The Honda Civic Si has a long history of providing high amounts of driving fun at an affordable price. The last generation in particular was a sweet blend of superb driving dynamics, lots of equipment and decent practicality that made for one heck of a deal. It's part of why we included it in our list of best sport sedans. Basically, the new 2022 Honda Civic Si has a lot to live up to. And in many ways, it's a superior machine to its predecessor, though some equipment changes and a price that's creeping up hurt its value proposition. But if you're looking for a driver's car that's practical and won't lead to bankruptcy, the Civic Si should still be on your short list.
Visually, the new Si, available only as a sedan this time, is distinguished from regular sedans by adopting the hatchback’s front fascia with its larger grille between the headlights. Around the sides are 18-inch split 5-spoke wheels in matte black, and the tail gets a little black lip spoiler and discreet dual exhaust tips. It’s a surprisingly restrained design, though it can be livened up with an accessory front spoiler and side skirts, as well as a different wheel design. The interior is spiffier with bright red upholstery down the seat centers and on the door panels, plus a red ring around the air vents and a leather and aluminum shift knob. The seats in particular are a treat with loads of bolstering and support, while being soft enough and open enough to be comfortable over long periods of time for all kinds of body types. There’s lots of legroom front and rear, and it’s easy to get comfortable behind the wheel. Visibility is excellent, too.
The Si comes with plenty of standard equipment, as per usual, but it’s lost a few things, and the tradeoff is mixed. The big items missing are dual-zone automatic climate control, heated seats and an electronically adjustable suspension. In return, it gets a couple more speakers with the Bose audio system, a 2-inch larger infotainment screen, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Also, as is the case throughout Honda’s lineup, the old LaneWatch blind-spot camera was swapped out for a traditional blind-spot warning system, which is a definite improvement. Otherwise, it still comes with at least single-zone automatic climate control, a sunroof, the aforementioned upgraded sound system, and adaptive cruise control with lane-centering steering assist. You’ll appreciate the loud sound system for drowning out the quiet riot of engine, road, tire and wind noise at highway cruising. The infotainment system is also vastly improved in responsiveness, graphical fidelity and ease of use, as it is now shared with the unit found in the Accord. It’s also appreciated that all climate controls are usable without having to mess with the infotainment system.
There are mechanical tweaks to the new Civic Si, too, beyond just the generational changes. The turbocharged 1.5-liter four-cylinder now makes 200 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque. That actually works out to a slight reduction in peak power, but it produces torque 300-rpm sooner in the rev band, and power doesn’t taper off quite as fast past peak as before. It also welcomes back the full-fledged VTEC system with variable cam lift, though only on the exhaust camshaft like the other turbo Civics. Fuel economy even improves by 1 mpg across the board with a rating of 31 mpg combined. The transmission features a lighter, single-mass flywheel to make the car rev freer and help improve throttle response.
You don't have to take the engineers' words for it either. This is an even more fun and playful version of the turbo four-cylinder. It still has good down-low torque thanks to the quick-spooling turbo, but now it has a bit more of the free-revving spirit and snappy reactions of past Honda engines. Even better, it doesn't feel like the power falls off as much at the top end, and it's accompanied by an even more aggressive noise thanks to the VTEC cam profile change. Aiding the sensations are a louder, but still smooth-sounding exhaust system, and a less intrusive artificial noise generator that sounds less fake. It only comes on in the Sport settings for the engine, which seems to mainly change throttle and rev-matching response. Should you prefer your driving experience to be sonically au naturel, the Individual mode allows you to blend Sport's steering weight and powertrain response without the artificial enhancements.
It's just a shame that redline arrives seemingly so soon at 6,500 rpm, since it sounds like it wants to keep on going. The gearing is such that it feels like it falls out of that VTEC range on upshifts, too. And we have to acknowledge the fact that, although a fun powertrain, the Civic Si's 200 horsepower falls short of the similarly-priced 260-horsepower Subaru WRX and the somewhat more expensive 241-horsepower VW GTI. Then again, we have no doubt the aftermarket will have ways to crank up the boost and the power in short order.
Honda still isn't offering the Civic Si with an automatic transmission option, which will obviously limit its appeal. For those of us willing and able to row our own, the standard six-speed manual transmission has been improved and continues to be paired with a mechanical limited-slip differential. The shifter in particular is even better than before, as its throws are not only 10% shorter but its action feels more substantial with even clearer shift gates. At the same time, it thankfully sacrifices none of the smoothness we've come to expect. And helping you shift smoother is the same rev-matching system from the Civic Type R. As with most rev-matching systems, it actually makes the most sense in normal driving and commuting, since it lets you downshift smoothly without any effort. It can be deactivated if you wish to do the work yourself, and the pedals are beautifully spaced for the job, but doing so is an unusually tedious procedure that requires stopping the car and engaging the parking brake.
There are two annoyances with the drivetrain, though. The first is that the clutch is absurdly light with very little feedback. It's progressive and forgiving enough that it's hard to stall, but the pedal feels like it's just hanging under the dash not connected to anything. Then there's the rev hang. It's clearly a case of engine programming rather than a heavy flywheel, since the previous model with the heavier flywheel had the same problem. It makes for awkward upshifts when racing through the gears.
Besides the perky powertrain, the Civic Si still has a killer chassis. It's stiffer overall than the previous model, with firmer springs and anti-roll bars to boot, and a suspension chock full of Type R bushings. It all keeps the Si cornering extremely flatly and securely. Turn in is quick, grip is great, and thanks to the limited-slip differential, you can keep your foot planted through corners. It would've been nice to try on an autocross course, but the tight canyon roads north of Los Angeles were a worthy substitute. And while it's a bit disappointing on paper that the Si no longer has multiple suspension settings courtesy the previous car's adaptive dampers, we don't think many will actually miss them. The suspension is certainly on the stiff side, but it doesn't beat you up over bumps. Plus, if you want an even racier suspension down the road, you won't have to worry about warning lights from the car because you removed the adjustable shocks. We also recommend the Sport setting for the steering as it adds a hint of feedback and more weight to the otherwise somewhat numb but very responsive helm.
All of this can be yours for $28,315, and the only option is summer tires for a mighty affordable $200. Of course, there are also the various Honda dealer accessories for sprucing up the exterior if you so choose. So there's still value in the features and the fact that every model is well-equipped, not just one very expensive variant. That being said, the new price point does put it in closer competition with the very closely priced Subaru WRX, which also adds all-wheel drive atop its greater output. The VW GTI and GLI are also more powerful than the Honda, and they bring some added refinement, though for pricing starting around $30,000 or more. For similar performance and even less money, you can get a Kia Forte GT or Hyundai Elantra N Line (not to be confused with the upcoming Elantra N), though minus the mechanical limited slip differential and the same overall precision and smiles offered by the Civic.
If you can look past the power-per-dollar ratio, the new Civic Si is better than ever right out of the box. With a strong aftermarket, it's a great base for building an even more capable vehicle. Add in its still-solid, if slightly shorter feature list, and you have a performance car that can do it all without breaking the bank. And that's exactly what a Civic Si should do.