Let’s get this out of the way right up front: The 2017 Honda Civic Si is not a baby Civic Type R. Yes, it shares the name and platform, but not only does it differ mechanically and stylistically in key ways, it also provides a different driving experience.
Different, but still excellent. Just a different kind of excellent. I’ll get to that right after I find my thesaurus.
Like its main competitors – the Ford Focus ST, Subaru WRX, and Volkswagen Golf GTI, the Civic Si is supposed to be the mid-level performance trim of a compact car (in Subaru’s case, the WRX is based on the Impreza but drops the moniker). As such, it’s not the outright burner the Type R is, and that’s just fine.
Long before he launched a reasonably successful solo career, and long before he took time out of his busy day to personally criticize my musicianship, Victor Wooten was already recognized for his unique and astoundingly proficient technique on the electric bass guitar. Some time around 1990, an interviewer asked him how much time he devoted to learning new instruments. Just for perspective, it should be noted that this was very much the era of Prince and a few other musicians who, like Stephen Stills and Walter Becker before them, would often record anything from a demo track to an entire album by playing all the instruments themselves, using hired hands to fill in the gaps on the road.
Wooten gave the interviewer his characteristic cocked-head pause before replying. “Instead of putting time into learning other instruments,” he noted, speaking slowly as if to a child, “I take that time… and I put it into learning my instrument.” There’s a lesson here, if anybody cares to learn it. Don’t waste your time doing things badly.
In the paragraphs that follow, I will attempt to convince you that the Civic Si is eminently superior to its more celebrated Type R sibling because it adheres strictly to Victor Wooten’s advice. The Type R attempts to supersize its platform’s basic capabilities to the point where it can do battle with everything from rally-reps to ponycars, but the Si pursues the much cheaper, much less ambitious path of being simply the best Civic possible.
Its success in doing so is beyond any contradiction.
After a four-hour journey that included a ferry ride across the Northumberland Strait from Prince Edward Island, we arrived at one of the largest import car meets in Atlantic Canada in Bedford, Nova Scotia. There, owners showed off rows upon rows of cars in varying states of modification and personalization, from tasteful to tasteless.
My car club friends and I walked though to say hello to other folks we’d only previously chatted with on our local import forum, all the while gawking at some of the wildest vehicles east of Quebec. Body kits, massive turbo setups, and convoluted engine swaps ruled the day. But I only remember one vehicle vividly, parked at the end of a row and free from the usual slack-jawed, drooling masses: a pristine, unmodified, 1999 or 2000 Honda Civic Si Coupe (actually an SiR in Canada) still wearing its factory Electron Blue Pearl paint.
To me, back in 2007, this was automotive perfection.
Fast forward some 10 years later. I had the chance to meet the 2017 Honda Civic Si, a quicker, more mature, and more usable younger sibling wearing a similar shade of blue — then proceeded to act like a 22-year-old again and drive the ever-living snot out of it.
We’re far removed from the 91-horsepower 1984 Honda Civic Si.
Honda, on the eve of the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show, introduced the Si version of the tenth-generation Civic in prototype coupe form. Honda plans to bring the Si to market as a 2017 model next year with both sedan and coupe bodystyles.
Expect very few changes for the coupe when this “prototype” becomes a production car next year. In Honda vernacular, “prototype” is as close to production as a production car can be without actually being the production car.
To say that details on the next-generation Honda Civic Si have been limited would be a massive understatement. Honda fanboys — and even normal people — have been hungry for even the barest scraps of information.
Well, we finally have a scrap. The Los Angeles Auto Show recently let loose in a press release that Honda will introduce the tenth generation Civic Si at their expo in November. They also ended some of the speculation on what type of engine we can expect.