2012 Honda Civic Si Review: Introduction
As any automaker knows, there is a fine line in redesigning an iconic car when it comes to attracting new buyers and keeping the purists, so Honda strapped on its tightrope walking shoes to introduce the 2012 Honda Civic. Since its debut, many have panned Honda for its conservative approach with the ninth-generation Civic, and Honda has apparently listened as an earlier-than-expected update is reportedly in the works for next year. In the meantime, we spent a week with the 2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe to see what all the ruckus was about, and as the seventh Civic to carry the Si badge, it is hard to argue with the added power and performance of the 2012 Civic Si. While many things have changed for the Civic Si over the years, the 2012 model delivers a well-balanced dosage of a low curb weight, a high-revving engine and fun-to-drive spirit.
2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe Review: Pricing and Trim Levels
All 2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe models are assembled in Alliston, Ontario, Canada, but other U.S.-spec Civic models are also built in Indiana and Japan. A base 2012 Civic Coupe starts at just $15,605, but those looking for that rev-happy Si model will have to dig a little deeper into their budgets thanks to a starting price of $22,205 for the Si Coupe; add another $200 to the price of both if you want the four-door model. The Civic Si comes fairly well equipped, and this test model had an as-tested price of $22,975 including the $770 destination charge. In the world of sport compacts, coming in under $23,000 is an impressive feat, but there are plenty of cars nipping at the heels of the Civic Si in terms of low price and a high fun factor.
2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe Review: Competition
There is no shortage of affordable sporty coupes for the 2012 Honda Civic Si to go up against such as the Scion tC, Hyundai Genesis Coupe and the Ford Mustang V-6, but the Volkswagen GTI, Mazda MAZDASPEED3, Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart and the all-new FIAT 500 Abarth add to the sport compact excitement as well. Of these models, the Civic is, by far, one of the best selling overall with 221,235 non-hybrid units sold in 2011, but that number dropped by an astounding 15.3 percent over 2010 opening the door for other cars to snatch up sales from the sportier Si. While global natural disasters have led to supply problems that definitely hampered Civic sales in the U.S., an overall negative reception of the new model has largely played a part in the car's sudden drop in sales for 2011, but these changes are expected to be fixed within the next year or so with a refreshed exterior design and improved cabin materials.
2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe Review: Exterior
Compared to the previous-generation model, it takes a trained eye to distinguish the 2012 Honda Civic, but the new coupe model is easier to spot thanks to its smaller size and some of the different design features. Overall, the new Civic Coupe rides on a slightly shorter wheelbase (103.2 inches) while the car's width has grown by a tenth of an inch to an even 69 inches. Fixed quarter windows in the front doors and an integrated decklid spoiler are the biggest visual changes, but the latter doesn't really work on the sportier Si as it lacks the cool factor that the previous model had with its raised spoiler. For a car that sells itself on sportiness, there are surprisingly few changes that set the Civic Si Coupe apart from a base Civic Coupe including new wheels, the aforementioned decklid spoiler and larger, 17-inch wheels. Our 2012 Civic Si test vehicle was finished in a dark and stylish Dyno Blue Pearl paint.
2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe Review: Interior
As similar as the 2012 Honda Civic looks sitting next to a previous model, the interior has even fewer changes. Fans of the two-tier instrument panel design will continue to love the new Civic which now receives a five-inch monitor that Honda calls its intelligent Multi-Information Display (or i-MID). This screen sits to the right of the digital speedometer, and it displays important vehicle info such as audio settings, fuel economy functions and even a customizable wallpaper, but we're guessing that most Civic Si drivers will keep this display on the fun engine power monitor that shows how hard the engine is working. The engine's effort is also displayed on the left side of the upper tier with the VTEC Sequential Rev-limit Indicator that features six lights (four orange and two red). When the final red light is illuminated, the engine is at peak output (and redline).
