2012 Honda Civic Coupe Si Review

Honda-Civic-Si-coupe-2012_i012012 Honda Civic Si coupe

Honda’s popular pocket rocket has been significantly improved for 2012, and thanks to a new engine, the improvements are more than visual.

Much improved looks

The former Coupe Si wasn’t a bad-looking vehicle, but it pales in comparison to the new version, which seems to have adopted styling cues from the highly attractive Accord Coupe. The most notable of which are the rear quarter glass and the tail end of the 2012 Honda Civic Coupe Si.

The exterior revisions have immensely improved the car’s visual presence while serving to clean its overall appearance – a good job there. Moving inside the car leaves me less enthused.

Great seats, too much interior plastic

First of all, I’ve never been a fan of Honda’s bi-level instrument panel but the setup works well, delivering the essentials with clarity and accuracy. The HVAC controls are pure joy to use due to their simplicity; I can’t say that for much else.

The touch-screen interface isn’t my preferred means of adjusting secondary controls. Perhaps the iPhone-user sect is more adept at living with interactive screens than I am; nevertheless, Honda’s system comes together with some practice and exposure.

On the flipside, I was quite smitten with the Si’s front seats. They are exceptionally supportive, well bolstered and deliver fade-free comfort. They are upholstered in a highly textured fabric that imparts a quality feel. Unfortunately, that’s not the case throughout the cabin where excessive expanses of hard plastic cheapen the environs.

Then again, the Civic is an economy car – fair enough – but have a look at what Ford and Hyundai, to name a few, are doing with their economy digs and the contrast will surely be stark.

Enough about the cabin which, by the way, is quite spacious for a compact coupe; let’s move onto the heart of the pocket beast.

Larger mill is much stronger

Gone is last year’s 2.0-litre 4-banger. It’s been replaced with a 2.4-litre, 16-valve i-VTEC 4-cylinder that spins out 201 horsepower @ 7,000 rpm. This is a modest boost of only four horsepower, which by itself is not impressive.

Honda-Civic-Si-coupe-2012_i022012 Honda Civic Si Interior

What serves to impress is the significant upswing in torque and the earlier presentation of that twist. Last year, the Civic Si made do with 139 pound-feet of torque @ 6,100 rpm. This year, the Si cooks with 170 pound-feet @ 4,400 rpm. The result is delightful.

It’s not necessary to maintain revs in the stratosphere to squeeze the most out of the larger engine as it was with the former mill. This attribute greatly enhances the Si’s performance-oriented characteristics – and it’s what driving enthusiasts constantly crave. That’s why there’s such a robust tuner market for these cars.

The fine art of shifting

Drivers with a penchant for stick shifts will find joy in the Si’s 6-speed manual gearbox – I certainly did. This manu-mixer rekindles all that is desirable about shifting one’s gears the old fashioned way. And unlike many front-wheel-drive manual sticks, Honda’s version actuates with precision and simplicity; there’s no rubberiness or surplus resistance to dampen the delight.

The short-throw shifter ably passed my two-finger test for manual sticks. The test simply consists of using two fingers to row from one gear to the next. Smoothly functioning gearboxes that click into gear with exactitude and ease – such as that of the Si – pass this test with flying colours.

Complementing the process of manually swapping cogs is the light, smooth, progressive engagement of the Si’s clutch. Together, the operational finesse of the stick and clutch enable ultra-smooth departures and gear changes every time. Such polished functionality underpins much of the enjoyment found behind the Si’s beautifully contoured wheel.

On the road

Spirited sports car performance is the core of the 2012 Civic Coupe Si. It’s a “fun to drive” compact 2-door ride that delivers a sporty growl and noteworthy acceleration. Low-end torque is far better than before, which makes the car more enjoyable in all driving scenarios.

The taut underpinnings arm the Si with a lively disposition in the corners. The car handles exceptionally well, and feels highly predictable and composed when pushed aggressively through the twisties. Despite the relative stiffness of the suspension arrangement, the Si generates some mild body lean when tossed hard, yet the car remains balanced and solidly planted.

The firm springs do tend to harden the Si’s ride somewhat – in fact, more than I would choose to tolerate on a daily basis, but I’ve always had a predilection for comfort when it comes to the “ride versus handling” equation.

Worthy of specific mention is the outstanding forward visibility the driver is greeted to. Unlike so many other modern cars, the Si’s A-pillars are slim. The placement of a small quarter window at the base of each A-pillar enhances sight lines for the driver, especially when making right turns.

Final words

Honda-Civic-Si-coupe-2012_i052012 Honda Civic Si

The 2012 Civic Si is notably improved over last year, thanks to more heat under the hood and superior aesthetics. Although a revised instrument panel feeds the driver with clarity it’s still an offbeat setup integrated into a dashboard that’s heavily plasticized.

With some additional cabin enhancements to soften the hard shell effect, the Si Coupe could be a standout in both performance and cabin refinement. Given its mid-20K price range, the upgrade is justified in today’s world of trickle-down “upscale” cabins.

Nonetheless, the Civic Si is a car with spirit and soul, not to mention practicality and economy. My tester averaged 8.8 L/100km in city-centric driving, and with only 240 km on its clock, it wasn’t even broken in. Fuel efficiency is likely to improve following a suitable break-in.