The Honda Civic has been around for numerous generations now. It’s probably safe to say it’s Honda’s bread and butter car. It’s gone from being a cheap entry-level import from Japan, to where it is now – a desirable, quality-built, relatively inexpensive car to purchase and maintain that people actually want to own. Although no longer imported from Japan, Honda quality has continued to improve and has become the benchmark for many other manufacturers to strive for. Honda churn out a new Civic every four years like clockwork, and the latest generation arrived late last year as a 2006 model. The one that caught my eye was the Si version. Available as a coupe and now a 4-door, this has to be the one that is the most desirable Civics ever. Also, with 197 hp on tap from the 2.0 litre engine, it has to be one of the fastest and most powerful Civics ever.
Unlike Civics of the past, I think this is a great looking car – no matter what angle you look at it. From the long swoopy nose back to the curvy rear end, this is definitely a new look for the Civic coupe. The color of the test vehicle – Fuji Blue Pearl – certainly made it stand out.
The instrument panel is bi-level, and features a red (other Civics are blue) luminescent instrument and tachometer combo. The fuel gauge, digital speedometer and temperature gauges are located in the upper housing further from the driver, out towards the bottom of the windshield. Having the speedometer and fuel gauges in the upper-level makes it almost a heads-up display, it’s perfectly placed – right in the driver’s sight-line. While I really liked the bi-level design, it was impossible to hide your cruising speed from your passengers.
The tachometer, multi-information digital display and odometer with trip meter and the warning indicators are housed in the lower level instrument panel, just above the steering wheel – like traditional layouts. The information display provides information such as your average fuel economy, odometer and outside temperature. The small, thick steering wheel is nice and chunky in the hands, with the electric steering being perfectly weighted. Within the spokes of the steering wheel are the audio and cruise control buttons. My one complaint about the steering/dash layout was that I felt it was about two inches too far to the left – a little off-centre.
Firing up the Civic Si brings a muted, throaty growl from the engine and exhaust. The shift lever for the 6-speed manual transmission is perfectly placed where your hand naturally reaches for it. Putting the car into gear is silky-smooth, although the clutch take-up is very twitchy and abrupt until you get used to it. However, I still had to remind myself of this each time I got behind the wheel – I felt like newborn deer with wobbly legs as I rowed through the first couple of gear changes on each journey. Even though I was acutely aware of the Si’s inclination, I still managed to peel out at a set of traffic lights without even trying to squeal the tires.
From the second you get behind the wheel you feel completely at home – there is virtually no time need to familiarize yourself with the car because everything is so logically placed. The climate control buttons are very legible, being large and easy to use. Likewise the audio controls are perfectly placed and easy to operate. Everything can be adjusted at a quick glance without having to take your eyes off the road to study the little diagrams that have become too prevalent in many of today’s cars. There’s no need to scroll through a selection of options to get what you want – just push the clearly marked button. The cruise and audio controls on the steering wheel are illuminated, but only the driver’s window button is illuminated which is odd – why wouldn’t they light up the passenger window button? Also unusual is the lack of lights on the vanity mirrors and the surprising fact that the seat belts are not height-adjustable. There’s a decent sized glove box and a great set of auto-adjustable cup holders that accept bottles, cups and cans of all sizes.
Looking out from the driver’s seat, the front of the car completely disappears after the wiper blades, leaving you no idea where the hood ends. The first time you park the car is when you realize the problem – you have no depth perception. I parked at what I thought was very close to the wall – I didn’t want to actually hit it. Upon checking out my parking job, I found I was about 4 feet from the wall! Eventually I got used to it, but I always ended up being just a little farther back than I had judged it to be – I’d rather err on the side of caution, than just hit the car in front, like many drive-by-touch people out there.
