Next to the ever-present Volkswagen GTI, the Honda Civic Si is the most resilient pocket rocket this country has ever seen. Offered as both a Coupe and Sedan, the 2009 Honda Civic Si still qualifies as economical, practical and fun – three key characteristics that defined the first hatchback model in 1986. While practicality takes a considerable hit in the transformation from hatchback to trunk, the loss is more than offset by an exponential increase in performance. This isn't just the best Civic Si ever; it's arguably one of the best econo-rockets of all time.
YOU'LL LIKE THIS CAR IF...
If you're looking to spend around $23,000 on a new car and your top priority is performance, you're in the right place at the right time.
YOU MAY NOT LIKE THIS CAR IF...
You may not like this manual transmission-only car if you prefer an automatic. And if you look forward to modifying your own car with special intake, exhaust, wheels and tires, Honda has already included all that. And the budget-minded should note that the 2009 Honda Civic Si runs on premium fuel.
WHAT'S SIGNIFICANT ABOUT THIS CAR
New for 2009 are revised front and rear fascias, standard front fog lights and newly designed 17-inch alloy wheels.
We were lucky enough to spend most of our time behind the wheel of the 2009 Honda Civic Si within the liberating confines of a nine-turn racetrack, where it impressed us as not just the most enjoyable Civic ever (by far) but also the most serious (by farther). A smooth-shifting close-ratio transmission makes it easy to keep the needle on the right side of the tach where the i-VTEC engine does its best work. Cornering is marked by notably responsive steering and turn-in, flat and predictable grip and eager exits expedited by the limited-slip differential that transfers torque to the wheel with more traction. All the while, deeply bolstered front seats keep driver and passenger from having to fight the lateral g-forces generated. Thankfully, all this ability translates very well onto the street, where the Civic Si offers enough low-end torque that a spirited drive isn't an all-or-nothing proposition.
OUR FAVORITE FEATURES
By delivering more power to the front wheel with more grip, the Civic Si's Limited-Slip Differential (normally a $1,000+ aftermarket upgrade) delivers better acceleration, especially when exiting corners.
Two-Tier Instrument Panel
The top half of the Civic Si's smartly stacked gauge console features an effective shift indicator light that begins flashing as you approach the car's 8000-rpm redline.
Inside the Civic Si you'll find progressive styling along with the usual sport-model upgrades like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminum pedals, aluminum/leather shift knob and heavily bolstered cloth front seats with red stitching and red "Si" logos on the seatbacks. The Si also gets unique red ambient console lighting and red backlit gauges. Still, the most dominating feature is the two-tier instrument panel the Si shares with the rest of the Civic lineup. Technological highlights include an available navigation system and a high-power sound system with a broad array of digital audio functionality. The rear seat is more accommodating than it looks from the outside, but we wouldn't give up the front seat without first losing a game of rock-paper-scissors. The Civic Si can be outfitted in whatever interior color you'd like, as long as it's black.
Although the Si shares its sheetmetal with the more mainstream Civic models, it features enough tasteful performance-oriented styling touches to distinguish it as something clearly special. Differences include a unique front chin spoiler and grille, amber headlight trim rings, exclusive 17-inch alloy wheels (with 215/45 tires), trunk-mounted wing spoiler and an oval chrome exhaust tip. Unique badging includes "Si" emblems front and rear, i-VTEC DOHC decals ahead of the rear wheels and a bigger Honda "H" emblem on the rear decklid.
NOTABLE STANDARD EQUIPMENT
The Civic Si boasts an impressive list of standard equipment highlighted by an advanced 350-watt AM/FM/CD sound system with MP3/WMA CD playback capability, an auxiliary input for MP3 players and a subwoofer. Other standard equipment includes a one-touch power moonroof, power windows/locks/mirrors, keyless remote entry, air conditioning, cruise control, variable intermittent windshield wipers, speed-sensitive volume control, external temperature display, steering wheel-mounted cruise/audio/navigation controls, four-way adjustable steering column, height-adjustable driver's seat, 60/40 fold-down rear seatback and a commendable list of safety equipment such as front, front-side and side-curtain airbags, active head restraints and Antilock Braking System (ABS).
Optional equipment on the Civic Si includes a navigation system, XM satellite radio and a more aggressive summer-only tire in place of the standard all-season type. In addition to voice recognition and a 6.5-inch customizable touch screen, the DVD-based navigation system includes a PC Card slot that lets you play music from almost any type of digital media card. The system also features Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity.
UNDER THE HOOD
By adding continuously variable valve timing to Honda's pioneering (and well-marketed) VTEC system, the Civic Si's i-VTEC engine produces better torque output in the lower rpm range, which makes for more satisfying in-town driving. Combined with a six-speed manual transmission and limited-slip differential, the 2,895-pound coupe will reach 60-miles per hour in just a few ticks over seven seconds. Stiffer springs, dampers and stabilizer bars front and rear result in a 30-percent increase in roll stiffness versus other Civics, according to Honda. The Civic Si requires premium unleaded fuel.
2.0-liter in-line 4
197 horsepower @ 7800 rpm
139 lb.-ft. of torque @ 6100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/29
With six models in the Civic lineup, the Si version is estimated to be at the high end of the scale with a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $22,500, and $25,000 with summer tires and navigation. Competitors to the 197-horsepower Si include the MAZDASPEED3, which has 263 horsepower and is similarly priced. Nissan's Sentra SE-R Spec V and Volkswagen's turbocharged Jetta GLI offer about 200 horsepower, but not the same standard content. You could also spend $20,000 (or more) on a heavily optioned Scion tC, but you'd still be foregoing a six-speed transmission, more sophisticated audio system, limited-slip differential and 36 extra horsepower available in the Civic Si Our New Car Blue Book values reflect real-world transaction prices around MSRP. We're forecasting resale values in line with the rest of the Civic lineup, which has proven to be one of the most financially durable nameplates in the industry.