Return Of The Civic Si
Si To Performance

Although it’s all about to change, those of us here in the United States have never had the pleasure of the Honda Civic Type R being sold as a normal dealership model. We either only got to experience it in games, or those of us with the right cash flow and knowing the ‘right’ people could buy one from the grey market. However, Honda did give us something that allowed us to have a performance Civic that wasn’t quite the Type R but wasn’t far off – the Si.

While many would rightfully claim that Honda went soft on the Civic since the EP chassis, the new Si is a bit of a revival. But does it really deserve to wear the Si badge? We could only find out by driving one…

Before we jump in, I have to give full disclosure: Honda picked up the bill for my return travel to – and stay at – Marina Del Ray, and hosted me at its Mojave testing facility so I could experience the car.

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Let’s start off with a bit of a history lesson and the past Si version Civics that were sold.

The first US model to receive the ‘Sports Injection’, or Si, badge was the Honda Prelude in 1985. The first Honda Civic Si debuted in 1984 with the EA-T chassis, and that got the ZC1 engine, also known as the D16A1. We finally got a Civic Si in 1986, however, the CR-X Si came a year earlier using the EW1/DA15A2 with fuel injection. We didn’t get the ZC1, but it did help that the CR-X only weighed in at 1840-pounds, so the 91hp or so on offer felt like a lot. For 1988, the next generation CR-X came in Si form and it was totally different. Gone was the squishy suspension and in came better dampers, larger front sway bar and 14×5-inch “wide” wheels with 185/60R14 tires to handle the additional power of the D16A6 that would eventually go on to make 108hp in 1989 with a revised camshaft. Two years later, the CR-X was discontinued.

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In 1993, someone at Honda wanted a sporty, two-seater car in the Civic line-up again and the (CR-X) del Sol was born with a Si version. Just like the Civic hatch, the del Sol Si came with the D16Z6, a SOHC engine with Honda’s unmistakable VTEC cam technology that made 125hp with a switchover to a more aggressive cam lobe at 4,800rpm. In 1996, Honda retired the Si badge from the Civic line-up until 1999 when it would return in the Civic Coupe Si under the EM1 chassis code, which we only saw it for two years. That model came with the 160hp 1.6-liter B16A2.

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This engine was a DOHC VTEC unit that had 10.2:1 compression, a VTEC switchover at 5,600rpm, and an 8,000rpm redline but could hit 8,500rpm or more once built for it. There were only three colors for it: Electron Blue Pearl, Flamenco Black and Milano Red.

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There was a body change in 2001 and the EP3 Civic Si came back as a hatchback only, but now with a larger displacement of 2.0-liters with the K20A3, the same engine used in the Acura RSX. It boasted 160hp but accelerated slower than the outgoing Si thanks to gaining 150-pounds over the 99-00 Si. Once up to speed, though, it could hit 60mph in 7.6-seconds and pass the quarter-mile in 15.9-seconds. However, it was doing this without the factory-equipped limited slip differential that previous generations had.

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In 2006, the Civic Si had a bit of a revival with the inclusion of a helical limited slip differential and a new body style in the FG2 coupe and the FA5 sedan, but used the K20Z3 which added variable valve timing and phasing with the iVTEC system. The sedan was the first Si of its sorts in the US while Japan offered a version well before this. We also got to see the Mugen Si sedan, but that was determined to be an equivalent to the Si coupe. In 2012, the FG4 coupe and FB6 sedan once again saw Si versions with a bump in displacement to 2.4-liters with the K24Z7 iVTEC. The Si was to be discontinued in 2016.

That New Performance
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However, we’re now in 2017 and for its new Civic model Honda has determined that it needed a badging between the regular offering and the upcoming Type R. It needed the Si to come back once again. It’s an interesting mix of EX-T/EX-L/Touring trims and Type R. The engine is based on the 1.5-liter found in the Civic line-up, which is already a radical departure from what was normal for Honda. We don’t have the high-revving, naturally aspirated screamer anymore. Now it’s a high-revving, turbocharged screamer.

