2020 Honda Civic Si First Drive - Still a Bargain and a Blast

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
2020 honda civic si first drive still a bargain and a blast

The biggest news concerning the mildly updated 2020 Honda Civic Si is either the changed final drive ratio, the addition of a volume knob, or the inclusion of Honda Sensing — the company’s safety suite of driving aids — as standard equipment.

Obviously, this means the car hasn’t changed a whole hell of a lot.

That’s a very good thing.

(Full disclosure: Honda flew me to Las Vegas, housed me, fed me, and gave me a day pass to the SEMA show. They also offered a hat, which I did not take.)

Power remains the same at 205 horsepower and 192 lb-ft of torque, drawn from the 1.5-liter turbocharged four-banger. The sole transmission on offer remains a six-speed manual. The styling remains mostly the same, with some tweaks to the bumpers and front grille and the addition of LED headlights and fog lamps. The wheel design is different, and the wheels are now black.

The experience is a bit different, but only a bit, and for the better. The change to the final drive – now 4.35 to 1, after being 4.105 to 1 – isn’t noticeable (perhaps if you drove a 2019 back-to-back with a 2020, it might be), but the production cars we drove felt more buttoned-down than the last Si I tested. To be fair, that last car was a press-fleet loaner that was possibly beat upon by careless journos.

In or out of Sport mode (I forgot to set it for the most challenging stretch of road), the steering was dead-on accurate and well-weighted. It’s almost too easy to carve through corners.

The clutch initially felt too light, but it became more user-friendly as the day went on. Shifting remains a delight, thanks to an easy-to-row shifter that never finds the wrong gate.

Corner-to-corner acceleration is quick, especially if you can keep the engine in the sweet spot, and the brakes are stout enough for a car of this ilk.

While the rev-happy engine runs a bit high-strung when puttering around town, highway ride isn’t sacrificed. Tire and road noise is on the louder side, even with the tunes turned up.

Civic Si is offered in coupe or sedan variants, and the slightly lighter coupe is a tad better dance partner on the backroads. Still, the sedan will be satisfactory for most.

Interior space is adequate up front for taller drivers, and I was able to enter and sit in the rear of a sedan with little drama, though egress was tricky. I didn’t dare try to stuff myself into the coupe’s rear seat.

Inside, changes are cosmetic and minor. You still get the boy-racer gauges, though at least the HVAC controls are easy to use. The overall look is still a bit tacky, but it’s one you can live with, given what the car can do on-road. Cheesy interior decor is a small price to pay to play.

Civic Si isn’t as chill in traffic as the competing Volkswagen Jetta GLI, but it’s cheaper and more obvious in its intent. If you want a sleeper car, the GLI may be worth the extra dough. Otherwise, the Si and its subtle-ish wing will stand out in traffic, instantly recognizable to Honda fanboys.

That said, it’s hard to argue against this Civic. Yes, it can be a bit tiring around town, thanks to its rev-happy engine and omnipresent tire/road noise, but turn it loose and it’s such an engaging vehicle, for such a low price, that it almost feels impossible for a car like this to exist.

Even the features it lacks – such as factory nav – are features one can live without or replace via Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.

Despite the bargain price, the car still offers features that most shoppers would want. Heated front seats, power moonroof, LaneWatch camera, Bluetooth, keyless entry, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, USB, premium audio, and the HondaSensing system (adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation braking, forward collision warning, lane-keeping assist, road-departure mitigation, lane-departure warning, and automatic high beams) are all part of the package. Summer tires are a $200 option.

Coupe or sedan, your price is $25K even, plus the $930 destination fee, unless you add another $200 for the summer rubber. The new final drive has a fuel economy penalty – numbers fall to 26 mpg city/36 mpg highway/30 mpg combined from 28/38/32 before.

A few journos expressed concern that the Si doesn’t offer enough of a gap between itself and the cheaper manual-transmission Civic Sport, and I can see why – the two trims line up well, feature-wise, and the Sport is a fair bit cheaper. Still, I suspect the dedicated sports-car buyer will be persuaded to spend the extra cash after a quick dash up and down a favorite road in the Si.

We’ve called the Si the best possible Civic, and a bargain that’s a blast. The car has changed little, so therefore our opinion remains the same. Well, not exactly – I’m even more enamored, fuel economy penalty be damned.

I still have strong feelings for the Jetta GLI, too, and that car is probably a better commuter. That said, the enhanced Civic Si remains a bargain, a blast, and arguably the best Civic possible.

[Images © 2019 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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2 of 31 comments
  • MorrisGray MorrisGray on Jan 28, 2020

    Why does it have a slot opening in the passenger side grill cover next to the fog light but not on the driver side?

  • MorrisGray MorrisGray on Apr 17, 2020

    Should I try to buy one now at a good price or wait a little while longer?

  • Tassos Now as for the Z specifically, Car and Driver had a comparison test of the new Z400, a car that looks good on paper, with plenty of HP etc, but, despite the fact that the cars that win in those tests are usually brand new models that are more up to date than their aging rivals, the Z finished DEAD LAST in the test, to my ovbious surprise.
  • Arthur Dailey Sorry but compare that spartan interior to the Marks that Corey is writing about. 'A cigarette lighter'. Every Mark had 4 cigarette lighters and ashtrays. And these came standard with 'a 3.4-liter, 182-horsepower straight-six in the engine compartment and a five-speed manual transmission'. Those do not tick off many of the luxury boxes aspired to by 'the greatest generation'.Not sure about the 7 series but one of My Old Man's associates showed up once with a brand new 5 series circa 1977 and they gave him such a bad time that he traded it for a Fleetwood within a week.
  • Tassos I clearly have no sentimental attachment to any cars from the 80s. I myself drove a Dasher (passat) wagon with horrible reliability, and then a Pontiac 2000, very fuel efficient for its time with its 1.8 lt and 5 speed, but a small econobox crudely made, with no luxuries inside. But most other cars of the era were really CRAPPY, unsafe, both in terms of passive AND active safety, had very few options modern cars have, etc etc. The best car I owned then was a 1991 Honda Civic 5-sp hatch, but that was also an 80s design that was on sale from 1987-1991. Not just the domestics were crappy then, but so were m ost of the imports. As you can see, I have ZERO "nostalgia" for any of these, especially not for the unreliable, poorly made JUNK from DATSUN-NISSAN, which is widely reviled overseas as a maker of small pickup trucks that are the favorites of Gypsies selling watermelons from their bed.
  • Tassos While Acura was the first Japanese attempt to sell 'luxury' (or "premium") vehicles in the US market, and despite its original good success in the near-luxury segment with the Legend and the far smaller and less expensive Itegra (a glorified Civic), it later lost its momentum and offered a series of underwhelming vehicles. It sure is not a LUXURY maker, and as long as it offers FWD or AWD and NOT RWD vehicles, it will never be taken seriously as a serious sports cars maker. Infiniti is much worse, and if both of them go under, few will notice. Lexus was more successful, offering pimped up TOyotas for 10,000s more, but there is NO vehicle in their lineup, esp now that they scewed up the only serious entry (the LS), that I would care to consider. AND I say all this as a very satisfied owner of 5-speed Honda coupes and hatchbacks (a 1991 Civic hatch and a 1990 Accord Coupe).
  • Mike Beranek Yet another reason to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles charged with energy from wind & solar with modern, non-Monty Burns nuclear as a backup.