Building on the successful launch last year of the redesigned Civic sedan, coupe and high-performance Si coupe, Honda is ready to debut the 2007 Si sedan. This is the first time Honda has given a sedan the Si designation, and it's no small feat. The company has created a driving feel in the sedan that's almost parallel to the coupe, thanks in part to the fact that they kept its weight down. Somehow the sedan only weighs 60 pounds more than the coupe, and in performance vehicles, weight is everything.
Drivers will notice two distinct personalities in the Si. Drive it absent-mindedly and it reacts like any compact sedan should — responsive and quiet with a firm, but not harsh, ride. Hit some open road and downshift, though, and it transforms into a high-revving missile that can stop abruptly and throttle with glee. This is the kind of Jekyll-and-Hyde experience I can enjoy.
Going & Stopping
Usually I talk about performance after discussing the looks of a car, because no matter what shoppers have to be attracted to a car before they'll take it for a test drive. For a high-performance model like the Si, though, buyers want to know what they're getting in the driving department most of all.
In that area, the Si sedan doesn't disappoint. I couldn't really tell a difference between the capabilities of the Si sedan versus the coupe. I just couldn't. The only thing that adds to the coupe's sportiness is the body style itself, and the resulting cockpit feel.
For those not familiar with the 197-horsepower four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual transmission in both Si models, it's a high-revving affair. This is Honda's performance trademark. When you slam on the gas the tachometer flies to an 8,000-rpm redline — that's high — and it doesn't feel like it will stop there. The engine noise is decidedly different to anyone used to gruntier muscle cars or the low torque that Volkswagen aims for in its GLI.
The high pitch of the engine is offset by throaty exhaust tuned specifically for the sedan. A slight growl can be heard only when you want it to, usually during acceleration and downshifting.
Brakes are grippy 11.8-inch ventilated front discs and 10.2-inch solid rear discs. I certainly did not find the Si lacking for stopping efficiency.
Ride & Handling
This is a sedan, and sedans have longer wheelbases and generally weigh more than coupes. These are negatives for driving enthusiasts. Honda knows this and attacked the problem head-on with a larger front stabilizer bar to accommodate the extra length and different damper tuning that is a must for the somewhat-gentle sedan ride I felt.
Otherwise, the sport suspension and rear stabilizer bar are modified to the Si coupe's standards, and there is a limited slip differential to provide steady power delivery from the wheels to the road.
There are certain elements of the Civic sedan that didn't sit right with me when it debuted in 2006. From certain angles it was a futuristic delight, from others (think the rear quarter angle) it looked badly proportioned. Large 17-inch wheels and a tight-fitting rear spoiler are added to the Si sedan, but they actually add a sporty flair and eliminate the problem with the rear.
The front end gets the same revised grille as the Si coupe, and that too makes a subtly menacing look out of a generally docile compact car. It's what we call a "sleeper."
The new Civic design might be a bit too modern for some buyers, but in an iPod-ruled world it fits into pop culture and design surprisingly well.
One major beef I have with the base Civic is the interior. The cloth Honda uses has a strange feel; it's almost too fuzzy. That may feel soft to some, but to me it spells wear and tear. Both Si models feature a different interior fabric that has absolutely no nap to it, and would most easily be compared to microfiber found on couches. Matched to contoured and firm-fitting seats, this is a supportive feel. It's not plush, but neither is the standard cloth, and I would like to see a similar fabric offered in the regular sedan.
Of course, in the Si sedan the fabric comes in one color: black, with red stitching. It's a color scheme that carries over to the red-lit two-tiered gauges. Standard Civics have blue-lit gauges. These little touches are what makes Honda a winner among the set that buys high-performance vehicles like this.
Otherwise, the real advantage of the Si sedan is that besides the great engine and suspension it's still a Civic sedan. That means the trunk is huge (12 cubic feet), and it has 60/40-split, folding rear seats. There are also logically placed storage bins, auxiliary input and power sockets for portable devices, and a decent-sized backseat for the segment.
The 2006 Honda Civic sedan is rated a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and earned the top rating of "Good" in both frontal and side-impact tests. Results should be identical for the 2007 Civic Si sedan. The vehicle also features a standard electronic stability system and traction control.
Civic Si in the Market
Leave it to Honda to make a practical sport compact sedan. What else do you call the Si? It gets 23/32 mpg city/highway and will cost around $20,000 when it goes on sale at the end of September. There isn't much competition for the Si sedan, either. Only Volkswagen's Jetta GLI claims the same combination of body style and performance, and it costs a few thousand dollars more. I don't know which one I would pick of the two, but the Civic Si sedan doesn't leave much to be desired.
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