By on October 26, 2020

2020 Honda Civic Si front quarter

2020 Honda Civic Si 4-Door HPT

1.5-liter turbocharged four (205hp @ 5700 rpm, 192 lb/ft @ 2100 rpm)

Six-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive

26 city / 36 highway / 30 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

33.4 (observed mileage, MPG)

Base Price: $26,355 US

As Tested: $26,355 US

Prices include $955 destination charge in the United States. HPT package not available in Canada.

There was a time, not all that long ago, when I was all about Honda. I’ve lost count – at least seven variants of the big H have spent time in my various garages. Once, I even owned a Civic race car – no, it never raced in my care, but that’s a long story for another day.

Honda, despite the staid image presented by the majority of the lineup, makes it clear there are some gearheads building their vehicles. Full disclosure – some of those gearheads are friends of mine. They’ve always offered a few cars that make the experience of driving a genuine joy. Many have worn the red Si badge on the trunklid.

The thing is…after spending a week with the latest 2020 Honda Civic Si HPT, I don’t feel like I’ve driven the best that Honda can do. It leaves me wanting more. And that baffles me.

2020 Honda Civic Si profile

You might wonder about that HPT nomenclature in the title. It’s not an extra badge you’ll find on the car. It’s not a trim package that will likely bring an extra ten grand on Bring A Trailer in 2045. It’s simply a reference to the high-performance tires fitted – here, a quartet of 235/40-18 Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 summer tires. As such, these tires give plenty of grip that will progressively break away as you push a bit too hard on backroads, but they really won’t be happy if the gales of November come early. However, at $200 MSRP over the standard Civic Si, the package might be a good value – each tire looks to run around $150 should you choose to replace them like-for-like.

2020 Honda Civic Si interior

The driving experience is quite good in daily driving. Ride quality on even poor pavement isn’t plush, but it’s more than acceptable – there’s no crashing over potholes, no harshness or untoward sounds coming through to the pavement. With the standard limited-slip differential, torque steer isn’t a thing – power gets to the front wheels evenly and pulls the car through the corner. It’s easy to get up to speed on some fun roads (or on track) and keep pounding away at the apexes.

2020 Honda Civic Si center stack

Living with the car daily is a breeze. If you shift the trans at lower speeds, it’s frankly benign to drive. It feels like a regular Civic. Fuel economy is quite good for something that can scoot like this does. Seats front and rear were plenty comfortable – I mean, the tweens are used to larger crossovers and the like so they complained when they couldn’t easily kick off their shoes when we set off for a journey. I, however, was thankful that they couldn’t – no mask can adequately protect from the olfactory onslaught of an eleven-year-old’s insistence on wearing the same pair of Vans day after day after day.

Power delivery from the 1.5-liter turbo-four is decent, if not overwhelming. I can’t believe I’m saying that – again, from my history with Hondas, we always expected a serious deficit of torque to come along with the rev-to-the-sky nature of our engines. No longer. While the midrange torque supplied by the turbo is a welcome change, this no longer feels like the free-running Honda of my youth.

2020 Honda Civic Si shift knob

The six-speed manual is a joy to row – but the engine lets it down. When depressing the clutch pedal, the revs hang. You’d expect the revs to drop, allowing you to blip the right pedal to match revs – but the revs just don’t drop like they “should.” As I read more about this phenomenon, it’s a remnant of software that helps to increase fuel economy by minimizing the transitions between open and closed throttle positions. It’s something one, I’m sure, would get used to – but it takes some of the joy away from the drive.

2020 Honda Civic Si front seat 2020 Honda Civic Si rear seat

Perhaps my problem with the Civic Si lies in the center of the Honda showroom with another Civic – this time with the Type-R badge. The bewinged big brother, snorting out another hundred horses or so, is where the Si used to be – atop the lineup. The Si is almost an afterthought.

2020 Honda Civic Si front

Maybe I should see Civic Si as a blank slate. Forget the $200 HPT package seen here – while $200 for a set of sticky summer tires is a bargain, in much of the country you won’t be able to use the tires for 5 months of the year. Spend $1,200 at Tire Rack on a second set of summer tires and new wheels – I’m sure TTAC’s corporate overlords in Toronto have an affiliate link they’d like me to use, but I’ve no idea. Add a sway bar, maybe coilovers. Add a tune from Hondata to eliminate the rev hang?

That’s the way it used to be done. The Civic Si, from 1985 or so, was a damned decent car in stock form – but an aftermarket sprung up to add performance and questionable styling. One might say the Civic Type-R has all of the best aftermarket performance bits – and all of the worst questionable styling bits – of the golden era of Honda tuning. The Civic Si leaves me wanting more – but I know that more is a mouse click away.

