The updated bargain sport sedan still hits its marks.
Since the 1980s, Honda has cranked out the ideal fun car for those with more modest budgets, in the form of the Civic Si. When it first arrived, the Civic Si was a compact hatchback with a slight bump in performance over its normal offerings, focused on the driver who wanted a little more enjoyment from their weekday commute and weekend drives. Having previously owned three earlier generations of the Civic Si personally, I was easily the target demographic that loved what Honda produced in the segment.
When I tested the 2020 variant of the Si just over a year ago, I thought it was the best way to spend $26,000 on a new car. It may have had some edgy styling cues that would please the youths more than the responsible adult, but Honda sold tons of them. Now in its eleventh generation, the Honda Civic has moved upmarket inside and out. With fresh exterior lines that resemble those of the Civic’s Accord big brother, the 2022 model tidies up its appearance with a more mature look, but underneath it still possesses the goodies the fun driver wants. To see if the new Civic Si was still holding up its reputation, I gave it a fun test around the streets of Austin, Texas.
The Key Specs
For 2022, Honda built an all-new Civic, and when I drove the top-end Touring trim last fall, I thought it was a great new edition of the best-selling compact sedan. Carrying over the majority of the powertrain from the 2020 Si, this new one has a retuned version of the 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that 200 horsepower at 6,000 RPM. In revising the Si’s engine mapping, the 2022 model’s torque curve is wider, with its peak 192 lb-ft of torque available 300 RPM sooner, and staying steady from 1,800 – 5,000 RPM. Unlike its early versions, the 2022 Honda Civic Si is not the high-revving VTEC screamer of those B-Series years, now having a redline of just 6,500 RPM.
A 6-speed manual is the only transmission in the 2022 Civic Si, hooked up to a lightweight single-mass flywheel and helical limited-slip differential to drive the front wheels. In spite of having a more flexible power band, the 2022 Si accelerates from a standstill slightly slower than the car it replaces. Now hitting 0-60 MPH in 7.1 seconds, and tripping the lights at the end of a 1/4-mile run in 15.3 seconds, the 2022 Si isn’t going to leap off the page, but Honda isn’t focused on winning drag races with this new Civic.
Competing with the VW Jetta, Subaru WRX, and Hyundai Elantra N, this new Si has some strong rivals in the bargain fun sedan segment. As one would expect from an all-new model that takes on a bunch of upgrades, the 2022 Honda Civic Si price is up around $2,000 versus the 2020 model. Thankfully Honda makes pricing simple, with one factory option being stickier summer tires over the standard all-season performance rubber. The 2022 Si’s base price is $27,300, and the HPT (high performance tire) option adds just $200. This tester added Blazing Orange Pearl paint, for another $395, to hit a total MSRP of $28,910 after destination.
A Daily Driving Sleeper
Act surprised, a Honda Civic Si is great to drive as a city car. The turbocharged engine is punchy enough to make your errand runs run, without exhibiting the erratic energy of a heavily caffeinated terrier. Jumping onto a freeway is definitely enjoyable, with enough power to effortlessly scoot past slower moving traffic. Opt for a shade a paint more subtle than this orange example, and you’ll easily sneak up on fellow motorists who underestimate the fun this Si packs.
Because its powerplant doesn’t have to rev to the stratosphere to make its power, as opposed to earlier Si models, the 2022 Honda Civic Si offers good flexibility across its rev range without the need to downshift if you’re under 4,000 RPMs. Keep the Si in the normal drive mode, and the throttle response is composed and light, making it easier to achieve the EPA fuel economy estimates of 27/37/31 (city/highway/combined) MPGs. I was a bit more playful during my week-long test in the Civic Si, and only averaged 27 MPGs.
Though its suspension includes plenty of upgrades to improve its performance on more fun stretches of pavement, Honda didn’t make the Civic Si too firm when completing more typical errand runs and commutes to the office. Gone are the adaptive dampers I appreciated in the last generation Si, and I suspect this was to reduce costs. I was shocked Honda included them in a car that was under $30,000, and hoped they’d stick around in this all-new Si, as they worked nicely to calm bumpy city streets while offering more confidence when playing behind the wheel of the Si. With a hint of electric assist, the Civic Si has light yet precise steering feel, and the leather-wrapped wheel fits neatly into my hands.
