Honda Civic Si Review

honda civic si review

Here's the thing: the 2004 Honda Civic Si has already been written off. Somehow, the car that popped the cherry for America's import racers has become an also-ran, outgunned by a new generation of high-horsepower compacts like the Subaru WRX and Dodge SRT-4. Honda's legendary hatchback now finds itself in an awkward and unfamiliar position: on the outside looking in. So is it time to say 'Sayonara' to the Si?

The EP3 (as it is known among devotees) is something of an odd-looking duck. Ever since it first set ply on American soil in 2002, critics have derided the Si as a tumbled-dried Honda Odyssey. In the metal, however, the Civic's chunky but clean design plays the light well, its sleek design is a stark contrast to the superfluous visual avoirdupois cluttering most performance imports. Or at least that used to be the case…

To jumpstart lethargic sales, Honda has given the Si an emergency bling implant. Changes include glitzy projector-style headlamps, inch larger 5-lug alloys and fussy 'Euro-style' tail lamps. For $4k more (plus fitment), the HFP kit (Honda Factory Performance) adds a marginally lowered suspension, aerodynamic addenda, 17×7" alloys and some stinkin' badges.

The Si's interior comes in one color: black. The cabin's dour demeanor is mitigated– slightly– by silver, metal-effect plastic. A horseshoe-shaped lump of the stuff surrounds the center stack, which houses the Si's standard CD-player, HVAC fiddlies and the, um, shifter. Contemplating the stubby shift column sprouting from the lower midsection of the dashboard, it's hard not to conclude that the hot hatch is… well… hung. Viewed from the side, clocking the ribbed rubber boot, the phallic implications are inescapable.

Bright red stitching continues the auto-erotic subtext, lining everything from the Si's firm and supportive seats (attractively clad in alcantara and cloth) to the leather-covered shiftknob and small-diameter three-spoke steering wheel (hidebound and fat in all the right places). Not to belabor a metaphor, but all the switchgear falls pleasingly to hand, with well-sited gauges and robust feeling controls. Interplay between the driver's seat, wheel, pedals and shifter is peerless, though a telescopic column wouldn't go amiss. Considering the Si's British origins, the car's overall build quality is commendably high, with thoughtfully grained plastics and perfect panel gaps.

The formal roofline pays dividends with decent rear-seat headroom. Legroom is limited, but even full-sized adults can be ferried about on shorter stints– provided they're flexible enough to gain entry. A clumsy seatback mechanism (bereft of position retention) gives way to a Mary Kate-sized aperture through which backseat intenders must origami.

The Si is powered by Honda's K-series 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. The rev-happy powerplant fails to deliver the firepower you'd expect from a performance-branded vehicle. With just 160hp @ 6,500rpm and 132ft.-lbs. @ 5,000rpm on tap, the warmed-up Civic is no drag strip superstar. She'll jog from zero to 60mph in about eight seconds. That's a respectable number for a family car, but lethargic compared to the Dodge SRT-4 or Saturn Ion Redline, amongst others. Embarrassingly, even Honda's own Odyssey will leave the Si sucking spent gasses.

Despite this, the Si hits the highway with alacrity. The little huevo will post triple-digit speeds all day long, though its electric steering could be a bit more feelsome at such velocities. High-speed cruising will also leave drivers wishing for a sixth cog; the Si's engine din quickly grows tiresome. Mug your favorite set of twisties and you're immediately and painfully aware that the Si's handling is undermined by meek footwear: P205/55 R16 all-season Michelins. The order of the day is understeer, and plenty of it, proceeded and accompanied by the sound of protesting rubber. More worryingly, the ABS-governed four-wheel disc brakes dislike protracted abuse (electronic brake force distribution notwithstanding). When caned hard, brake fade visits early and often.

Less demanding drivers will not be put off by the Si's less-than-exhilarating acceleration and handling– unless they've driven an SVT Focus or MINI Cooper. In truth, there's little wrong here that couldn't be fixed by belting on a supercharger or stripping-out some of the Honda's weight. The excess ballast also affects the car's mileage; I only managed 24mpg in mixed (if maniacal) driving.

The Honda Si costs $19,070. Or not. We've heard of new Si's selling for 25% off list and untitled '03's going for even less. Despite deep discounts, once-loyal Civic customers are withholding their pocketbooks, opting for faster, cheaper and better equipped cars like the Mazda3 and Scion tC. Quite simply, the Honda Civic Si lacks the goods. If Honda wants to put enthusiasts into a factory tuned Civic, they need to face facts: class standards have been raised. Today's market is full of quick, fine-handling pocket rockets. It's time to ditch the Si and bring on the no-holds-barred Type-R (selling in the UK). The Si's day is past.

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  • Arthur Dailey For the Hornet less expensive interior materials/finishings, decontent just a little, build it in North America and sell it for less and everyone should be happy with both the Dodge and the Alfa.
  • Bunkie I so wanted to love this car back in the day. At the time I owned a GT6+ and I was looking for something more modern. But, as they say, this car had *issues*. The first of which was the very high price premium for the V8. It was a several thousand dollar premium over the TR-7. The second was the absolutely awful fuel economy. That put me off the car and I bought a new RX-7 which, despite the thirsty rotary, still got better mileage and didn’t require premium fuel. I guess I wasn’t the only one who had this reaction because, two years later, I test-drove a leftover that had a $2,000 price cut. I don’t remember being impressed, the RX-7 had spoiled me with how easy it was to own. The TR-8 didn’t feel quick to me and it felt heavy. The first-gen RX was more in line with the idea of a light car that punched above its weight. I parted ways with both the GT6+ and the RX7 and, to this day, I miss them both.
  • Fred Where you going to build it? Even in Texas near Cat Springs they wanted to put up a country club for sport cars. People complained, mostly rich people who had weekend hobby farms. They said the noise would scare their cows. So they ended up in Dickinson, where they were more eager for development of any kind.
  • MaintenanceCosts I like the styling of this car inside and out, but not any of the powertrains. Give it the 4xe powertrain - or, better yet, a version of that powertrain with the 6-cylinder Hurricane - and I'd be very interested.
  • Daniel J I believe anyone, at any level, should get paid as much as the market will bear. Why should CEOs have capped salaries or compensation but middle management shouldn't? If companies support poor CEOs and poor CEOs keep getting rewarded, it's up to the consumer and investors to force that company to either get a better CEO or to reduce the salary of that CEO. What I find hilarious is that consumers will continue to support companies where the pay for the CEOs is very high. And the same people complain. I stopped buying from Amazon during the pandemic. Everyone happily buys from them but the CEO makes bank. Same way with Walmart and many other retailers. Tim Cook got 100m in compensation last year yet people line up to buy Iphones. People who complain and still buy the products must not really care that much.
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