, the Civic Si Coupe strikes a fine balance between style and driver enjoyment and could be worth a look.