Having fun doesn't have to be expensive. The Civic Si is a great example of how Honda has wrapped sparkling performance with an attractive coupe body for $22,055.
The Civic is a sleek little wedge that rides on a 104.3-inch wheelbase. The steeply sloping windshield and truncated tail give it a unique profile that is enhanced with the Si's rear spoiler.
Inside, deeply bolstered cloth front seats have red stitching and the gauges have red lighting. The pedals are aluminum. The seats are firm and provide excellent support for spirited driving or long stints behind the wheel.
The Civic's long wheelbase enables the front seat to be relatively spacious considering the car's small overall size. The back seat is snug, as one would expect in a little coupe. For those who need to haul four people, the Civic Si is also offered as a four-door sedan.
Cranking 197 horsepower out of a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine seems to be easy for Honda. The transversely mounted powerplant zings happily up to its 8,000-rpm redline, but it is also quite comfortable being driven sedately.
The close-ratio six-speed transmission is the perfect tool for keeping the engine revved and ready for business.
The stubby shift lever, connected to a linkage that feels as direct as the linkage in many rear-wheel-drive sports sedans, is a blast to flick from gear to gear.
The Civic Si has a purposeful-sounding exhaust that is loud enough to let you know something special is happening, but not so loud as to be distracting. The exhaust note changes sharply as the engine catches a second wind around 6,000 rpm.
Honda has a two-level instrument panel that has a digital speedometer readout just below the base of the windshield and a tachometer and secondary gauges in the normal position behind the steering wheel. When I adjusted the steering wheel to suit me, it blocked the speedometer window. Consequently, I had to lower the wheel a little. Raising the speedometer window about an inch would fix that.
The test car was equipped with Honda's voice-activated navigation system and XM satellite radio that bumped its base price to $24,055. The navigation system is intuitive to use and has an easy-to-read screen. A rearview camera would be handy, but it is not included.
The Si sedan rides on dark, 17-inch alloy wheels. High-performance summer tires are a $200 option.
The test car was quite skittish in snow despite being front-wheel drive. Narrower winter tires would definitely be needed for the kind of snow we have had recently.
Anti-lock brakes, traction control and vehicle stability control are standard.
Stopping is important in a car that goes as quickly as the Si, so upgraded brakes were in order. The front has ventilated discs that are 11.8 inches, while the rear has 10.2-inch solid discs. Anti-lock brakes, vehicle stability control and traction control are all standard. The pedal is firm and the braking is quite effective.
The sports suspension is right on the edge of being too firm for city driving, especially with our salt-ravaged roads. Handling, however, is delightful because the Si carves through turns and feels solid at high speeds.
The test car's base price was $24,055. Destination charges brought the sticker price to $24,765.
Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
2010 Honda Civic Si coupe
Engine: 2.0-liter, 197-hp 4-cyl.
Wheelbase: 104.3 inches
Curb weight: 2,825 lbs.
Base price: $22,055
As driven: $24,765
MPG rating: 21 city, 29 hwy.
Tom Strongman's e-mail address is email@example.com.