2013 Honda Civic Si Road Test and Review: Introduction
Lately, lots of yakety-yak about how youngsters no longer care about cars is causing consternation at the companies that build such conveyances. Urban renewal, FaceThis and PinThat, Zipcar, and an unquenchable thirst for technology are, evidently, making car ownership less of a necessity and, by extension, less of a rite of passage. Indeed, modern teenagers long for the day when they’ll get their first smartphone and unlimited data plan, not their first car, and this reality has auto manufacturers worried about their business models. If the Millennials decide, en masse, to hang up the car keys, automakers worry that they are S-c-r-e-w-e-d.
That’s why I elected to spend 20 minutes talking about the 2013 Honda Civic Si with a young man who stopped by my house while the Rallye Red car seen in the accompanying photos sat in the driveway, glowing in the spring sunshine. He was a Honda guy, a modified Civic owner, and he was keenly interested in seeing what Honda changed for the 2013 model year, and finding out what I thought of it. We bonded over the Si, this youthful and exuberant stranger and I, and I realized that maybe, just maybe, all of the yakety-yak about the impending demise of personal transportation amongst our nation’s young people is nothing more than the requirements of a 24/7 news cycle than any actual anti-car trend.
At least, that’s what I’m hoping.
2013 Honda Civic Si Road Test and Review: Models and Prices
We’re here to discuss the 2013 Honda Civic Si, the performance-tuned member of the Civic lineup, and when it comes to models and prices, the picture is pretty simple. First, choose between the Si Coupe ($22,515) and the Si Sedan ($22,715). Now add a destination charge of $790. Swapping the standard all-season performance tires for a set of Michelin Pilot Exalto PE2 summer rubber will cost $200. A navigation system with satellite radio, real-time traffic, and a multi-angle reversing camera is priced at $1,500. Otherwise, the only extras are accessories offered by the dealer.
My 2013 Civic Si Coupe had the navigation system, and a window sticker reading $24,805.
2013 Honda Civic Si Road Test and Review: Design
- Restyled exterior
- Upgraded interior
- New wheel design
Looking more like an angered government spy plane than a car, the boomerang-shaped Civic Coupe isn’t my favorite design on the road. I will say, however, that it looks much better when dressed up as the Si model, thanks to standard 17-inch aluminum wheels, fog lights, a rear spoiler, and a black rear diffuser panel with a large chrome exhaust outlet. The “Si” badges help, too. Because I’m not a fan of the coupe’s design, and because I have children to carry in forward-facing child safety seats, I’d take the Civic Si Sedan, which receives a similar styling treatment.
Inside, the Civic Si gets a set of sport-bolstered front seats facing a dashboard trimmed in fake carbon fiber, a hefty aluminum gearshift knob with a red shift pattern stamped into the top of it, rubber-studded aluminum pedals, and red gauge illumination. Red accent stitching is used on the steering wheel, shifter boot, and seats, and red “Si” badges are tastefully applied hither and thither.
While the Civic’s 2-tiered dashboard design is an acquired taste, it is certainly functional, making it easy to find and reference information. Plus, with the upgrades in terms of design and materials quality for the 2013 model year, it contributes significantly toward making a Civic Si an excellent place from which to conduct the business of driving.
2013 Honda Civic Si Road Test and Review: Comfort and Cargo
- Thicker glass and additional soundproofing materials
For Christmas, I believe I would like to have one of the Honda Civic Si’s front seats turned into a desk chair. These are quality pieces, supportive, properly bolstered, wrapped in premium cloth, and above all, comfortable. The driver’s relationship to the tilt/telescopic steering wheel, the pedals, and the shifter is excellent, too, and Honda achieves this without power adjustments of any kind, as though the Civic Si was tailor-made for its pilot. That said, I think the broader shouldered members of the species may find the Civic’s small-diameter steering wheel a touch irritating.
