MotoringFile Review: Honda Civic Si

I’ve thought long and hard about how to present this review. Long drawn-out prose? Two paragraphs and performance data? None of it really seemed appropriate.  Heck, I only had the car for 20 minutes.  Granted, those twenty minutes included a couple of fantastic roads that definitely put me on the limit of the chassis, the engine, and the drive train. But 20 minutes does not allow for what I would call a proper review. With this in mind, I decided to do the entire review using bullet points.

Tossable: The Civic Si is a toss-able package that feels nimble and eager, which is a huge improvement over the previous US spec Si.  A good deal of this is made possible by the 2877lbs curb weight that is surprisingly close to the weight of the MCS.

Good brakes yet little feedback: Yes brakes that stop you quick area great.  But without good feedback and feel there is little satisfaction gained.  Worse, without proper feedback you don’t have the confidence needed in demanding driving.

Quick: 197 @ 7800 (8000 rpm redline).  Numbers that make other 4 cylinders drool.  However, unlike other screaming Honda 4-bangers, this one has a great soundtrack.  The only real downside to the engine is its lack of low-end grunt.  But then again many would consider that magical 8000 number a nice trade-off.

Rev-happy: Oh and 8000 comes up quick.  Because of this, the Si is a car that just screams for the manual option.


Numb Steering: Yet with all that this car has going for it, it’s let down by relatively numb steering.  For most people that drive it, ‘numb’ probably wouldn’t be the first word that comes to mind.  However, for a MINI owner, there’s no question that there is some real feedback missing from the Si.  That coupled with some substandard all-season tires (215/45/17) made for some epic understeer on my test route.  Now don’t get me wrong, my MCS (shod with equally poor all-seasons for the winter) also had gobs of understeer.  With the MCS you knew exactly where the car was, what it was doing, and were it would most likely end up.  With the Civic, you just had a little less of an idea.

Seats are terrible:  Somehow my 6′ 2″ frame did not work with the Civic’s sport seats.  Now I’m not here to say that the US Spec sport seats in the MINI are the be all and end-all, but there’s a subtle difference between satisfactory seating and terrible back pain. Of course your results may vary.

Is that a dash board or an aircraft carrier: The civic dash-board is the AMC Pacer of automotive interior design. It’s one of those ideas that probably seemed great on paper and from one engineer explaining it to another. But as a functional piece of information design it’s just…. weird. It’s part Star Wars, part late 80’s Buick Park Avenue.

Interior looks cheap and feels cheap:  Let me start by saying that a good portion of the interior is simple and well designed.  The climate controls just makes sense as soon as you look at them.  The center console is a no-brainer.  But the quality of the components betrays the design.  To put it another way, you never forget that you’re in a Civic.

Good looks:All this aside the exterior design is an absolute triumph. This is the best looking Civic coupe since the early 90’s in my book, and maybe the best ever. The proportions work with the purpose and character very well. And Honda designers really got the details right as well. I still can’t figure out which angle is the best. And to think, this is a Civic I’m talking about… who would have thought?

So there you have it.  The new Civic Si is a huge step up from the previous generation, and, in some respects, it can almost hold its own against the MINI.  In fact, for most of the American public looking for a small coupe, it probably represents a great answer to most of the concessions people tend to make.  It’ll probably run forever with little drama, the trunk can hold two bodies, it can be had for a relatively low price, and it can be serviced at loads more dealers than the MINI. 

But all that aside, for most enthusiasts who currently look to the MINI as the ultimate small car excitement, the Civic Si is a worthy competitor “just probably more so for the VW GTI.

You can compare the MINI and the Civic for yourself at Honda’s own website. Perhaps unsurprisingly to most of us, the five year old MINI does quite well for itself.

Big thanks to Dave for helping with this review.

  • Z4MINI

    Interesting to hear your impressions. The numbers for the SI are INDEED more impressive than the GTI…especially the weight. And although looks are a matter of taste, I agree, it is a good looking car.

    Let’s hope the next gen MINI follows the lightweight route as well.

  • Edge

    LOL – I’m particularly amused that the comparison on Honda’s site lists the Civic’s wider wheelbase & width, and longer length, yet shorter height, all as advantages.

    A longer, wider car does not a better car make!

  • mad brummie

    weird your Civic looks much more ‘conventional’ than ours we get a hatchback version in Britain that looks like something out of a 60’s sci-fi film!!! Google it and see!

  • Rob Rudorf

    I bought my MCS in October just before the Si and the GTI were readily available even though those 2 cars were the only others I was going to cross-shop. I am certain I bought the right car if for nothing else, resale value and fun to drive.

  • beekman

    Nice review, I like the bullet style – it looks like a tank next to that MINI! I personally think the design is a bit conservative. check out the version they’ll be getting in europe:

    perhaps a bit far in the other direction!

  • Mark (Ohio)

    Look at the size of the windshield in your picture as compared to the Mini’s! Yikes!