The ride, fit and finish are superb – as you’d expect. The nicely contoured and bolstered seats are very comfortable and the support is perfectly placed. Too bad more power seats aren’t this easy to adjust and get comfortable in. I’ve found Honda’s (and Acura’s) in the past had seats that felt very close to the ground when you’re getting into the car – you get a free-falling feeling till you’re actually in the seat. However, the seats in this Civic are much closer to a ‘normal’ height for entry and exit, yet you still get that sporty feeling of sitting nice and low when you’re driving. The cloth material offered plenty of grip, and encourages you to push the car deep into the corners without the fear of sliding around. However, after 30-45 minutes of driving, the seats became uncomfortable. Although the shape of them fit perfectly to my body, when I got out at my destination, I felt like someone had hit me across my lower back with a big stick. After being out of the car for 5 minutes and stretching, I was ready to get behind the wheel again, but once the 45 minutes came along again, it was time to get out for another stretch.
The Civic Si is very much like a Honda S2000 in disguise – it’s a very quick car that’s very easy and enjoyable to drive at any speed – more often than not at a higher velocity. The tight, go-kart like steering and suspension really made this car a treat to drive. The suspension is quite firm, and makes you feel every bump and road imperfection which may have been due to the 215/45 R17 low profile tires. It didn’t make the experience painful; it just encouraged you to drive the streets with a little more zest. Otherwise, the Civic was extremely civilized, with road and wind noise being very muted, even at speeds well over the posted limit. Like its big brother the S2000, the Si really comes alive once you get over the 6,500 rpm rev-range, and it feels like it’s forcing you take it all the way to the 8,000 rpm limit – the sound of the engine is music to the ears. Honda probably won’t appreciate this, but I’d recommend the Civic Si over the S2000. They’re 2 completely different cars, but the Civic is every bit as much fun to drive! Both seats however, are equally uncomfortable, while the audio system and dash layout in the Civic is far superior, not to mention that it’s also about half the price of the S2000.
Rear seat accommodation in the Si is cozy. Entry and exit is typical of a coupe, but not difficult. Once back there, it’s very comfortable for two, but there is room and a seatbelt for a third passenger. For short journeys it would be cramped, but acceptable. With the flat floor, three passengers have plenty of space for their feet. Foot, leg and hip room is quite generous – especially for two. Headroom is tight, as you would expect with the dramatic sweeping roof line. Anyone larger than perhaps 5’9” would probably just touch the headliner with their hair while sitting in the rear (If you’ve got a bald passenger, you could squeeze a 5’10’’ person back there). I was surprised to see three adjustable headrests in the rear, that’s something you don’t see every day. Both rear seats fold flat offering additional storage space for items too large to fit into the cavernous trunk, which is surprisingly large and accommodating at 11.5 cu/ft. Access to the trunk is via a lever on the floor down by the drivers left leg (my wife noted that the positioning of the lever is bad for collecting grime and mud during the winter months, and she doesn’t like that feature in any vehicle), otherwise you (gasp!) have to use the key to gain entry. Most cars’ fobs have the trunk release button on them and that’s why this stood out as odd. When you get used to using the fob to open trunks and doors, it gets annoying having to remember to do it a different way (remember the old days when you had to get out of your chair to change the TV channel?! How annoying was that!) Inside the trunk are the two easy to reach levers that allow the seats to drop forward in a 60/40 split.
The factory audio system is very good in the Civic Si. Any thoughts of replacing it with an aftermarket unit will quickly disappear once you see the dash. Like it or loath it – you’re stuck with the factory unit and fortunately it’s a good ‘un. With 4 speakers and a subwoofer, the quality is good, with the subwoofer kicking out plenty of bass. I’m sure younger people won’t be happy with it, but at least the speakers and subwoofer can be replaced with aftermarket stuff if you’re so inclined. The factory unit is an AM/FM/MP3/WMA single disc CD. Below the stereo unit is a power outlet and a jack for running your MP3 through the sound system along with a little shelf for storing your MP3 player. There’s an additional power outlet inside the arm rest/console. On the downside, the stereo/amplifier is limited in its volume. You can crank it up to its maximum and still hold a conversation without yelling at each other.
The Civic Si comes in two variations: 2-door and 4-door, with the only options (U.S. only) being the SatNav at $1,750 and summer tires at $200. There is only one engine available (2.0 L DOHC i-VTEC) and a 6-speed manual transmission – no automatic is available.
