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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.

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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.