    Personally I was disappointed with the new styling I thought they really took the conservative/how-hum more of the same design path. I’m sure the tuners will trick it up nice though.

  • Shamus

    My biggest question is…what were the blind spots like? Those A-pillars look a bit too sloped to see around.

  • Aqualung

    yeah, and recall that Road & Track did a comparo where the Civic beat the MINI by 1 point…and the GTI won. I can’t access the URL from work but the story / URL is up on and NAM in the Media section, look for my post.

  • I could never describe that wedge as “good looks”!

  • we also did the GTI vs Si comparo

    GTI won too. Gabe: No problem on the short loan. It was fun.

    I think as an entire package the Si is a good deal. I don’t think the interior is cheap when you compare it to any domestic entry level car though. It’s just not afraid of plastic which is strange to get used to.

    And it’s also much better looking in person and from the back. And I don’t remember the blind spot being that bad if at all noticeable

  • scotteast

    To me, the really odd thing about the new Civic is how much it looks like a Saturn coupe, especially from the rear. The Saturn is not exactly a hot seller, so I’m not sure why Honda would use that design for inspiration.

  • Mark (Ohio)

    yeah has the “classic” designed in a windtunnel look…not exactly creative looking

  • If you just look at the performance vs price, the Civic SI beats the MCS and the GTI dollar for dollar.

    For what I use my MINI for, it can’t be beaten, agile, fun, cool looking, and practical. No other sub compact coupe can sit four 5’7″ people in relative comfort, other than the MINI. The Civic’s back seat doesn’t have enough head room.

  • Yegor H.
    For what I use my MINI for, it can’t be beaten, agile, fun, cool looking,

    I also thought I am driving one of the coolest cars (referring to my MCS), then I read this article today where the author calls BMW MINI “Uncool: fashion moment has passed…” (pay attention at the image, third column) and where Land Rover Defender & Chrysler 300C are ICE COLD. I actually don’t see any difference between Defender and Ford Escape and will see how looks 300C in 1 or 2 years: let me guess — like TOYOTA Camry, just another moving appliance with more power.

    I apologize for the off topic post, however it’s related since we discuss the exterior design as well. The new US Si looks larger and if there is nothing to compare in proportions, it looks like a van. I like the European Si. It looks really good and much more dynamic.

  • Sean

    So I went in to a Honda Dealership in Canada with my brother this week to test drive the Honda Civic Si.

    I drove up in My JCW and bro pulled up in his Jetta – the exact dempgraphic and target market honda is going after with the Si.

    After wandering around the showroom for 30 minutes, waiting to be assisted, we approached the front desk and asked for help.

    We asked the young sales rep to test drive a Civic Si. He looked at us like we were from anohter planet.

    The young arrongant saleman told us we simply would not be able to drive one. He the ego of a Ferrari Salesman – yet sells $18,000 cheap japanese cars.

    He told us the dealership only recieves one Si a month (and it’s a high volume dealer). They did not have one to DEMO as they are a buy then drive car. WHAT? This is a honda we are talking about here. He acted as though Si was the nicest Italian exotic going. So basically he asked us to order one up – then when it arrives if we like it – we can buy it.

    It’s hard to sell a product that the client isn’t allowed to drive – let alone see or sit in. We told him he was on crack and he can shove his Honda where the sun doesn’t shine.

    If all Honda dealership’s behave this way – they won’t be selling many Si’s period.

    Maybe I have just been spoiled dealing with MINI over the past few years. When I want to take a MINI for a test drive – a JCW nonthe less – they photocopy my license and throw me the keys. They don’t even come along for the ride unless I insist. If only all dealers could be like my MINI dealer life would be a good place.

    Long story short – Honda wouldn;t let me drive a Si so the MINI gets the Knockout punch in the first round. GO MINI!

  • Frank

    I think Honda made a big mistake by not making the Euro-spec 5 door Civic hatchback Si available in the US market. In order to compensate for this mistake, American Honda for the first time ever will offer the Civic Si in the sedan version (Which to my eye looks much better than the coupe).

    Historically, the Civic Si has always been a hatchback. Honda doesn’t get it, at least in the North American market. Witness the success of the MINI, the Scion and other small hatchbacks and yet Honda chooses to march to a different drum beat with the ’06 Civic by not offering a hatchback body style.

    I owned Hondas for many years (12 to be exact) and I am sooo over them. I just don’t see myself owning another one after experiencing the MINI.

  • Frank

    Civics generally enjoy good resale values, but they can’t touch the resale value residuals of the MINI. The other day I saw a new ’06 Civic Si loaded for about $20,800 window sticker. Nice car, but man looks cheap. You can see the cost cutting in certain areas of the vehicle.

    It is sad to say that the Civic is currently the best looking product they are selling here. It seems to me the Civic Si is a much better buy than the Acura RSX Type S, sans not taking into consideration the longer warranty coverage in the Acura.

  • Odd, it too looks saturn-bland to me. It seems very non-distinct.

  • RM2k5

    Anyone else catch the mistakes on the Honda webiste comparison?