2020 Honda Civic Si rear quarter

[Images: © 2020 Chris Tonn]


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29 Comments on “2020 Honda Civic Si HPT Review — A Blank Canvas...”

  • avatar

    I too, have had plenty of Honda/Acuras pass through my hands as well a family. My first one was a 60k mile pristine 89 Legend (around 1997) that I totaled after two months being young and stupid. Coming from my malaise cars, the Legend was a revelation and totally flipped my preference from domestics to imports.

    Having two 2020 Honda’s in my driveway now, I still get some sense of the Honda that built my 89 Legend (and an 88 5 speed Legend that I would own later and for much longer) in those vehicles. One of a staid and competent product that might not be the best, but does work as it should with a few quibbles.

    I didn’t get that feeling from our 2017 Sienna SE that the same Toyota built that vehicle as my folks 92 Camry XLE V6.

  • avatar

    I’ve had a couple cars that had Rev Hang, and it is an absolute dealbreaker for me now. If I really wanted the car in question, I’d just get the Automatic version. Obviously that would mean a lesser model Civic in this case.

    • 0 avatar

      My ’07 350Z has a degree of rev hang, and while it bothered the hell out of me for the first 500 miles, at some point it just… went away. Obviously I learned to compensate, and I haven’t noticed it at all for years. And I can still drive other manual cars (including a race car with a light flywheel) without any conscious adaptation. Not sure how bad it would have to be before it became a permanent thing.

    • 0 avatar

      Getting an automatic Civic Si defeats the whole purpose of this car.

      My ’03 350Z never had rev-hang and my ’14 C7 Z51 has rev-match (like the newer 370Z) so its nothing I’ve had to worry about. It does seem odd… but I think I could adapt since all cars have a different clutch feel and throttle response anyway.

  • avatar

    “While the midrange torque supplied by the turbo is a welcome change, this no longer feels like the free-running Honda of my youth.”

    Yea, that seems to be pretty much how it is with forced-induction unless you can spend over $70K. The 8000RPM engines of 15 years ago were a USP for Honda, now they are just giving you the same stuff every brand offers.

    • 0 avatar

      Perhaps Honda has been Saturn’d?

    • 0 avatar

      Half-assery is never an endearing trait in an enthusiast car. And half-assery is all these low pressure, low rev turbos are built to deliver.

      They do give good fuel economy, and can more easily be tuned to provide a narrower, higher peak in fuel economy figures right around the usages government fuel economy tests tend to cluster around.

      But as driver’s cars, they are dull as dull itself. Neither screaming, responsive, ultra precise ITRs, nor Saab Viggen or 993 Turbo style sledgehammers. Just dull mediocrity.

      They do work well paired with CVTs and/or lots-of-ratios autos. Which, aside from being pretty amazing engineering feats wrt efficient use of a limited resource……, from a driving enthusiast’s perspective, just proves that even dull loves like minded company….

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Thank you Chris Tonn. A nice “clean” review without a single reference to politics. Healey could learn alot from this!

    • 0 avatar
      Tim Healey

      Did you mistake this for Jalopnik? I have rarely been political in reviews and when I have it’s usually been jokingly. I have been political in opinion pieces, when appropriate, but rarely in reviews.

  • avatar

    That red alone makes me like this car. I wonder if Honda made a dozen or so before switching back to the usual black/gray production.

    Are these hard to find or is it just a Boston area thing? I have never found many in stock at local dealers, in fact, most of the area dealers have none.

    • 0 avatar

      I am from your area, but maybe it is a today thing, I was checking these out back in 2018 or so and they couldn’t really give these away. There were leftovers at many dealerships, test drove one, nice car, but came away cold. They made an offer for $21k. Awesome value for the $. I declined and left.

  • avatar

    Having read this article and looked at the pictures, I feel like it’s very important to point out one thing.

    NIN is industrial, not rock.

  • avatar

    Chris, I believe the rev hang is actually related to emission control, not fuel economy. But it sure is annoying. It seems odd that such momentary operating conditions could make any significant difference to overall emissions of a vehicle. But the rev hang persists. On some cars, you can tune it out with a “chip” or programmer. On others, maybe not.

  • avatar
    Mike Beranek

    Rev hang is evil and should be eliminated at all costs.

  • avatar

    I wish the Si came as a hatch. Since it doesn’t I ended up buying the Civic Sport Turbo Hatch 6sp. It was good, but I added an ECU tune (KTuner+TSP) to minimize rev hang and boost power/responsiveness. Ended up also adding stiffer rear sway bar and front/rear endlinks. Now it’s a fun little ride! Pulls hard and gets around 40mpg avg.

