2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe HD Video Review

Honda began selling the Civic in 1973 with the ad slogan “It will get you where you’re going”.  With a 50 horsepower engine they could have added “but not very quickly”.

A reminder to “like” this review. If you actually like it of course…

2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe

Since those modest beginnings Honda has sold over nine million copies in the US and Civic has developed a reputation for value, reliability and a touch of sport.  Want a lot of sport? Then you want the Civic Si.  It has four times the power of the original Civic, is loads of fun in the corners and is particularly good in the smiles-per-gallon department.

Recommended?

The 9th generation Civic has received a fair amount of criticism with Consumer Reports denying it the vaunted “recommended” status for the first time.  It’s a reflection of just how good cars like Cruze, Elantra, Focus, and Dart have become in the last few years.  Honda owners are a loyal bunch though.  According to Chris Martin at Honda, Civic has been the best selling compact car for the first four months of 2012.  FYI, CR does recommend the Si model.

If you aren’t brand loyal and are shopping for a front-wheel drive performance car you’ll be cross-shopping Si with Volkswagen GTI and Jetta GLI, Mazdaspeed3, Nissan SE-R and the upcoming Ford Focus ST and Dart R/T.  Price?  The fully loaded Si Coupe I’m driving retails for $24,475.  Yes that includes destination.  Pony up an extra two Hamiltons and it buys the more practical (but less dramatically styled) sedan model.

2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe

What You Get For The Money

A quick car for starters.  Standard Civics make 140 horsepower.  The larger 2.4-liter four-cylinder in Si pumps out 201 hp @ 7,000 rpm and 170ft-lb of torque @4,400 rpm.  That’s great, though keep in mind it prefers premium gasoline.  This is the motor found in the Acura TSX and compared to the outgoing 2.0-liter there’s more low-end torque (31 lb-ft) and slightly better fuel economy.  It doesn’t need to be rung out to redline to extract the power now so the car feels more composed and mature.

Don’t drive a clutch?  Better learn if you want an Si, a six-speed manual is the only transmission available.  With shorter throws, it feels quite nice.  Clutch take up is smooth and easy.

Si sprints to 60 miles-an-hour in 6.5 seconds and sounds good doing it.  Power delivery is smooth and even, right up to the 7,000 rpm redline.  So yes, it will still get you where you’re going.

2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe

There are some fun driver’s toys located on the upper tier of the instrument panel.  A “power meter” in the LCD display shows peak horsepower.  An i-VTEC indicator light goes on when shifting from low-to high-rpm camshaft profiles.  Below it are rev-limit warning LEDs.

Si Can Handle It

Si is very nimble, you’ll look for roads with curves and corners just because it’s fun (and who doesn’t want more fun in their lives).  Civic Si isn’t as powerful as Mazdaspeed3 but what it has is very usable.  Like the GTI, the overall balance goes beyond the numbers.  Si feels light and flingable, not as solid and Germanic as the Volkswagen. There’s very little torque steer and as far as I know, it’s the only front-wheel drive car with a limited slip differential. Si has a summer tire option, it comes standard with all-season treads.

2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe

Ride quality is firm though not harsh.  This is not a high-strung twitchy car, it’s tolerable as a daily driver.  Road noise is on the higher side of normal and it’s fun to hear the VTEC engine spool up when the pedal goes down.  Fuel economy is EPA rated at 22 city, 31 highway, that’s of course less than the regular Civic.  Just keep thinking smiles per gallon.  Disc brakes at all wheels have very good modulation.

Number One Out of Five

There are five different Civic models and I find the Si’s cabin the most appealing with lighting that matches the red stitching.  Other Civics have a button for “economy” driving just left of the steering wheel.  Not Si.  You’ll just have to show some responsibility and personal restraint.

2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe

Door panels and seats are covered in an interesting cloth with a trapezoidal 3D quality.  It’s a neat touch.  Aluminum pedals look great too.  The interior plastics on the other hand don’t have the same quality appearance.  Si gets a black interior and while it looks best in this hue the materials are of average quality.  At best.

While the seats have deep bolsters I don’t feel as if I’m sitting in them as much as on them.  You might be different, it’s why there are test drives.

