Honda salesman? More like “order taker.” The new Civic Si sedan is guaranteed to sell itself, no “product specialist” needed. After all, the stock version is already a hit. Honda can legitimately claim they’re moving them by the boatload– even if they’re assembled on Ohio acreage. And Si coupes have always done well– even when they haven’t been well done. So, offering a four door variant with a sprinkle of go-faster and look-sharper for a few more bucks is a no-brainer. Say, is that a commission check in your pocket or are you just happy you’re not selling Isuzus?
It’s easy to see why Ma and Pa America have taken to the four-door Honda Civic: it’s easy on the eyes. Well, except for the slightly revised front end, which looks like nothing so much as a Saturn Ion whittled out of a chunk of Vermont cheddar and left to bake in Death Valley. The Si Sedan is further differentiated by the inclusion of the same 17” wheels appearing on the Si Coupe (how economical!), a rear wing (how imaginative!) and some stickers on the rear doors (how economical and imaginative!). Still, better under than over-stated– especially when even the loss-leader generic-cigarette version comes with a sunroof. Oh wait, that’s the windshield.
Comfortalize yourself in the forward chairs– dressed for duty in basic black cloth with red stitching on bolstered cushions– and don’t be surprised if you smile. They’re ass-tastic! You also get Si-specific red instrument lighting and a delicate aluminum shift switch; not much visual jingle for your jangle. You’re still gazing over a foosball table-sized expanse of dashboard with the dreaded dual-zone instrument panel. With the central tach resembling the first-generation Prelude’s, and a secondary HUD-ish binnacle, this seemingly frivolous design feature actually works– if you can get past the idea of a car that thinks its part of NORAD.
Place an amorous horse in the vicinity of a frisky donkey and a short time later you’ll end up with a mule. Think of the Civic Si four-door as the similarly sired offspring of its stock and modified stablemates. Only the Si sedan’s not sterile at birth. For one thing, you get the Si’s 197-thoroughbred powerplant. The 2.0-liter DOHC four redlines at eight-grand, peak power arrives at 7800 rpm, and max torque (139ft.-lbs.) shows up at 6200 rpm. In other words, Honda’s i-VTEC technology is hard at work, trying like crazy to provide oomph down low and whee up high.
Except it doesn’t. The Si’s mill sounds fine, thanks to a growly though thankfully restrained exhaust. But for a car that weighs only 60 lbs more than its two-door sibling, the Si sedan should run a lot harder than it does. Or at least feel as if it’s running harder than it is. Despite a not-entirely-slow zero to sixty time of 8.4 seconds, the four-door seems distinctly anemic.
Credit the hard workers across the hall in the Dept. of Chassis Magic. The Si loves the twisties like a fat kid loves cake. Honda’s boffins installed a larger front stabilizer bar, tweaked the dampers and dropped in a limited slip dif. It’s all to great effect; the Si sedan retains day-to-day composure which, considering the fact that it’s a performance variant, is a genuine bonus. At the same time, the car combines tenacious grip with superb chassis control, allowing fully-committed drivers a rare opportunity to explore the nexus of high G’s and understeer scrub off.
The electrically-assisted steering is a delight, if a touch over-boosted, offering tremendous tactility and reassurance. Speaking of which, 11.8-inch ventilated front and 10.2-inch solid rear discs manage braking duties like Scotty Bowman handled the Montreal Canadiens. And if the Honda S2000’s gear change is the best ‘box on the planet (it is), the Si sedan’s is number two. It’s the low-fat Skippy peanut butter of gearboxes: light, smooth, and tasty.
The main difference between the Si sedan and Si coupe? Nothing much– save the extra portals and a couple of grand (the Si sells for about $20k). In fact, the Si sedan’s practicality is practically inescapable. Keeping the rev needle in the penthouse will cost you at the pump, but not much (23 / 32 mpg). There’s a big ass boot and enough room for four genuine adults. Honda reliability, reasonable resale, and remind me again who can compete at this price point ($21k)? VW GLI? No thanks. Still…
Honda is known for its engines. They’ve given the Si Sedan everything an enthusiast could want but a totally stonking powerplant. At the end of the day, you’re left like a greedy little girl penning a letter to Santa for a corral full of ponies. Will that stop Honda from selling the frugal, fine-handling, sensibly priced Si sedan all day long? Nope. Never mind then.