2012 Honda Civic Coupe Si Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

A have a few favourite cars, and the Civic Si is one of them. If I ever take the plunge and buy one of my own I'd opt for a four-door body style just because a sedan is more practical. Hey, I'd choose a wagon if Honda made one, but twist my rubber arm the Coupe Si that landed in my driveway did just fine.

Model year 2012 sees the launch of the 9th generation Honda Civic and with it a new Si, and for the most part the changes are welcome. I mean, how can any true Si fan bash a car that shows little change to core elements, which are already very good, before adding a little more power and a lot more torque? So I might as well get one of my big complaints right out of the way, and that's a move to cheaper hard plastics throughout the cabin where a more premium-like soft-touch variety was used previously. This isn't much of a problem at the lower end of the Civic range, where a base sedan can be had for about $16k with destination fees, but when opting for the Si the price climbs to the high $20s and more is expected.

For anyone familiar with the previous Si, the new 2012 model won't be much of a shocker inside or out, unless you expected Honda to create a more dramatic update. The styling gets a little wedgier, yet some might find the new model a bit more conservative all-round. A quick reference to the old Civic Coupe Si might be necessary to see changes to the new car's front-end design, as its cues are mostly similar with only a subtle reshaping of each individual component affecting the overall look. Rear styling is quite different, mind you, with the old flush horizontal taillights giving way to new wraparound units that are less distinctive but emit more braking light. Specific to the Si is a pronounced rear wing spoiler that melds nicely into the aforementioned brake lights, plus an oval-shaped chrome exhaust tip, and unique 10-spoke 17-inch alloy rims wrapped in 215/45R17 all-season rubber.

Inside, again refer to photos of the old car for differentiation. The two-teired gauge package remains and looks much the same as that in the old car other than a nice 5-inch display showing audio, hands-free phone, and other functions. A new 3-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel looks good and feels great, and the handbrake lever is back where it should be between the seats instead of on the lower centre stack where it would rub against the right leg of taller drivers, or so I'm told. The Si's exclusive red backlit gauges add a sporty touch, plus Honda pumps up the performance theme further with comfortable and truly supportive sport seats, plus an aluminum shift knob and aluminum pedals, while additional standard features include the usual powered controls, heated mirrors, automatic headlamps, variable intermittent wipers, a powered glass sunroof, a six-speaker premium audio system with subwoofer, USB and auxiliary plugs, XM satellite radio, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and satellite-linked navigation. An intelligent Multi-Information Display with audio track titles and the ability to add your own personal wallpaper is a cool feature, although I wish Honda would make its HandsFreeLink Bluetooth system work more effectively and not kick my Blackberry Torch off the speakers and back to my handset without provocation, or any other number of irritating hands-free problems. On the positive, the Si's cruise control worked without fault, and the 60/40 split-folding seatbacks turned this sports car into a cargo hauler extraordinaire. Yes, that's a nice long list of standard features, and while some will complain about too many similarities to the old Civic Si, I'm really glad my favourite feature remains the same; the short-throw 6-speed manual transmission.

This is a jewel of a gearbox and continues forward into 2012 as the only transmission offered. It combines with Honda's wonderfully revvy and totally revised 2.4-litre DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine that finally tops the 200-horsepower threshold at 201, arriving at a heady 7,000 rpm, while torque is up from 139 lb-ft to a robust 170, and now from a more tractable 4,400 rpm compared to 6,100 in the old car.

The new car pulls hard and fast off the line, with much more punch than previously and strong, linear power up through the rev band. And like the outgoing Si, forward momentum is rewarded more fully when the road starts to wind. The power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering feels light yet connected, and its front suspension setup, made up of MacPherson struts, coil springs and a stabilizer bar, holds the front tires in place during aggressive maneuvers. The Si continues forward with a multi-link, stabilizer bar arrangement in back, along with a limited-slip differential, and it follows along obediently too. This is a front-driver so you've got to treat it differently in the corners than a rear-wheel drive car if you want to exact all of its performance, but for those with only intermediate driving skills the Si will reward the occasional overtly exhuberant move by keeping you within the correct lane, whereas a rear-drive car might pitch you off the road.

I've seen this first hand while testing the previous Si on Laguna Seca raceway, making ground on another journalist ahead in a Ford Mustang GT500. Yes, the wee little Si, that older one weaker than the new model, was catching up to the 540-horsepower GT500 through the corners because he didn't know how to keep such a beast on the straight and narrow. Well, actually he had no problem blasting back past me on the straights, but you get my drift. And don't misunderstand me, like most cars these days both the GT500 and Si come standard with stability control. It's just that you turn off electronic nannies on the track or you'll burn through the brakes.

Another thing the Si has over its V8-powered rivals is fuel efficiency, the Si the gas guzzler within the Civic lineup yet still a relative teatotaller at an estimated 10.0 L/100km in the city and 6.4 on the highway. My weeklong experience was closer to the U.S. EPA metric equivalent rating of 10.7 and 7.6 respectively, still superb by most performance car standards.

On another practical note, every Civic including the Si comes standard with all the usual airbags, allowing it to achieve the best "Good" results in IIHS frontal offset, side-impact, and roof strength crash tests.

The 2012 Civic Coupe Si, in all its glory, starts at a mere $25,990 plus $1,395 for destination charges. That's a small sum for a car that will bring you miles upon miles of smiles, not to mention the satisfaction of having employed Canadian autoworkers in building it.

So am I one hundred-percent satisfied with changes made to the new 2012 Civic Coupe Si? No, but I'm still grinning like a school kid at what is one of the best performance values on the planet.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sports Coupe, Honda, 2012, Civic Si Coupe, $20,000 - $29,999,

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page