Aging Civic Si still has a bit of pep in its step

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About the only thing that’s changed between now and Honda Civic Si’s 2012 refresh is that now the sedan — which is also available as a coupe variant — is that the Si now faces even stiffer competition in the sport compact space. Today, the 2015 Honda Civic Si must do battle with the excellent Volkswagen GTI and the more power Ford Focus ST, both of which are newer models with newer tech and more powerful, turbocharged engines.

The Si, on the other hand, is powered by a naturally aspirated, high-compression variant of Honda’s 2.4-liter i-VTEC engine — the same block that you’ll find in a Honda CR-V, but with a different port-injected head. Peak output is stated at 205 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque.

The competition makes more power with turbocharging, but the Si continues to use a naturally aspirated engine.
Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Like its predecessors, this i-VTEC engine uses the automaker’s famous Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control system that switches over to more aggressive tuning at higher RPMs. In older models, the transition was a dramatic one — there’d be no power at low engine speeds and then a sudden surge of torque at about 5,800-6,000 RPM — but this generation’s 2.4-liter boasts better low end torque than so the transition is more subtle.

The transition is so subtle, in fact, that Honda has seen fit to install an i-VTEC light on the dashboard that lets drivers know that VTEC has indeed kicked in, yo. The improved low-end torque is more accessible and makes the Civic Si is a much more flexible and zippy car around town, but I miss the Jekyll and Hyde drama of the old 2.0-liter engine.

That light is accompanied by five additional LEDs that illuminate in sequence as the RPMs rise toward the 7,000rpm redline, acting as a shift indicator. And additionally, the dashboard’s multi-information display features a power meter that indicates how much of the peak power the engine is currently generating. Of course, like most live performance meters, bad things happen if you’re watching the lights and gauges instead of the road.

The i-VTEC light lets the driver know that VTEC has kicked in, yo.
Antuan Goodwin/CNET

A six-speed manual transmission is the only gearbox option for the 2015 Si and it puts power to the front wheels. A standard helical limited-slip differential makes sure each of the drive wheels do their part putting power to the road.

Underpinning the Civic Si is a sport-tuned version of the standard Civic’s MacPherson strut front suspension and rear multilink setup. The Si also features larger antisway bars on both axles.

On the road, the Honda Civic Si is as effortless and precise as its legend implies, but it now seems to lack a really engaging feel. Part of this is the fault of the electric power steering system, which is lacking in the feedback department. I also didn’t really enjoy the overly light clutch pedal.

Yes, the Civic Si is quicker than it’s ever been, but piloting the Si doesn’t feel as special as previous generation Si models or even my old 2004 Acura RSX Type-S (which used the same underpinnings and powertrain as its contemporary Civic Si cousin).

On the road, the Civic Si is faster than ever, but it doesn’t feel as involved or as dramatic as its predecessors.
Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The Civic’s cabin is, well, complicated.

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