Do You Still Think About The Civic Si?

The Civic Si has a thankless job in the spectrum of cheap performance cars. Now, it's on the verge of a generational upgrade.

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Photo: Honda

The 2022 Honda Civic is a good car, because it’s a Civic — what else would you expect? The upcoming Civic Si should, once again, be a poster child for reasonably priced performance. And we’ll get to see the new Si very soon, because the first examples are reportedly planned to make deliveries to dealers in November.

The tease comes from Civic 11 Forum, which says it’s received confirmation of that timeline from dealers. The forum also cites a comment from a YouTuber claiming to have inside knowledge that the Si’s reveal should happen “any day now.” Honda says it’ll “have more to share soon” on the subject, according to Motor1.

I’ll admit that when I read this news, I initially came away disinterested and yet surprised, because I realized hadn’t thought about the Civic Si in an eternity. In my youth, the Si was the GTI killer; it looked much better than the GTI too, particularly the eighth-gen car with its super-raked windshield and distinctive proportions. That Civic made 197 horsepower, came with a six-speed manual, weighed about 2,860 pounds and started just over $20,000. Inflation sucks, doesn’t it?

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Still looks great, right?
Still looks great, right?
Photo: Honda

But while the GTI has experienced continuous bumps in power over the 15 (fifteen!) years since this Car and Driver comparison I vividly remember reading in print, the modern Civic Si is a lot like the Si of back then: 205 HP, six gears and a curb weight that’s about 20 to 40 pounds heavier than the 2006 model, depending on equipment. The latest iteration, which will soon be replaced, started at a hair under $25K.

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Personally, I think this is the reason I haven’t given the Civic Si its due in a long time. Perhaps the sweeter, shoutier Civic Type R is to blame for drawing mindshare away from the Si, but I don’t think that’s fair to the Si. Everyone still loves the GTI after all, even though the Golf R exists. And the Type R starts at about $12K more than the Si. I’m glad we have the Type R of course, but the Si serves a far more noble, democratizing duty to the masses.

In spite of the stagnation of specs — actually, perhaps because of it — the Si has managed to stay accessible, yet lively. Our old friend Alanis King celebrated the outgoing model’s unwavering commitment to fun. The Si’s irresistible character has proven successful, too; excusing recession and pandemic years, Civic sales in the U.S. on the whole are much greater than in 2005 according to Good Car Bad Car, with the peak coming at 377,286 sold in 2017.

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Those numbers in this era of everything going crossovery are astonishing. And while we don’t how many of those sales carry Si badges, Honda told CarBuzz last year that five percent of Civics rolling off the lot were Si versions. What’s more, if Honda didn’t shift as many Civics as it does, the Si wouldn’t be as cheap as it is — something that Rob Keough, senior product planner for the Civic in 2017, told Automotive News:

Honda was also keen to keep the Civic Si affordable, and that’s where the $24,775 comes in. It’s the base price including destination for the coupe or sedan and includes such standard goodies as a sunroof, sport mode with adaptive suspension and a limited-slip differential.

That price was made possible by the sheer volumes of 10th-generation Civics Honda has sold over the past two years — well over 500,000 — Keough said.

Using the larger 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that’s in the Civic Type R would have radically shifted what the Si was. Even tuned down from the Type R’s 306 hp, such an Si would have cost closer to $30,000 — too rich for Honda’s blood.

“The Si has always been in the [price] range that it’s in,” Keough said. “We wanted it to be attainable and affordable, so our target for Si was really to come in at this price point with this performance level.”

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So, the new Civic Si could be a lot like the old Si, and the Si before it. It may not get a horsepower increase to keep up with the Joneses, and it may be overlooked by some enthusiasts for it. And yet, with meatier cars like the Veloster N demanding $33K — nearly $5,000 more than previous model years — and the new MK8 GTI carrying a premium of its own, the Civic Si has been the only sporty compact truly sticking to the bit. I should respect it more for that; we all should.