Forward sightlines are outstanding, making it easier to see what’s around the next kink in the road. Honda has also redesigned the Civic’s door panels, adding soft materials where occupants are likely to come into contact with the cabin. This year, the interior also exhibits a much more upscale and appealing appearance.
Confession time: I did not climb into this Civic Si Coupe’s back seat. I should have, because it looks like headroom is limited, but I didn’t, and I don’t have an excuse better than middle-aged memory loss. I can, however, state that based on previous experience, the Civic Si Sedan’s rear seat is quite comfortable thanks to its tall and supportive bottom seat cushion, and because there is plenty of room for adult legs and heads.
The Honda Civic does not have a large trunk, measuring 11.7 cu.-ft. for the coupe and 12.1 cu.-ft. for the sedan. It is, however, usefully shaped and each car offers a 60/40-split folding rear seatback to expand capacity.
2013 Honda Civic Si Road Test and Review: Features and Controls
- Upgraded optional navigation system
The 2013 Civic Si’s dashboard design is unconventional, and that’s putting it mildly. Radical when introduced in the 2006 Civic, the 2-tiered layout and digital displays are unlike nearly anything on the market, but the design works brilliantly. The driver can quickly and easily reference information, and the stereo and climate system controls are canted toward the driver, placing the large knobs and buttons within easy reach.
My test car had the optional navigation system, which is equipped with a color touchscreen surrounded by primary function buttons. I still prefer the standard stereo setup, but during a mid-afternoon jaunt across West Los Angeles, I cannot deny that the real-time traffic display came in handy to help avoid as many tie-ups as possible.
The navigation system has another benefit, aside from helping to find a destination. It includes a multi-view 180-degree reversing camera display, an upgrade over the standard reversing camera that comes on every 2013 Honda Civic.
2013 Honda Civic Si Road Test and Review: Safety and Ratings
- Stronger underlying vehicle structure
- Standard SmartVent side-impact airbags
- Standard reversing camera system
- New multi-view reversing camera with optional navigation system
Of the changes wrought upon the 2013 Civic, none are more important to note than the safety upgrades Honda has made to the car. First, the 2013 Civic is equipped with the automaker’s new Advanced Compatibility Engineering II (ACE II) structure, which is designed to distribute crash energy around the occupant compartment in a collision. Strengthened for 2013, ACE II is designed to ensure greater safety in certain types of impacts.
Additionally, a reversing camera is standard for all Civic models this year. Add the optional navigation system, and Honda provides a multi-angle camera that gives a 180-degree view behind the vehicle, which is useful when reversing out of a parking space or onto a street because the driver can see approaching traffic, cyclists, or pedestrians.
Finally, all 2013 Civic models receive new SmartVent side-impact airbags this year, eliminating the need for occupant classification sensors.
2013 Honda Civic Si Crash-Test Ratings:
Both the Civic Si Coupe and the Civic Si Sedan receive a “Top Safety Pick Plus” designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), reflecting their ability to protect occupants in the tough new small overlap frontal-impact crash test. This new test is designed to measure protection levels in the event the vehicle strikes a tree, a pole, or an oncoming vehicle on the front left corner of the car. The 2013 Civic is the only small car to achieve this “Top Safety Pick Plus” status.
In crash tests performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2013 Civic Si Sedan receives a 5-star overall protection rating, the highest possible. The Civic Si Coupe does not perform quite to that level, getting a 4-star overall rating.
2013 Honda Civic Si Road Test and Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- No changes for 2013
When Honda redesigned the Civic for the 2012 model year, it installed a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine in the sporty Si model, one generating 201 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 170 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,400 rpm, giving the car more power across a broader range for improved acceleration and greater response. Compared to the previous Civic Si model, today’s version makes 4 more horses, which isn’t much of an improvement. Where the 2.4-liter engine shines is torque, with 31 extra lb.-ft. of the stuff peaking 1,500 rpm further south on the tachometer.