Another personal decision involves the dashboard. Similar to the previous generation’s setup, it’s polarizing.  The speedo is digital, the prominent tach is huge.  Honda calls the LCD screen on the top level “i-MID” and it displays an awful lot of stuff.  Start by uploading your own wallpaper then scroll through audio information, fuel economy status, and engine power.  It also displays the multiple ways you can configure Civic’s lights, locking options and many other parameters that owners can set to their liking. Bluetooth and a USB port are standard.

2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe

There are belts for three in the back seat of the coupe but if you’re trying to sell this to your significant other as a practical vehicle, go with the sedan.  It’s easier to get people in and out of the four-door and there’s a couple more inches of much needed headroom.  The steeply raked back of the coupe means average sized people (like me) will hit their heads on the back glass.  The coupe’s rear quarters won’t be used too much so I won’t gripe about the lack a second seat pocket, power port, folding armrest and that the raised center position cuts headroom further.

Details, Details

My biggest complaint about Civic (other than the budget interior) is the other ad slogan- “We make it simple”.  Perhaps too simple? It doesn’t offer amenities the competitors do, even as options.  Surprising since options are lucrative for automakers.  Honda has a marketing problem bumping up against Acura ILX in this segment though.

2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe

For example, push button start is not available on Civic Si, neither is auto climate control or heated seats.  Many of these can be found on Elantra, Focus, Dart and Cruise to name a few.  Many of them also offer “tap-for-three-blinks” lane change signaling.  Not Civic.

Small details, such as a rubber insert for the console tray would keep phones and coins from sliding and rattling around.  The navigation system feels like it’s a generation behind and while its screen brings the expectation that it has a back up camera, it doesn’t.  With the coupe’s raised aerodynamic back end it could use one.  Speaking of the rear, I’d like a release button on the trunk lid.  You have to use the interior lever or dig the key out of your pocket (can you tell I use the trunk a lot?).

How Useful Is It?

Is the coupe’s cargo hold as useful as the sedan’s?  It’s close.  The four-door’s trunk swallows a generous 7 packs, the coupe stops at six.  Got to love standardized testing, huh?  It can be expanded because of 60/40 split rear seats.  Few will mind because few will want to sit back there.

2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe

The silhouette of the coupe is very dramatic, a continuation of Generation 8’s mono-form silhouette.  The outgoing car which was both dramatic and mainstream, continues to be one of my favorite designs when it comes to affordable cars.  To my eye Gen 9 is less elegant and organic, as if it were designed digitally on a computer screen rather than drawn and sculpted freehand.  And yes, this is the 9th generation Civic.  Where has the time gone?

The Si coupe starts at $23,145 and that base model has everything a driver needs for a good time.  As the old ad slogan said, it will get you where you want to go, but this time with a big smile on your face.

2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe

Honda built their reputation on engineering and small touches that other brands ignored through the 80’s and 90’s.  Now the Americans, Europeans, and Koreans are building some very compelling products.  But if you’re looking for a good time, Cruze and Elantra don’t have a performance model.  That means fun hogs have their choices cut considerably.  Civic Si remains affordable, powerful and a kick in the corners. Honda does a neat trick by spelling fun with just two letters.

FULL GALLERY BELOW.  AS USUAL, ALL STILL PHOTOS PROVIDED BY THE MANUFACTURER.  THE MOVIES ARE SHOT BY TOM.

17 Comments

  1. gracerh says:

    Hi, just wondering what that “Passenger Airbag” indicator means on the far right side of the IMID on picture #3?

  2. fatbaldandhappy says:

    Not sure what happened to Honda. There was a time when nearly every car in their lineup was a class leader. I’m just not excited by anything they make anymore. While I’m sure the Si is fun, I think if you had a GTI, Speed3, Focus ST, and an Si lined up- the others would be claimed before the Si. Honda’s were the first 2 cars I officially owned myself. I have fond memories and really want to like them, but I’m afraid the ridgeline represents what has happened to Honda. Maybe Asimo became sentient and executed a hostile take over?

    Back to the Scirocco- VW is NUTS for not bringing that bad boy to the US. Yeah yeah- cannibalize premium TT sales, blah blah blah. Maybe we can find a good hacker and program Asimo to convince the good people at VW to give us want we want! Or maybe convince Volvo to de-goofify the C30 (with a few minor tweaks it’s the kissing cousin of the Scirocco).

