The 2020 Honda Civic Si is rolling proof that a good car that’s fun to drive need not be (a) expensive, (b) impractical or (c) both. The Si adds a bundle of weekend smile-making performance upgrades without breaking the bank or diminishing the everyday basic utility of Civic.
The Si is a genuinely sporty alternative for modestly more money than the Civic Sport, with its base engine and some appearance upgrades, without the leap to the Civic Type R, which is a great car but some 10 grand extra and more at home in spirited use than in daily driving. And the Si sedan or coupe is one of those rare vehicles that’s more than the sum of its parts. There is nothing the Si offers that you can’t get more of for a price, but the magic of it is how balanced the package is: Everything works together to make it more fun, whether you have open road ahead or you’re just running errands.
You can read Cars.com’s Aaron Bragman’s review for full Si details, but here’s a quick hit on six things we like about the Civic Si and a couple of nits we have to pick:
Things We Like
1. Willing Powertrain
The heart of the Si is the engine, a 205-horsepower version of Honda’s turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder that’s smooth and torquey (192 pounds-feet come on at 2,100 rpm). The only gearbox is a well-spaced six-speed manual that’s a crisp reminder of the pleasures of DIY shifting (though Bragman found the shifter a bit long for his taste). The clutch is light and forgiving, though with fairly long travel that bites high. You need to keep the revs up to tap the potential here, but the four-cylinder winds out with a satisfying growl, albeit supplemented artificially. A limited-slip differential is standard and new for 2020 is numerically higher final gearing — up 6% to a 4.35 — which adds pep at the low end and lessens the need to downshift for passing or on-ramps. The trade-off is some higher-rpm engine drone on the highway, but I didn’t really notice it until I was north of 70 mph with revs approaching 3,000. Feeding the Si won’t break the bank, either, with a 30 mpg EPA combined rating (though you’ll have to serve it the recommended premium for best performance).
2. Good Bones Nicely Tweaked
The Si starts with the Civic platform that stands out among its rivals for its dynamics and body control. The light (about 2,900-pound) Si feels agile but still substantial. The steering is light but quick and precise, and understeer is not excessive. Two-setting adaptive shocks let you prioritize compliance or firmness, but it’s by degrees, neither sloppy nor jarring. The bottom line either way is outstanding ride-handling balance that could pass for a more expensive sports sedan.
3. 2020 Looks
Exterior changes are subtle for 2020 but all to the good. A revised grille and new bumpers (front on the coupe, front and rear on the sedan) are a bit more aggressive. Both models have LED headlights with improved performance as well as new LED foglights. And both get 18-inch matte-black wheels and fat tires (performance all-season standard, summer tires an option). The rear wing won’t be to everyone’s taste, but if nothing else, it’s a handy big trunk handle.
4. Sportier Inside
The 2020’s revised sport seats have good-looking cloth covering with red trim. Red stitching is spread around, and the dashboard has new red accents that raise the sporty quotient and set it off nicely from civilian Civics. The seats are really comfortable and supportive. Materials quality drops off in the backseat, as in other Civics (and most other compact cars, for that matter).
5. Everyday Safety
Adding to the 2020 Si’s fitness for the daily grind as well as playtime is that for the first time, the Honda Sensing suite of safety tech is standard. So now the Si comes with a front collision mitigation system with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and lane departure warning, lane-centering steering at higher speeds and automatic high beams.
6. Value, Value, Value
You can take your pick, Si coupe or sedan, for $26,155 (including $955 destination), $26,355 with summer tires, which are the only option. On performance alone, the Si is unexpectedly good for the price. But it’s also a well-equipped Civic, similar to a mid-range EX trim level, with a range of features beyond the standard safety tech that add everyday value. They include a power moonroof, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, a premium 10-speaker audio system and a 7-inch touchscreen with smartphone integration, which means you won’t miss the lack of a navigation option. The most comparable sporty sedan rival is the Volkswagen Jetta GLI, which starts at $27,165. It does have an automatic transmission option and about 10% more horsepower, but you’ll need options to match the Si features. You can compare them here.
More From Cars.com:
- Honda Civic Si Updates Keep Rolling Into 2020
- 2020 Honda Civic Hatchback Back With Minimal Price Bump
- Which 2019 Honda Civic Trim Level Should I Buy: LX, Sport, EX, EX-L or Touring?
- Not Your Father’s Stick Shift: 7 High-Tech Features of the Modern Manual
- Research the 2020 Honda Civic Si
Things We Don’t
1. Media Muddle
We’ve said it before and have to say again: Honda’s multimedia system in the Civic, and other models (though not the Accord), is way past due for a new generation. Others are pulling ahead even in their cheapest models. The 2019 Si at least got a volume knob and some physical shortcut buttons, but the system remains behind the curve in menu complexity and graphics, and more obviously so as others improve.
2. One-Lane Watch
There’s nothing wrong with Honda’s LaneWatch system that uses a side-mirror camera to display the passenger-side blind spot on the dash display when you press the turn signal. I’m not a fan, primarily for the center location of the video, but many are. The problem is that it watches only that lane and the system is provided in place of a more conventional blind spot monitor system to supplement your mirrors and alert you to traffic hazards on either side, even when you don’t press the turn signal.
… And an Asterisk
Not a plus or minus for the Si overall, but the sedan is the practical choice by far, even though the sportier coupe body wears the look a lot better — and it’s great that Honda still gives you a choice. The coupe offers less headroom in front and even less in the rear. It wasn’t an issue for me (6 feet, 2 inches) in the front but was in the rear — along with the very low rear-seat cushion and little legroom. At best, the coupe backseat is optimistically outfitted for three across but maybe would be OK for two shorter folks. The sedan, by contrast has a roomy rear seat for a compact car. It also has 14.7 cubic feet of trunk room compared to 11.9 in the coupe. Not bad things, just different.
Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.