A close-ratio 6-speed manual gearbox is the only transmission offered for the Civic Si, delivering power to the car’s front wheels. A helical limited-slip differential is also standard, making a noticeable difference in how the Civic Si gets through a corner and onto the next straightaway. Combined with rubber-studded aluminum clutch and brake pedals, and a drilled aluminum accelerator that is positioned to enhance heel-and-toe shifting, this stick shift is a joy to row.
According to the EPA, the Honda Civic Si should return 22 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 25 mpg in combined driving. Also, note that this engine requires premium fuel, rather than less expensive regular unleaded. We averaged 23.6 mpg, a result of plenty of city driving and regular exploration of the engine’s upper rev range.
2013 Honda Civic Si Road Test and Review: Driving Impressions
Driving a Honda Civic Si is a visceral, immersive experience enjoyed by members of an exclusive club. If you can’t operate a clutch pedal, you can’t drive this car, and by virtue of its manual transmission and unfiltered mechanical symphony, the Si’s driver is an active part of the proceedings. Enthusiasts, of course, revel in this sort of thing, and within the entire Honda lineup, it is the Civic Si that currently carries the credibility torch for a large group of VTEC performance fans.
Thanks to its broader torque curve and lower power peak, the Civic Si is smoother to drive and more responsive than the previous-generation model, yet the engine still loves to rev and sounds appropriately aggressive while doing so. As the driver rips through the gears, a Sequential Rev Limit Indicator display illuminates in the upper left part of the dashboard, signaling when the car’s i-VTEC system is active and providing the driver with an easily referenced indication of the engine’s approaching redline.
The Civic Si’s aluminum-knobbed shifter is precise and refined, a shining example of the engineering prowess and attention to detail with which Honda infuses all of its products. The automaker also sets the Civic Si’s pedals up to optimize heel-and-toe shifting, to the benefit of a small contingent of owners who might actually know how to execute rev-matched downshifts without the assistance of software.
Pitch the Civic Si into a corner, and the helical limited-slip front differential works its magic, giving the Civic Si impressive control when exiting tight corners and helping to eradicate the understeer inherent with front-wheel-drive vehicles. Grip is impressive, the electric steering rarely feels like it, and the perfectly calibrated brake pedal is attached to stout 4-wheel-disc anti-lock brakes.
The Civic Si’s performance-tuned MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension provides a firm, but not stiff, ride quality. This is a sporting machine that doesn’t feel the need to beat you up about it, one that you could drive all day without much complaint, and with no apparent loss in terms of prowess on a driver’s favorite back roads.
Overall, the Civic Si is a blast to drive, and the interior looks and feels much better than it did last year. All Honda needs to fix now is the styling.
2013 Honda Civic Si Road Test and Review: Final Thoughts
With so many Millennials growing up in households with white F-150s and silver CR-Vs and gray Camrys sitting in the driveway, is it any wonder that perhaps an entire generation is more excited about the latest smartphones and their associated applications than a vehicle that costs thousands of dollars, and which must be insured, licensed, maintained, repaired, and fed a steady diet of fuel?
Methinks that if more young people were exposed to cars like the 2013 Honda Civic Si, and given a little taste of the fun and freedom associated with going where you want to, when you want to, and with whom you want to in a car that is actually fun to drive, maybe they’d stop living vicariously through software code and actually start living.
But what do I know? I’m just an old guy who can shift his own gears.
2013 Honda Civic Si Road Test and Review: Pros and Cons
- Lots of fun to drive
- Dramatically improved interior
- Perfect front sport seats
- Excellent control layout and displays
- Offered in coupe and sedan flavors
- Outstanding crash-test ratings
- Long-standing reputation for reliability
- Affordable price tag
- Civics are not attractive
- Manual gearbox only
- Small trunk
Honda supplied the vehicle for this review
2013 Honda Civic Si Coupe photos by Christian Wardlaw