    Thanks again Tom for another great review for those of us who don’t spend our commutes on test tracks pulling maximum G’s on the figure 8.

    • TV says:

      Look, don’t piss off Asimo. I don’t need him messing with this site, it’s enough work as it is.

      The Polestar C30 is a lot of fun. Drove it briefly in Arizona and was pleasantly surprised.

      Apparently bringing the Scirocco to the states would be prohibitively expensive, that’s the reason I was given by VW. They said to make a business case out of it they’d have to charge 40K. Would like to see it here though, nice car.

  3. siracergrl says:

    A pretty well-rounded review of the Si. A lot of points I’ve brought up in mine were mentioned here. I will say that the MPG with this car is much higher for me than advertised by Honda. I get about 36-40 highway and that’s including my lead foot driving. The plastic, although cheap looking, holds up to much more abuse than the 8th gen’s interior did. The back seat is definitely cramped for headroom but it’s a coupe thing so I never expected much. Legroom wise it’s not too bad though. I also like how a bunch of things from the 8th gen are interchangeable with the 9th.

    • TV says:

      Thanks siracegrl,
      Always good to hear from an owner. I’m curious about the interior since that’s where most auto writers start to criticize. What about it makes it hold up better? I thought the materials looked pretty good in the last model and should hold up fine.

  4. K G says:

    Watched the video.
    About the PALINDROMIC car names…
    I know you said no alpha-numeric names
    but Caddy shortened the Seville Touring Sedan into STS.
    STS usage, then, in this case is vastly different from always/only alphanumeric classifications, IN MY opinion then.

    So, I posit STS is a valid (WAS as it is recently dead) palindromic car name. (concur?)

    Fiat Esseesse (model designation) is interesting if not a winner, too.

    “A Toyota” – bends the rules a bit, eh?

    • TV says:

      Uhhh, no on the STS. It’s not a word, it’s an acronym. Nice try though.

      On the other hand I’d say the Esseesse is a win since it is, kind of sort of, a word.

      A Toyota? Two words. Still, pretty clever K G.

      • K G says:

        Let me know where to send you my address so you can ship me my free _________ (which car do I GET, anywayz??? LOL)

      • CalgaryGuy says:

        Here is a model beside the Civic (although the model branding is long discontinued): Isuzu “Pup”.

        And for more fun:
        “Pop” is a model of Fiat 500.
        And a smart person could develop a phrase (bending the rules) with “pacifica p” in it.

  5. juan mazzei says:

    like the atmospheric 200hp engine, preety sure it sounds awsome..

    BTW, no leather seats?? not even an optional?? laaame from honda!!!

    • motorstreet says:

      You have to get the Acura ILX 2.4 if you want leather, but that starts at $29,200

  6. TV says:

    Had some pics but lost them in the move to Seattle. Very sad. Loved that car.

    BTW, I don’t really fault the coupe for having a tight rear seat, it kind of goes with the territory.

  7. GusGT says:

    The Si sounds nice but the competition draws more of my attention. Whoever agreed to the marketing campaign “We make it simple” should be forced to sit in the back seat of the Si for a month. This slogan is the total opposite of engaging or exciting. I agree with clali288, Honda needs to quickly catch-up with the competition or else. Maybe this is a way to setup for the next marketing campaign “We now make it exciting.”

    So TV, what was your car purchase that needed preliminary car insurance research?

    • TV says:

      VW Scirocco. The insurance premium was breathtaking for a 22 year old male.

      • GusGT says:

        The Scirocco was a great looking car. Any pic’s to to help bring back memories of the “Desert wind” if I recall the marketing back then.

  8. clali288 says:

    This seems like a good car to hold back on as Honda is expediting its refresh due to the underwhelming response from the public because of it’s lack of quality.
    Honda used to produce compelling drivers cars like the CR-X, Prelude, S2000, and the Acura Integra/RSX. I think Honda has cost themselves real car enthusiasts. As VW, Toyota, and Subaru are creating compelling competition it is going to be hard to win back what they gave up.