Before we begin, the 2012 Honda Civic Si coupe is a rather different beast from the manic, “are those buzzing hornets under the hood?”—style mental patient that served Si duty in the previous generation model. With its screaming 2.0 liter VTEC motor and astronomical engine redline, which also required a lot of shifting to get the best power from every drop of unleaded gas, a 2011 or earlier Civic Si was a four wheeled speeding ticket magnet.
Just trust us on that last count. Approaching that car to drive it in the spirit of “moderation” was about as likely as Adele hitting a bad note during a live performance. It just wasn’t possible. But now it’s the 2012 model year and if you were more likely to be interested in something easier to drive around town or just up to the grocery store without aiding and abetting any criminal behavior, then this might be more your speed. We just aren’t sure if we like our Civic Si to be so, well, civil.
This newfound “mellowness” and the bump in horsepower comes thanks to the 2.4 liter 201 horsepower/170 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder related to the more “grown up” motor in the Acura TSX that now resides in the 2012 Civic Si’s engine bay. So we can guarantee that you will have more fun powering through corners on whatever routes you routinely travel and will also arrive at your destination in a calmer and more serene state, thanks to improved sound deadening.
It makes you wonder looking back, did Honda intentionally forget sound deadening material in last year’s Si or was that howling banshee wail utterly intentional. We think it was probably the latter but you never know. Essentially, the 2012 Civic Si is still fun without the bits that could get tiresome or scary like the end result of your average California marriage.
Thankfully Honda also stuck to its most cherished and traditional Si traits by only offering it with the best 6-speed manual in this class, a gearbox that is so easy to use that even a deaf and blind 78-year old narcoleptic could find the gears without any worry or care. The clutch is smooth and easy to modulate and the whole of the man/machine interaction in this Civic Si still serves high esteem as Honda’s best self-shifter for 2012. And Honda doesn’t make a bad transmission with a third pedal. Yes, we speak of the Civic Si’s clutch and trust us you can handle this one. Your outlook on driving will never be the same.
Although the styling changes for the 2012 Civic sedan were about as newsworthy as Kim Kardashian getting bangs (or her getting married at all for that matter), the coupe version of the 2012 Si that we tested boasted a smarter looking wedge profile than the 2011 model.
Some in the automotive press have savaged the new 2012 Civic’s exterior look as being “too conservative” so we’ll leave that decision up to you, but admittedly there is more flair and pizazz to be found visually with the two door variant of the Si. We admit that the four door Civic isn’t very exciting to behold but when has a four door sedan Civic ever been all that “stylish.” It’s like someone expecting Khloe to become known as the “tiny” Kardashian given her frame which seems to imply, “I don’t care if you are a boy or a girl, I can take you just watching me.” But you have to sympathize, the poor girl had to marry a giant of an NBA player just so she would look smaller in family pictures.
If you are looking for sex appeal in your compact sport coupe, this red two door is your best bet but remember that as Honda is an engineering company run mainly by engineers, their stylistic whimsy can occasionally go disturbingly awry, even to the extent of their outfit choices day in and day out. This time out, while we would probably recommend a four door 2012 Honda Civic Si to a friend thanks to that car’s additional legroom and convenience, we might worry a bit too much about it not looking as stylish as that 4-door VW GTI in the lane to the right that you always seem to run into for a race on the way to work.
Our tester also benefited from a vibrant red exterior color which helped to accentuate the aggressive stance of this 2012 Honda Civic Si—especially from the front which looks like an angry cartoon monster ready to eat you, thanks to its redesigned lower chin spoiler and other exterior visual addenda that come with every 2012 Coupe Si. We have to say, the two door coupe concept fits the Si like a fitted racing glove. The four door? A bit more like a mitten.2012 Honda Civic Coupe Si: Interior
The old two-tier dash design that debuted with the last generation Civic returns in a no less space age looking, yet slightly more conservatively laid out package. What was shocking last time is now normal as Honda has used this split tachometer/speedometer above and below the steering wheel as a signature gimmick for a while now.
We like that Honda ditched the “eco-friendly” charade in all 2012 Civic Si models as the lights surrounding the gauges always glow red which apparently means a bit of driving naughtiness is not only allowed, but encouraged in this affordable compact coupe. As always with the Civic there is a huge glovebox, large center console and most importantly for the United States—a front cupholder duo that can hold two 7-11 Double Gulp cups at the very same time. Not many vehicles of any size can do that. Not even a Suburban.
The design of the interior of the 2012 Honda Civic Si may be mainly about functionality and utility but do remember that Civic Si models are sports cars for the working class and have to serve family duty as well. Sure, the coupe version of the Si looks sportier but if you have kids, do try not to look desperate to still be single and get the four door model. If you have a dog, don’t worry about rear seat space even if you have a large breed animal like our in-house canine road tester Daisy Mae, who usually hates coupes but liked to get in the Civic coupe Si’s admittedly dark and cave-like back seat.2012 Honda Civic Coupe Si: Pricing and Fuel Economy
Our very well equipped 2012 Honda Civic Si coupe lacked a navigation unit in the dash but its price was still only $22,975, even with destination fees. This level Civic comes with climate control, power moonroof, 17-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, USB/iPod integration, a limited slip-differential, durable sport cloth seats, a terrific 360-watt 7-speaker AM/FM/CD/iPod playing audio system, a small-ish 11.7 inch trunk and pretty much everything a new car buyer could ever argue is a “must.”
