2020 Honda Civic Si HPT Review - A Blank Canvas

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.

  • MaintenanceCosts The sweet spot of this generation isn't made anymore: the SRT 392. The Scat Pack is more or less filling the same space but it lacks a lot of the goodies, including SRT suspension, brakes, and seats. The Hellcat is too much and isn't available with a manual anymore.
  • Arthur Dailey I am normally a fan of Exner's designs but by this time the front end on the Stutz like most of the rest of the vehicle is a laughable monstrosity of gauche. The interior finishes suit the rest of the vehicle. Corey please put this series out of its misery. This is one vehicle manufacturer best left on the scrap heap of history.
  • Art Vandelay I always thought what my Challenger really needed was a convertible top to make it heavier and make visability worse.
  • Dlc65688410 Please stop, we can't take anymore of this. Think about doing something on the Spanish Pegaso.
  • MaintenanceCosts A few bits of context largely missing from this article:(1) For complicated historical reasons, the feds already end up paying much of the cost of buying new transit buses of all types. It is easier legally and politically to put capital funds than operating funds into the federal budget, so the model that has developed in most US agencies is that operational costs are raised from a combination of local taxes and fares while the feds pick up much of the agencies' capital needs. So this is not really new spending but a new direction for spending that's been going on for a long time.(2) Current electric buses are range-challenged. Depending on type of service they can realistically do 100-150 miles on a charge. That's just fine for commuter service where the buses typically do one or two trips in the morning, park through the midday, and do one or two trips in the evening. It doesn't work well for all-day service. Instead of having one bus that can stay out from early in the morning until late at night (with a driver change or two) you need to bring the bus back to the garage once or twice during the day. That means you need quite a few more buses and also increases operating costs. Many agencies are saying for political reasons that they are going to go electric in this replacement cycle but the more realistic outcome is that half the buses can go electric while the other half need one more replacement cycle for battery density to improve. Once the buses can go 300 miles in all weather they will be fine for the vast majority of service.(3) With all that said, the transition to electric will be very good. Moving from straight diesel to hybrid already cut down substantially on emissions, but even reduced diesel emissions cause real public health damage in city settings. Transitioning both these buses and much of the urban truck fleet to electric will have measurable and meaningful impacts on public health.