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The turbocharger itself is an MHI TD03 unit with an internal wastegate that boosts up to 20.3psi, however in normal driving you’ll probably only see up to 16 to 17psi as I did in this pre-production model. Even so, it’s enough for it to produce 205hp and 192-lb-ft of torque from 2,100rpm to 5,000rpm. It’s a very flat and impressive torque curve that can be felt while driving. Even while cruising down the highway in a gear too high, it would still accelerate and not feel like it needed another 20hp. It felt better at accelerating, even when going uphill, than my 2000 Pathfinder with its 3.3-liter V6.

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What makes this even more impressive is that it’s able to run a turbo with 10.3:1 compression in the combustion chamber and use regular gas. You’ll only get full power with 91-octane, but thanks to direct injection many cars are able to run 89 to 91 octane with minimal worry about detonation. I explained this before in the GT4586 article when I described how the Ferrari 458 engine works with direct injection, but here you also get the benefit of turbocharging for even more air, and then adding fuel as needed to cool the cylinder while also feeding that spark and air. There are twin piston oil squirters as well that shoot oil into the underside of the piston crown to reduce temperatures and increase longevity that you don’t see on the normal EX-T/EX-L/Touring 1.5-liter turbo engines. However, those trim level Civic engines also see 10.6:1 compression but lower boost.

It’s More Than Just The Engine
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There is also that 6-speed transmission and that is the only option for transmission in the Si. No automatics, no paddle-shifters, no CVT – this is the enthusiast’s Civic. The gear ratios are really well thought out to work with the turbocharger; I was almost hitting 100mph on the Winding Road Course and coming close to topping out fourth gear before getting on the brakes for the third gear left sweeper past the front straight.

Another note: the brakes and tires were not the standard types. The car was fitted with the optional summer performance tires while the brakes were the HPD set for the new Civic’s single piston front and rear calipers. Yes, it uses a helical limited slip and you can feel it. The car, if pushed wrong, does still have that front-wheel drive push but isn’t uncontrollable. It’s manageable much like the torque steer that’s still able to get induced as well.

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I think a lot of this had to do with the steering. Normally, on electrically-assisted steering racks, the steering wheel feels too light; it’s almost too easy to turn. However, with the Si the steering feel is very ‘heavy’ and feels properly connected to the road. It uses dual-pinion, variable-ratio electric power steering with a minimum ratio of 10.93:1. I feel that by using an electric motor that’s off the steering shaft and has its own pinion on the rack, it makes for a better feeling steering. I feel that it’s even better than the steering feel I had in the Ford Focus RS, which wasn’t bad itself.

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What was interesting to learn was that the Si coupe and Si sedan both share the same wheelbase of 106.3-inches. Despite that, the Si coupe felt more twitchy on areas where the weight was coming off the rear and you had to either lift or brake. This is due to the weight distribution difference and where the sedan starts to win out over the coupe. The coupe has a 61.4/38.6 (F/R) weight distribution while the sedan has a better 60.3/39.7 split. This comes from adding two more doors and a longer roof.

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When it came to me and headroom, that’s also where the sedan won when I had the helmet on. Front headroom on the coupe is 36.5-inches and 37.5-inches on the sedan – and I could feel it. The helmet was stuck right on the bump for the standard sunroof on the coupe but the one-inch difference of the sedan meant that I only had problems on bumps. That’s my only complaint about the Si coupe, but that could be fixed with lower aftermarket seats or finding some way to get rid of the sunroof and the associated headliner. It does make me wish that Honda would make the sunroof optional on the Si as it would let me gain another inch of headroom on the interior.

So, what does the Si share with the Type R? It’s in the suspension. The normal Civics come with fluid-filled bushings in the control arms but in the Si and the Type R, those are replaced with solid rubber components. This also leads to better steering feel and control as the bushings flex less. The dampers are MacPherson strut front and damper connected to the rear hub and spring on the rear control arm of the multi-link system. These dampers and springs are tuned for the Si, but when you go into Sport mode, things change.

Sport Mode
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When you hit that button on the center console that says ‘Sport’, it’s more than just a change of lights and maybe more sound. The Si becomes a different car, not radically so, but you notice the difference. First, the throttle becomes more direct; it follows the commands of your foot more than changing the throttle profile. It’s still more of a torque demand system, but it’s far better and you can heel/toe with it unlike many other systems when in Sport mode. The damper’s curve changes to become firmer and makes the car turn and pitch flatter. It does this using a solenoid on the damper body to change how the fluid interacts with the piston on bound and rebound. The steering becomes tighter and firmer while in Sport and the electric motor doesn’t provide as much assist as it does in Normal mode.