Standard features include: height adjustable driver’s seat, rear wing and front lower spoiler, heated side mirrors, leather wrapped tilt and telescopic steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, speed-sensitive volume control AM/FM single-CD with MP3/WMA in-dash stereo system, power moonroof with auto-open, keyless entry, air conditioning and drive-by-wire throttle system. Unique Si tuned suspension along with front and rear stabilizer bars and 17” alloy wheels round out the Si, along with an immobilizer system.
On the safety side, the Civic Si has plenty of features. For example: auto door lock/unlock, ABS, Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD), reinforced side intrusion beams, side seat-mounted air bags, side curtain air bags, front seatbelt pre-tensioners, active head restraints, an immobilizer system is standard, with an optional dealer installed Anti-theft alarm.
The styling of the Honda Civic is quite a departure for Honda. I’ve never considered Honda’s to be particularly attractive – more dull than beauty (same thing with Toyota’s), but I really like the look of the Civic coupe. Many young people are taking older Civics and dropping a large number of dollars into them to turn them into “Rice Rockets.” This is one from the factory that comes with a warranty and no effort to put together – and it’s probably cheaper too. This factory rocket is a blast to drive and is very practical. Price-wise the Civic and in-turn the Si version are very hard to beat. You get a lot of car for the money, along with the added peace of mind in knowing they are extremely reliable and one of the cheapest cars to repair and maintain. For my wife and I, both front seats are just too painful to even consider buying the Si, which it pains me to say ;>). Fuel economy is outstanding considering you spend the entire time wringing every ounce of power out of the engine. My stopwatch timed the 0-60 mph at 8.6 seconds, but I know it’s much faster than that.
Back Seat Driver Test: 8 out of 10
Very comfortable for short journeys, too laid back for long distance trips resulting in aching backs (this is a Honda trait going back decades). Nice flat floor offering plenty of foot space with a reasonable amount of knee, hip and head room for rear passenger – comfortable for two, acceptable for three.
Pricing for the 2007 Honda Civic Si coupe
As tested: $21,290 [$26,080 Cdn]
A fully comprehensive bumper to bumper warranty covers you for 3 years/36,000-miles [60,000 kms], and a 5-year/60,000 miles [100,000 kms] powertrain warranty. Roadside assistance is also included.
Fuel Consumption: [Premium – 91 Octane]
The 6-speed manual is rated at 22 mpg City [10.6 L/100 kms] and 31 mpg Highway [7.6 L/100 kms]
I averaged 26.7 mpg [8.8/100km] combined in very aggressive driving
Honda’s usual outstanding quality fit and finish
Silky-smooth clutch and shifter matched to an equally glorious engine
Huge trunk for a small car
Superb gas mileage for a budget-priced sports car
My kingdom for a comfy seat!!
Would I Spend My Money On It?:
Yes and no. Yes as a car this is a sports car hiding in a budget car body – BUT the seat’ll kill ya!
Chevy Cobalt SS, Ford Focus ZX3, Ford Mustang, Hyundai Tiburon, Mazdaspeed3, MINI, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Pontiac Pursuit coupe/G5, Saturn Ion Quad-coupe, VW Rabbit/GTI
By The Numbers”
Powertrain: 2.0 L DOHC i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine; 6-speed manual transmission
Horsepower: 197 @ 7,800 rpm
Torque: 139 @ 6,100 rpm
0-60 mph: 8.6 seconds
10 – Quality
10 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
9 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
7 – Special Features (Sat Nav/Heated Seats/ Sunroof, etc)
8 – Ease of Entry/Exit
10 – Front Roominess
8 – Rear Roominess
10 – Driving Position/Controls
9 – Drool Factor
10 – Fit & Finish
10 – Engine
10 – Transmission
10 – Ride & Handling
10 – Bang for the $$
10 – Fuel Economy
141 Total / 150
Copyright © 2007 by Iain Shankland – email@example.com
Also Published at: PaddockTalk