Eleven generations in, Honda continues to provide a stick-enabled, factory-tuned Si version of the popular Honda Civic. Completely redesigned last year, the sedan — coupes are discontinued, sadly — returns unchanged for the 2023 model year.
“The Civic Si has achieved iconic status because it continually offers exhilarating performance at an affordable price,” says Steve Hui, Honda Canada assistant vice president, in a press release. “The latest Si brings that along with a standard manual transmission that makes it even more exciting to drive. It’s clearly the best and most dynamic Si we’ve ever produced, and it’s built right here in Canada.”
Growing 33 millimetres in length compared to the outgoing vehicle, the new one, in many ways, resembles an Accord down to the stretched LED headlamps and, as a result, loses some of the sleekness from before — particularly since the two-door is cancelled. On the upside, the previous busy front fascia is cleaned up and now wears simple dark upper and lower mesh grills and matching side intake bezels, complemented by black 18-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels.
Similarly at the rear, the odd bumper cut-outs are gone, leaving only a pair of red reflectors, and conventional horizontal LED taillights replace the old C-shaped units. A contrast gloss-black spoiler sits flush on the trunk lid, and the lower aero piece houses dual oval exhaust tips.
One of the benefits of a longer chassis and wheelbase is increased rear passenger space. Even with a child seat installed in the second row, toddlers have lots of legroom, which certainly wasn’t the case in previous iterations. The body-stabilizing black-and-red-coloured sport seats boast built-in headrests. They are super comfortable and supportive, particularly in the thigh area, due to the front lower cushion being raised 12.7 millimetres.
Modern Honda and Acura infotainment systems aren’t the most intuitive, but the nine-inch touchscreen looks nice next to the 10-inch fully digital instrument panel. The wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality works well, and the standard 12-speaker Bose stereo is a significant upgrade.
Engineers massaged the familiar 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder mill so the same 192 lb-ft of peak torque comes on 300 rpm earlier for punchier acceleration. Strangely, the tune has reduced the horsepower down five to a round 200, though the output is held better towards the upper end of the rpm range between 6,000 and 6,500 rpm.
Having driven and owned various SIs of the past, I admittedly do miss the high-revving, naturally aspirated VTEC days of old. This Civic at least still sounds sporty thanks to the Active Sound Control system creating an artificial exhaust note through the speakers. And the manual-only six-speed gearbox, featuring 10 percent shorter throws, shifts pretty crisply, and the Type R-inspired leather-wrapped aluminum knob feels good in hand.
Handling is what the model is known for, and things like a stiffer body and spring rates, thicker stabilizer bars and a 12-millimetre wider track create a tangible improvement in the corners. The Honda Sensing suite of driver assistance technologies is also updated, utilizing a new wider-angle forward-facing camera, computer processor and software to identify objects quickly and more accurately.
All the changes come at a cost, however. A 2023 Honda Civic Si will run customers north of $37,000 MSRP.
Motor: 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower: 200 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 192 @ 1,800 rpm
Gearbox: six-speed manual
Layout: front-engine, front-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 8.0 L/100 km mixed city/highway (observed)