In terms of overall styling, the new instrument panel is far more attractive than the preceding Civic Si Coupe, but the new seats are thinner and have less of a sport bucket seat appearance. The Si's cabin is only offered with black cloth that is contrasted with red stitching on the leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather shift lever boot and seats while the Si logo is found on the steering wheel, front seat backs and the front floor mats. Finally, an aluminum shift knob and pedals finish off the Civic Si's sporty interior. Even though the Civic's wheelbase shrank for 2012, the cabin still offers roughly the same amount of space for all five occupants, and the trunk is even slightly larger.
2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe Review: Powertrain and Fuel Economy
As many faults that the 2012 Honda Civic has, the Si's drivetrain remains the key selling point, and it received all the right improvements for the new design. The biggest change made to the 2012 Honda Civic Si was getting a more powerful engine stuffed under the hood. Shared with the Acura TSX, the Si's 2.4-liter inline-four features Honda's trick i-VTEC DOHC setup and produces 201 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque (gains of 4 hp and 31 lb-ft, respectively, over the previous Civic Si). The peak horsepower is still achieved at the engine's 7,000-rpm redline, but the gain in low-end torque definitely gives the Si some additional motivation out of the gate. Another win for Si purists is that the car is still only available with a six-speed manual transmission with a standard limited-slip differential for added traction while cornering. Despite its focus on performance, the 2012 Civic Si also delivers on great fuel economy with EPA-rated estimates of 22 miles per gallon in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and a rating of 25 mpg in combined driving which is pretty impressive for a car this fun to drive.
2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe Review: Driving Impressions
It isn't hard to notice the power and torque added into the 2012 Honda Civic Si, but we were pleasantly surprised with the more refined ride quality compared to the previous car. Despite smaller front and rear stabilizer bars, the new Civic Si still handles well in tight turns, and its suspension now gives the car better comfort in everyday driving. With its smaller size and a curb weight that has dropped by 18 pounds, we would have thought this car would have handled better than its predecessor, but the biggest downfall is the new electric power steering which feels looser and more vague compared to previous-model Si. Again, this change in steering tuning was likely a result of making the car drive easier when on the street as opposed to the track, but we figure anyone spending the extra money for the Si model would expect a certain level of harshness over a more conventional Civic model. For added performance, the Civic Si Coupe is also available with Michelin Pilot Exalto summer performance tires for a relative value at just $200.
2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe Review: Safety
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has yet to rate the 2012 Honda Civic (coupe or sedan) for passenger protection, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has only given its coveted Top Safety Pick status to the four-door Civic so far. Still, the new Civic Coupe comes with plenty of standard safety features including six airbags, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, four-wheel anti-lock brake system, Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) with traction control, daytime running lights and tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). Like the EX and EX-L trim levels, the 2012 Civic Si comes standard with four-wheel disc brakes while the DX and LX trim levels come with a rear drum setup.
2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe Review: Final Thoughts
With a total of five different models, the 2012 Honda Civic is probably one of the most versatile cars on the market, but as newer, sportier cars have arrived on the scene in recent years, the 2012 Civic Si seems to have lost some ground on the competition. Although this seventh version of the Civic Si is, by far, the most controversial, it definitely hasn't lost any of its high-performance luster thanks to an injection of some much-needed low-end torque to the car's rev-happy engine. At the end of the day, whether or not you like the new Civic Si will come down to what type of performance car you're looking for. If you desire a flashy car to hang out with the Fast and Furious crowd, then you might want to look to Mazda, Mitsubishi or Subaru for your new car, but if you're looking for a daily driver that can pull double duty as a red light sleeper, then the Civic Si is right up your alley.
2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe Review: Pros and Cons
- sleeper-like styling
- new engine with better output
- plenty of bang for the buck
- manual transmission only!
- probably the most conservatively styled Si model ever
- vague feel from electric power steering
- cabin materials and layout trail competitors
Honda provided the vehicle for this review
Photos by Jeffrey N. Ross
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