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Does the car become unlivable with Sport mode on? Not for me when I tried it just driving around the Mojave Desert and California City. It’s obviously not a dedicated track suspension, so it’s not going to jar your fillings out as you run over bumps and the train tracks. It even behaved well in the dirt when I was looking for a different shoot location but came up empty. I wasn’t driving as fast as I would in my Pathfinder, but Sport mode didn’t make it difficult or jarring as I drove on some dirt roads. Overall, Sport mode is civil but it does let you open up the Si on tracks and mountain roads for some spirited driving.

Would I Buy One?
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I had a really hard time giving the keys back to Honda. Even as I was driving the coupe for my after-track impressions, I had fun with it. Yes, I would like more headroom and I might consider the sedan over the coupe for that alone. However, I like the look of the coupe more and would be willing to own one even if I had to eventually find lower, aftermarket seats. Though, saying that, I wouldn’t turn down the sedan at all.

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On the track the sedan wins. It’s got a better weight balance, has more headroom for those of us over six-feet, and looks great for a four-door. If I was looking for my next Time Attack or even Showroom Stock car, I’d probably go with the Si sedan; it’s the better of the two cars on track. Aesthetically, though, I want a coupe as that has always been my favorite automotive body style and has been the shape of performance cars for me as I grew up. I’ll always take a coupe over a sedan for that reason alone.

But no matter which one you choose, you won’t lose. The Si is back and it’s a proper, sporty front-wheel drive car worthy of the ‘Sports Injection’ badging, even in a four-door. And given how good it is, it’s going to be very interesting to see how the Type R fares in comparison, and whether the extra money required to get into one of those will ultimately be worth it.

Words & Photos by Justin Banner
Instagram: jb27tt
Facebook: racerbanner
Twitter: RacerBanner

Cutting Room Floor
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37 comments

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1

Might be the prettiest engine bay ever.

2

Like looking under the hood of a Subaru. What a mess.

3

I've got a Subaru, it's confusing lol. One time in my old Legacy a spark plug flew out and was flailing around the bay on it's long ass wiring. Made everything that much scarier to look at tbh.

4

ewww

5
Eythan Aldrich

that's your only reaction? whenever I see this one word reaction in a harsh negative way......it pisses me off -_-

6

No CD player. No buy since Honda's USB playback system is garbage since it has 2-3ec gap on mixed albums and it has character limits.

8

You forgot to mention one of the best parts imo, which is the 23,900 msrp.

Author9
Justin Banner

Figured that was old news by now and dealer markups are inevitable.

10

Most important question: will it rise its wheel on corners?

Author11
Justin Banner

I didn't notice it happening when I was in the Winding Road Course at the Honda Proving Center in the Mojave. Then again, I had a helmet on and couldn't really look. I also didn't get out to the tighter course to watch/photograph others but from the video I have, I don't think it did while I was driving.

12

Well done review, you gave a good overview of the things people buying an Si would care about. Good to know about the head room. I'm over 6ft tall as well and head room is always an issue. The Si seems like such a good value for the money, and you've got to love that colour! Thank the lord it comes in a 6 speed manual only. I'm sure plenty of people will hate on it because it doesn't rev to 8k and weigh 1800lbs, but for people who are actually looking to buy a new car, and want all of the modern features, it seems like a good way to have fun on a budget. I'm sure with some aftermarket support from companies like Hondata, these will make good power. Long live the Civic Si, even if it's not as "compact" a sport compact anymore.

13
Jay Swaffield

It look like hyundai coupe with party hat on.

14
ReallyForeverAlone

Great article, but one correction: the Si didn't get a factory LSD until the 8th gen. You said in your EP3 paragraph that previous gens had it, which is incorrect. Previous generation Type R's had it, but an Si is not a Type R.

Author15
Justin Banner

Yeah, I was doing a bit of memory recall on the main complaint on the EP3 Civic Si and I remember nearly everyone complaining about the lack of a LSD of some sort in it. I think I equated that with every Civic Si before it as having it, for some reason. So, brainfart, that's my excuse, a brainfart.

