My First Civic Si and It Doesn’t Have a VTEC
I had a personal gripe with the Honda Civic when I was young(er) and dumb(er). In high school, all the car enthusiasts had to pick a team: Muscle vs Tuner. I was a V8 guy and a lot of my friends were Honda VTEC drivers, so the debates were as heated as a comment feed on a Facebook political post.
Since then things have changed, and I no longer feel an urge to rev a V8 at anything with a blow-off valve. And I’ve had a chance to see how much I’ve matured when driving the 2017 Honda Civic Si, finding out if I could approach this vehicle in an unbiased manner without letting old habits rise up from the (high school) grave.
Jumping into the 2017 Honda Civic Si after spending two weeks in the Lexus RC F was interior culture shock. I had gotten used to being cradled in the Lexus interior and having to fold my legs to avoid scratching the door panels. Stepping inside the Civic I felt smaller. Honda has been feeding the Civic in recent years and it’s grown to the size of a turn-of-the-century Accord. There is so much space inside this car that it reminded me of a minivan, where everything feels like it’s far away until you reach for it.
The biggest safety feature was its blind spot camera, called Honda’s Lane Watch. When you signal to make a right turn the dashboard will show you a camera view of the car’s blind spot in real time. A driver no longer has to turn their head to make sure the coast is clear before merging to the right. A button on the turn signal allows you switch it on at your own convenience.
The Si’s trim bucket seats were wide but held you in place without feeling like you were being hugged. Rear seating allowed me to keep my hat on, but getting out from the back was tricky since one has to crawl under or jump over the front seat belt.
The model I was testing came equipped with a traditional 6-speed manual, on the floor rather than coming from the dash. The Civic’s center console included cup holders that could slide forward and backward, with deep storage underneath. There was even a hidden compartment under the gearshift where you could place an electronic device to charge with a 12-volt outlet and USB port.
The infotainment system was easy to navigate on its 7-inch display, but I had issues with the layout. The knob closest to the driver is usually the one that controls the volume for the stereo, but not in the Civic Si. The only two knobs on the dash control the dual-climate temperature for both driver and passenger. A button labeled “climate” is used to control the fan speed. You press it and the touchscreen will display the various fan speeds. It felt like going a long way just to control something that could easily be done with a simple dial. (Amen, ed.)
If you want to change the volume you’ll have to press the left side of the screen. I lost count of the number of times I changed climate temperature rather than adjusting the volume. However, that is nothing compared to the biggest, and really only issue, with the 2017 Honda Civic Si: the parking brake.
Ask any automotive journalist, writer, or enthusiast, and they’ll all say the same thing, electric parking brakes suck, especially when fitted next to a traditional manual transmission. It’s like a chastity belt for driving. Sure you can have fun, but you can’t misbehave like one would hope to do in a sporty FWD, turbocharged, compact car with a big shiny wing on the back.
It may look like a hatchback, but it has a regular trunk lid. The Civic Si can be ordered in 4-door or 2-door coupe, like the model shown here. You can choose from six different color options, including our test car’s Rallye Red, which looks gorgeous any time of the day. The profile is the Civic’s best angle. It looks sharp with design lines that flow from the front to the large rear spoiler, reminding me of an arrowhead. The front end has a love-it-or-hate-it appearance; thanks to Honda for its attempt to make it look “menacing” (their word, not mine) by giving it huge vents in the front of the car. They are large enough to look like this car came equipped with an aftermarket body kit straight from the factory.
Performance and Specs on the 2017 Honda Civic Si
The Civic Si no longer preaches the gospel of VTEC under the hood. Instead, it now offers a 1.5-liter inline 4-cylinder engine. A turbocharger kicks up the performance to 205 horsepower and allows the 6-speed transmission to pull you along in every gear. The Civic Si feels quicker than it reads on paper. Thanks to a limited slip differential, MacPherson struts, and adaptive damper suspension you can push the Si around corners without feeling like it’s going to understeer you off the road, and the turbocharged engine offers plenty of get-up-and-go. I was able to hit highway speeds in 4th gear without putting my foot down.
In fact, I found that I could really throw this car around at speed before hearing the front tires squealing for mercy. Sport mode stiffens the suspension to encourage exhilarating driving and feel like a real hot hatch (even without a hatch…) with its 6-speed transmission.
I averaged 33 mpg during my week with the Civic Si, with fuel economy sitting at 28 mpg in the city and 38 on the highway. Pricing is very reasonable, with starting MSRP at $24k, but it does not offer a lot of options which is why the model shown here had a price tag of $24,975.
Being able to slide a car around using a handbrake or foot brake may be reckless, dangerous and juvenile, but the Honda Civic Si has always been about youth and fun.
This 10th- generation Civic reminds me of a young person who is transitioning into the responsibilities of adulthood, that point in someone’s life where they notice that hangovers can’t be cured with a bottle of Gatorade, and stretching before physical activity is now mandatory.
I found myself feeling a sense of disappointment every time I looked down and saw the parking button. I call the 2017 Honda Civic Si the Millennial on wheels because this car is a constant reminder for anyone in the millennial generation that age is befalling us. The Civic Si looks young and performs with agility, but knows that it has to stop hooning around parking lots and revving past 6,000 rpm. It needs to grow up and start behaving like an Accord – although not, hopefully, a Pilot.
I don’t want a sports coupe to remind me that I need to start acting my age…there are already plenty of vehicles on the market that can do that.