The EPA quotes 22 city/31 highway, which can plummet fast when you insist upon revving the engine out to redline when you depart from each red light. But miraculously, at the end of a 7-day period of no end to the high rev, high speed abuse, our results came back that it returned an impressive 24.7 miles per gallon, which makes us think that number just might go up quite easily if you were to occasionally show any form of sanity and driving restraint. We couldn’t help ourselves as this 2012 Civic Si was just too red to drive slowly.2012 Honda Civic Coupe Si: Competition
As said earlier, we said that we think the 2012 VW GTI is the most directly competing vehicle with the 2012 Honda Civic Si, so definitely cross shop these two long time rivals. You really can't lose either way.
The German VW hatch does run a bit higher price wise but this pays for a 3-year maintenance program and a higher end feeling interior, as well as the option of a double clutch auto. From Japan there is the MazdaSpeed3, wacky Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart Sportback or the 2012 Subaru WRX which sticks with the same platform as previous 2011 variants as Subaru decided the WRX and WRX STi won’t be upgraded yet with the rest of the newly refreshed basic Impreza subcompact lineup.
Why would Subaru delay its performance icons in favor of launching its mainstream Imprezas, you may ask? Perhaps Subaru didn’t want to hurry its engineers with the much loved WRX so maybe, just maybe they can get the exterior design (every generation) and the handling (2009) characteristics just right the first time as to avoid any embarrassingly necessary re-launches two years down the road? Or maybe they want people to notice the frugal and basic Impreza models for once in search of higher sales volumes.
Test-drive a VW GTI in addition to a 2012 Honda Civic Si if you are looking for affordable driving fun that could easily fit most any family budget. These other three performance models can either get pricey with options or uncouth after long term acquaintance (“No, Mr. MazdaSpeed3, I know you claim not to have this problem but I hate when you steer me into shrubbery!”).
Many features like Tarmac adjustable all-wheel drive that add tens of thousands to the MSRP may be unnecessarily complex for you unless you live in a desperately depressing part of the Snow Belt. Then, by all means, invest in every all-wheel drive system, driving aid, handling aid, rear differential and adjustable drive settings that you can always use to safely and securely escape from any situation. These cars, much like the classic “Janet Jackson” song, will always leave you feeling in complete “Control.”
Our left-field overall favorite third party candidate is kind of the Ron Paul of performance hatches and it is called the 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart Sportback. Sure, we tested one in orange that looked a whole lot like a pumpkin but with Saab gone this may be the wackiest new car that you can buy.2012 Honda Civic Coupe Si: Driving Impressions
This is where the question of being a “hardcore” Honda fanatic comes into play—do you sometimes like to be able to turn off your brain while driving? Well, the 2012 Honda Civic Si has the power torque and handling forgiveness that will help allow you to relax occasionally behind the wheel. Much of this is thanks to the sublimely smooth 2.4 liter 201 horsepower/170 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder that boasts more torque low in the rev range so commuting won’t be a constant on/off the redline affair as it was with the last generation Civic’s hyper-manic 2.0 liter.
Sure, that 2.0 liter engine was a gem but it’s dearth of torque made it feel not all that fast under 7,000RPM whereupon all hell broke loose both aural and in regards to your local speed limit. It was a truly classic automotive hooligan in that always goaded you into getting into more trouble but would never show up to support you during trial and tribulation. With the 2.0 liter engine, we admit, the Civic Si just oozed bad-ass from every metal panel whereas the 2012 Civic Si gets on with more grace and less hyperactive tension.
Trust us: driving last year’s 2011 Civic Si was an exhausting experience over a long drive and in the 2012 version this car is a much quieter and less frenetic cruiser. Sure, when the road got twisty and we needed to double downshift for full power we were in affordable automotive nirvana thanks to its “slicker than Ronald Reagan’s hair circa 1984” 6-speed manual transmission which we have recommended to you in this review ad nauseum.
Around corners, the limited slip differential and decent amount of steering feel in the 2012 Civic Si ensure that there are more grins to be had than just those given by the transmission. The suspension also proved to be very composed on a long drive over a mountain overpass and brakes were fade free. The 2.4 liter engine, while not as aurally inspiring as the 2.0 liter, also likes to sing its own mellifluous melody when given chance. And please, do give it a chance. Life’s too short not to drive one of the few new cars looking to ensure that a great driving experience is never lost as part of the ownership equation.What We Loved About the 2012 Honda Civic Si
- 6-speed manual transmission is only unit available—and is so perfect you would never want an auto box
- New Engine from the TSX has lots of character and loves to rev but suffers from no “torque flat spots”
- A bit less manic and easy to speed in than last year’s model but still fun
- An excellent upgraded 380-watt stereo system with 7-speakers standard with Si models
- A good value considering the features and fun on hand
What we Loathed About the 2012 Honda Civic Si
- Interior Plastics Could Be Upgraded
- Dashboard Design could be More Inspired and Sporty Feeling
- Why Can’t All Civics Have Dashboard Lighting that Glows a Demonic Red?