16

The one thing I hate so much about the 2017 Civic si and generally most modern cars today are the engine bays. The manufactures forgot how to style them and make them look 'presentable'. This looks in my case the worst engine bay.

17

Keeping the stick alive!! Great job Honda!! :)

18

What the hell is going on in the engine bay? Here's the SI engine bay from just 4 years ago.

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19

^ They put a plastic cover over the rats nest in that one

20

Got one in at the dealership I work at and it was gone the two days later. I prefer the hatch look, the coupe doesn't quite do it looks wise for me. Add hondata to that and I wonder what how much a good tune would give it! Can't wait to see these new Honda turbocharged cars tuned in the next few years. My buddy has a 17 Civic manual and he's already started voiding warranties! But it sounds great.

21

Love that green.
That's a Drakken in background?

Author22
Justin Banner

I hate to admit this, but what's a Drakken? Anyhow, that's an exclusive color for the Si Coupe, Energy Green Pearl.

23

I'm guessing the jet.

Author24
Justin Banner

He is and yes, that is a Saab Sk-35XD Draken. "Built 1971 for the Royal Danish Air Force as ‘AT-151’. Later operated by the National Test Pilot School (NTPS), but now retired and on display at Mojave Air & Space Port, CA, USA. 29-2-2016"

25

I've never understood why Honda gave the Si name to the mid-range del Sol instead of the VTEC model (with the B16A3 and later the same B16A2 as the '99-00 Civic Si) but I assume it's because the first production year only had the 2 lowered powered D-series variants.

My unloaded pickup truck has 4% better weight distribution than the coupe. I know you're doomed for weight distribution with front wheel drive, but I keep hoping someone gets clever enough with layout and packaging to mitigate that.

I do really like that color green though. Wheels are awfully busy looking, but that's an easy change. If I ever felt the need to own another commuter car with front wheel drive, this would be on the short list probably.

Author26
Justin Banner

The green is exclusive to the Si Coupe and is known as Energy Green Pearl.

27

Still ugly, what's up with Asian styling lately, trying way too hard. Way too many lines and creases, way too busy, styling only a teenager could love.

28

I'm 56 and love the styling. Your claim is therefore invalid.

29
Stephan Protzen

I couldn't live with the styling.
What's up with the back end? And the tail lights? They look like they came off the new Prius.
Mostly they should just hire an Italian designer but it could be done in Japan too, they managed with the BRZ.

30

I need something to replace my 2000 Prelude and a Civic Si would be perfect. I don't care if it's a coupe or sedan, I just want a turbo 200hp Honda with a manual. I've sent a dozen messages to Honda Australia begging them to bring this down under. Each time I've been met with silence or "We have no plans to bring the Si spec in".
They don't offer a manual on any Australian Civic aside form the Type R, which I can't afford. Seriously Honda, you used to be a youthful, engaging sports brand and now you sell beige CVT boringboxes to retirees. Do something fun for once.

I'll be crying in the corner if you need me.

31

I don't know if this engine should be called high-revving. 7k RPM limiter. Fair enough, it's turbo now.

But I dream that if Honda persisted in N/A development they could of had some crazy engine by now. At least for a Type R.
Back when they did crazy things like 8-valve oval cylinders and pushed 15k to 20k RPM, motorbike engines, but still... Honda gave in to turbo.

Japan is coming back, but still hasn't got it's mojo in my opinion. Not pushing boundaries as much as they used to. At least we finally sort of have a step in a bit of a promising direction I'll give them that.

Anywho, maybe the F20C was the last N/A hurrah for them. On another note; The next Mazda RX-7 will have pistons I bet. Lol.

32

Probably the ugliest Honda ever made...can't get down with this.

33

At least it looks better than the EU Sedan wich is ugly as hell

34

Looks way better than the Type R.

-Alex

35
Maxwell Jimenez

This engine sure is ugly! It sure has nothing on the good old B and K series.

Author36

Ugly or not, it's a great performer out of the box.

37
Hiroaki Shibata

I hope this coupe will be also offered for Japanese market plz US Honda

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