    Check it out, they have the base price as $23K, and they state that a Limited Slip Diff is NOT available, and a manual trans is NOT available! Nothing could be further but the truth!


  • Siddhartha

    F a buncha civics. No comp on the track. bring me a nice ripe M3 . . . mmmmmmmhhh.

  • Osmodious

    I won’t even get into my ‘arrogant Honda salespeople’ rant…I’ll just second what Sean said. Then again, Honda salespeople have ALWAYS had an attitude problem, and many dealers got in trouble several years back for their markup policies.
    Whatever. One or two per dealer per month is ludicrous…but since when does Honda have to care? It’s interesting that they consider the Si to be a ‘halo car’ (bring people into the store, then sell them something else), that’s usually reserved for cars like the Viper and other untouchable machines…

  • Rollin

    The Cool Wall online lists the MINI CooperS as Sub Zero cool.

  • Top gear moved the MCS off subzero a long time ago, I guess they just didn’t bother updating their website. Personally, I don’t need a second “expert” opinion to tell me how cool or good looking my car is, I can do that myself.

    Still, there is no denying that the SI is a very attractive product, or the Honda dealers won’t be so arrogant. Hell, they were like that even for the last generation hatch back Civic SiR, won’t let me go for a test drive longer than 10 minutes.

    Then I went up to the MINI dealership and they threw me the keys and asked me if 45 minutes would be enough.

    As good as the Civic is, I can’t imagine wearing a Civic hat and smile everytime I look at the car.

  • That’s one fugly car.

  • gokartride

    I, too, find the looks to be lacking.

  • greg

    zzzzzzzzzzzzzz a cheese wedge on wheels

  • EBMCS03

    Blah… its a civic in the end. It’ll be branded as a High school kids first car. That or a person can cant afford anything else. Even if its a Si…its a “Civic” in the end. I have zero interest. Personal Preference…

  • John

    It should be stressed that “cheap plastic” in the Civic is an opinion and certainly not a fact. It has been praised in every review I have read. However I have not seen it myself. As for the engine of Civic; yet another engineering marvel. One that Mini is desperately in need of. Hopefully the next generation at least comes comes close in keeping up with technology.

  • The reason they’re not offering a hatchback in the US is because of the horrible sales of the last Civic Si, a hatchback. Americans more or less prefer coupe and sedan styles. Dodge is going out on a limb with the Caliber and not offering an entry level sedan or coupe in all of the Chrysler group.

  • Herman L.

    the hatchback sold okay in Canada, so i guess they assume as the majority of sales went to the states they discontinued here too

    i personally love the sedan, hate the coupe…. somehow, the coupe’s body seems unfinished… that’s just my opinion

    personally though, the civic is a worthy competitor for those who dont need that razor sharp handling every single day, and could use a bit more practicality…

  • greg

    I have to admit it when I’m wrong. My girlfriend wanted to see this car so I went along nose firmly in the air. I have to admit it was a nice value at $20,000k. Not bad at all.

  • Nick

    MCS is a gorgeous car, beyond reproof! Perhaps a tad plastic-dressed-like-metal inside, but which manufacturer doesn’t do that? The Civic is a close competitor, but not its equal.

    So, why did I just drop $500 today as a deposit on a Civic Si? Because Honda vehicles are essentially bulletproof. I’ve owned GTIs and Coopers (yeah, the real ones, back in England when I was an unappreciative teenager), and the watchword when it comes to owning a European car is: reliability! Specifically, the lack thereof!

    Croon all you wish on the benefits of the MCS and GTI, but in ten years, they’ll all be landfill! The Si has support in the aftermarket, and great fundamentals: it’s NA, whereas the MCS and GTI are both blown. Let me strap on a super (after the warranty’s done) and we’ll meet again on different terms.

    The Si is designed for tuners. The GTI and MCS, even JCW entities, are for the ‘Tuned’. You are letting the factory dictate your headroom! Today you may crow, but the ultimate bragging rights will go the machines that don’t blow a gasket at 8500 rpm, and then some. Start worrying: we have thermodynamics on our side!

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  • Duane Ackerman

    Great car if you don’t mind not being able to see the hood or fenders of the car as you drive because of the 3 foot wide dashboard. It seems to be the “blind spot” that no reviewer wants to talk about. I personally like to be able to see where the front end of my car is. Makes it easier to park and make safe lane changes.
    But who cares about stuff like that these days….right?

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  • Almotorhead

    I owned for a year then sold a MINI S. I sold it for just over a grand less than I payed for it. I have just test drove a regular EX Civic then the SI ’07. The SI has my money down on it. The Coop is and was a great vehicle. Time for a change. The engine sounds more like a race car than the S, the S has a sweet sound tho none the less. Both cars are equally great for what they are and I’m sure I’ll have loads of fun with the SI.

  • illegalhunter

    The Mugen version is 5 times the car . I traded my fault ridden R56 Cooper S for the FN2 Type R.