2020 Honda Civic Si HPT Review - A Blank Canvas
2020 Honda Civic Si 4-Door HPT
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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