  • avatar

    What’s with the black painted alloy rims on everything these days? OK doesn’t show the brake dust but may as well be a black steelie w/ hubcap a la Crown Vic.

    I want some brightness…

    • 0 avatar

      Well the steelies might weigh almost double what the alloys do, so there’s that against them, plus you can paint or powdercoat your wheels literally any color you want – even silver.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    I’m a fan of the Civic Si and the Focus ST, but for different reasons. You could tell by driving the pre-2011 Civic Si that it came from the same folks who gave us the S2000, and you could tell the Focus ST came from the same folks who gave us the Mustang GT. Two different flavors of fun.

    When Honda ditched the high-revving 2.0 for the 2.4 from the Accord, some of that S2000 DNA was lost, and moving to the turbo 1.5 loses even more. Chris is right – it’s got torque now, but without that good old Honda zingy-VTEC feeling, maybe I’d take a chance on a used Focus ST first.

  • avatar

    Confirmation bias perhaps, but I couldn’t be happier with my 2019 Civic Si (with the summer tires). Yes, the Type R is better, but it had better be better for all that extra money. Credit Honda with offering a Civic performance package for every budget.

    Tell me what car offers a more optimal combination of acceleration, cornering, fuel economy and daily driver 4 door sedan practicality at this price.

    When I chose the Civic Si the runners up were the Focus ST (on the verge of being discontinued, not as roomy inside and poor fuel economy) and the Dodge Charger (not available with a stick).

  • avatar

    Ugly cars after some time seem to generally grow on you.

    And yet this car still just looks terrible.

    I’ve never gotten past the styling and apparently I never well. Throw on the Honda boy-racer garbage and it would never cross my mind.

    Stupid package.

  • avatar
    e46 Touring

    I’ve been commuting in one of these for last 2 years. I save my rwd fun machine for the weekends. This is my first Honda product since I sold my Integra GS-R 20 years ago (so much regret). While the powertrain can’t compare to the VTEC scramer in the Integra, the handling of the Civic Si is on another level. I think this is the best fwd chassis extant. I prefer the handling and steering of the Si to the GTI. It is unflappable, combining impressive stick with good ride quality given the suspension tuning. The rev hang is definitely there, but it doesn’t bother me much. As others have said, you can easily be rid of it with the aftermarket. When these were thick on the ground 2 years ago, you could score an amazing deal with little negotiation. It’s really a tremendous value, especially with the base GTI nearing 30k in the US.

  • avatar

    Those Goodyear tires are only good when it is warm. Once it gets to 50* and damp they are worthless. An off ramp I usually take at 70mph in our 2000 Durango I had to slow to under 40 with the Goodyear’s on the sedan or it would slide if it were under 50*. I could not wait to get rid of those tires. We put BFG Comp TA-2 A/S on and they have just as good dry grip and I can still take the ramp at 70 in the sedan even if it is cold and wet. They even do OK in snow if need be.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    As happy as I am that this car even exists in 2020 with a manual only, I’d give the nod to a base GLI manual. Mostly for the 2.0T, and then looks. I’m sure someone will chime in regarding reliability and then someone else will chime in with 1.5T oil/coolant mixing , but you can’t go wrong with either one.

  • avatar

    This is a pretty nice generation civic in my opinion. It won’t go down as being the best, but somewhere near the top.
    Its kinda funny that its actually slower then the 2012 SI that it replaces. I guess the 2.4L just overpowered the 1.5T in most situations. If you look at car and drivers 5-60 rolling start, its over a second faster.

    Most people think the 2012 SI is the worst Si to date, but I think its one of the best. It had Hondas best iteration of the 2.4 K series, with Lsd in a light weight package.
    It was like buying a acura tsx “light”, for 10K off the sticker price.

  • avatar

    My theory is that Acura’s existence in the US cripples Honda. The EU Honda catalog is much more interesting….Hondas have to be cheap (like VW) and if you have money we will sell you the exact same parts (again like VW) in a fancy wrapper (Audi). Much like GM could never build a car that could challenge the Corvette, Honda – US is marketing blocked from making anything more than a boy racer type car…it’s got to be below the adult luxury of Acura and can’t step on the old BMW wannabe at 5/8 the price nonsense of Acura. Acura is incapable of coming up with a sportscar (NSX doesn’t come from American Honda’s no-brain trust) so we get Tape and Stripe Jobs….

    • 0 avatar

      Acura was supposed to simply be JDM Honda offerings in North America, and then the line got blurred to the point where it’s just USDM Honda plus a model or two not.

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