Specs & Details
'12 Honda Civic Si
Engine 2.4 liter K24Z7 inline-4 DOHC i-VTEC
Horsepower 201 at 7000 rpm
Torque 173 ft-lbs at 4300 rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual
Price Starting at $22,995
When you’ve got a good thing going, why change it? That’s gotta be what Honda has been thinking all along with its Civic lineup of automobiles. The Civic has been a tremendous success for the better part of the last decade, which has made it hard to improve upon.
The sportiest model of the lineup, the Si has done some growing up, while still retaining its fun, sporty, performance-oriented attitude, and with the introduction of the new ’12 Honda Civic Si, an even better experience is there. That said, somehow it still leaves us wanting more.
At first glance you may think, “Wait a second, the ’12 Civic Si looks like just like its older sibling, with a few minor styling changes” — and you’d be right. Honda was very conservative on the exterior redesign, thus the reason why the Si doesn’t look much different than years past. But behind the sheetmetal, there are many new features and upgrades that make the new Si stand out in big ways.
The biggest and arguably the most noteworthy change comes in the engine department, where the previous-generation 2.0-liter K20Z3 4-cylinder has been replaced with the larger-displacement 2.4-liter K24Z7. Despite horsepower only being up 3 hp to 201, torque has been increased by 31 ft-lbs (139 versus 170) and available at 4300 rpm. Before crying foul and complaining about the lower-rpm redline (7000 rpm) and less rev-happy nature of the K24 engine versus the K20, go drive it. With the added torque on tap, the Si feels much more competent to get up and go without a need to downshift and rev the engine past 6000 rpm. The K24 suits this chassis much better than its smaller-displacement sibling and provides a stronger base platform to build off of. With bolt-on modifications, horsepower numbers upward of 260 can be easily had with the K24. For all these reasons, the K24 is a welcome addition to the new Civic; it even betters the old generation in mpg (22 city, 31 highway), despite the displacement increase. Now you can have your cake and eat it, too.
The Civic Si has arguably been the best-handling FWD car on the market for some time, and its new improvements will surely cement that title for several more years. Thicker sway bars (18mm front, 15mm rear) and a lower ride height provide less body roll during turn-in, resulting in razor-sharp cornering ability that’s hard to not like. The Si possesses great composure no matter how hard you push it — a trait that arguably makes it such a fun and predictable car to drive fast and hard. With a precise point-and-shoot character, there are very few complaints about the suspension; set your wheel where you want to go, apply the power and it does as you command without any fuss. Part of the Si’s excellent handling prowess is also thanks to a factory-equipped mechanical limited slip differential. This silent operating LSD works wonders at transferring power to the front wheels equally and smoothly.
Another reason why the Civic Si is so appealing for young enthusiasts is that it’s a legitimately great daily driver, while still being a very capable weekend warrior. Aiding in the driving experience is a well laid-out cockpit with plenty of amenities. The new i-MID, a 5-inch color display screen built into the dash, displays vehicle info as well as music selection and includes Bluetooth. It’s placed in the driver’s line of sight, making it easy to navigate radio stations or check instant gas mileage without looking away from the road.
Features that are sure to pique the interest of most “boy racers” are the i-VTEC and rev light indicators. When i-VTEC kicks in at 5200 rpm, a red dot illuminates and four yellow dots continue to light up one after the other as the revs rise until you’re just about to hit the engine’s 7000-rpm redline. That’s when two more red dots let you know it’s time to bang the next gear. At first, this feature proved enticing, but it became a bit tiresome as the day wore on. It would be great if there were a way to disable the function so it can be used only when the driver wants it.
The rest of the interior is pretty standard Honda quality and offers plenty of sportiness to heighten the driving experience. There’s really not much to fault about the new Civic Si. It checks all the right boxes for a FWD sports car. However, we can’t help but feel Honda is being a bit too cautious about straying from its comfort zone. We’d gladly accept a stiffer ride for even better handling and less gas mileage for more power. Because there’s no Type-R version in sight, we want the Si to be that car for us. Heck, make it half as hardcore as Type-Rs of generations past, and we’ll be jumping up and down.
In the meantime, though, we’ll be glad to use the ’12 Civic Si as a starting platform and leave it to the aftermarket to figure out what it needs to make it a real competitor on and off the track.