2020 Honda Civic Si HPT Review - A Blank Canvas

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
Fast Facts

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.
2020 honda civic si hpt review a blank canvas

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

[Images: © 2020 Chris Tonn]

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3 of 29 comments
  • Petey Petey on Nov 01, 2020

    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.

  • Speedlaw Speedlaw on Jan 09, 2021

    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....

    • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Jan 09, 2021

      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.

  • 28-Cars-Later I'm actually surprised at this and not sure what to make of it. In recent memory Senator Biden has completely ignored an ecological disaster in Ohio, and then ignored a tragic fire in Hawaii until his handlers were goaded in sending him and his visit turned into it's own disaster, but we skipped nap time for this sh!t show? Seriously? We really are through the looking glass now, "votes" no longer matter (Hillary almost won being the worst presidential candidate since 1984 before he claimed the crown) and outside of Corvette nostalgia Joe doesn't care let alone know what day it happens to be. Could they really be afraid of Trump, who AFAIK has planned no appearance or run his mouth on this issue? Just doesn't make sense, granted this is Clown World so maybe its my fault for trying to find sense in a senseless act.
  • Tassos If you only changed your series to the CORRECT "Possibly Collectible, NOT Daily Driver, NOT Used car of the day", it would sound much more accurate AND TRUTHFUL.Now who would collect THIS heap of trash for whatever misguided reason, nostalgia for a much worse automotive era or whatever, is another question.
  • ToolGuy Price dropped $500 overnight. (Wait 10 more days and you might get it for free?)
  • Slavuta Must be all planned. Increase price of cars, urbanize, 15 minutes cities. Be poor, eat bugs
  • Sid SB Not seen a Core without the performance pack yet. Prefer the more understated look of the Core vs the Circuit, but both are great fun to drive.