I was lucky enough to have the Civic Si waiting for me at the airport when I had just returned home from driving Honda’s new CR-Z in California. Lucky for two reasons: the Si is a damned fun car to drive, at any point, and because it gave me a good chance to do a sort of A/B comparison between two of Honda’s most sport-oriented vehicles.
There’s no question that the Civic Si is a faster and better handling vehicle than the sporty hybrid, but the difference isn’t so great as you might think. Civic wins points for simply having more power, and for being ultimately faster because of it, but the CR-Z has the very entertaining low-speed power from its electric motor assist going for it.
Both cars offer a six-speed manual gearbox, but the Civic’s is the nicer of the two. The Si’s gearlever is smaller, and quicker in action; much better able to cope with ultra-aggressive gear changes.
The Civic coupe has backseats of course, which gives it a major advantage to anyone who might have the need to carry the occasional third, or fourth passenger. That said, the CR-Z’s massive cargo area trumps the Si’s hauling ability. The hybrid also wins the war of fuel efficiency, naturally.
—Seyth Miersma, Editor-In-Chief
The Civic Si is a great drive, there’s no doubt about it. It’s a benchmark car to which I often find myself comparing other vehicles. It combines a lot of great elements that make it outshine other cars in its class. The steering wheel feels good in the palm of your hands, the shifter is so clean and fun to throw, and the instrument cluster is sleek and user-friendly (once you get used to it). All this comes at around $22,000.
My favorite thing, though, about the Civic Si is the engine. Particularly the sound of the engine, especially north of 5000 rpm. The groan opens up into a savage howl that builds all the way to the 8K-rpm redline. It’s an uplifting, addicting sound that gets me holding onto each gear as long as possible.
—John Beltz Snyder, Production Editor
A Volkswagen GTI may be more refined, and a Mini Cooper S may be more maneuverable. A MazdaSpeed3 may be faster, but in terms of sheer driving joy, I don’t think any of those can match running a Honda Civic Si through the gears. The combination of the 2.0-liter, VTEC four and a smooth six-speed manual transmission delivers a driving experience that is hard to beat at this price point.
The Civic Si arguably plays the sport compact role better than anything else on the market. The suspension isn’t overly harsh, the clutch is very linear and easy to work, and the seats are comfortable and supportive. It does the job of cruising around town perfectly, but if you choose to have fun, all it takes is a gear change and the Si is ready to play.
—Brandon Turkus, Test Fleet Manager
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