The 2022 Honda Civic Si receives the same cabin upgrades as the standard models, getting hardware that a new Accord driver would recognize. The new infotainment touchscreen measures 9 inches across, and the updated instrument cluster features a new 7-inch LCD setup with customizable gauges. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard equipment pumping through a new 12-speaker Bose audio system, which Honda claims is the best system ever featured in a Civic Si. Sticking with USB-A ports, Honda provides a pair of them just ahead of the shifter, where there’s a good cubby to toss your phone, keys, and any other small items.
Practicality is still at the high Honda standard, with plenty of storage space (and big bottle holders) in the doors, center armrest, and in the trunk. Properly functional cupholders are placed between the seats, with good depth to keep a massive fountain drink cup stable. Legroom and headroom are great for back seat passengers, thanks to Honda adding 1.4 inches to the Civic Si’s wheelbase, now a class-leading 107.7 inches. There isn’t much in the way of lateral support for the back seat, so don’t get too wild when running to lunch with a couple coworkers in the Si.
Those who care about safety will be happy to know that Honda still makes its Honda Sensing® suite of driver-assistive and safety technology standard, and added traffic sign recognition and a driver attention monitor to the 2022 Si. A couple under-appreciated features are Honda’s adaptive cruise control that smoothly maintains speed without that rubber band sensation, and the lane keeping assistance system that continually centers the Civic without that ping pong effect between the stripes.
Keeping Up A Sporty Reputation
Days of the wrapping up the tach to get any fun out of a VTEC engine are gone, and the 2022 Honda Civic Si allows the driver to enjoy some punch at nearly any RPM. Sure, this 1.5-liter engine loses some revs, but Honda figured out that the enthusiast will appreciate some available torque that doesn’t resemble the low-end output of a weed eater. Honda also says it revised the engine’s power to not taper off as the tachometer needle surges past its peak output, while also sharpening throttle response. The result is a good little motor that still likes to rev, but provides some good pull when you want it to take off at lower RPMs.
Like most sporty cars, Honda gives the 2022 Civic Si a drive mode selection for normal, sport, and individual modes, although the individual one doesn’t have many variables to toy with. Thankfully there is good separation between the sport and normal modes, giving this updated Si noticeably different moods. It won’t blow the doors off many cars at a red light, but that doesn’t matter to me. The power band in the Si is smooth, and the engine is a joy to set free. Tight gear ratios provide a little extra punch without falling out of the boost too easily, and the exchange of each through the new shifter is nothing short of exceptional.
When I drove the Civic Type-R Limited Edition last summer, I thought it had the best shifting this side of a Porsche 911 GT3, and the Civic Si exhibits very similar directness and a positive click, with 10% shorter throws than the 2020 Si. The leather-wrapped aluminum knob is not only cool looking, but fits my hand perfectly. Clutch engagement is simple and clearly established, and I praise Honda for sticking to its roots by only offering a stick in the Civic Si. The 2022 Si now has rev-match control to keep the RPMs in the sweet spot, while make you look cooler when downshifting with a friend in the passenger seat. Speaking of seats, the front buckets in the Civic Si keep you planted when flogging this quicker Civic.
The new Si’s suspension sports stiffer springs (8% stiffer in front and 54% stiffer in the rear), firmer dampers, and its anti-roll bars are thicker (27 mm hollow front and 18 mm solid rear) than a standard Civic, translating to fantastic sensations on twisty roads. Borrowing the front and rear compliance bushings, upper arms and lower B-arms from the Civic Type-R, the Si is ridiculously composed in the bends. I just wish Honda didn’t get rid of the fantastic two-mode adaptive dampers the last generation benefitted from. Steering feel is improved using a 60-percent stiffer torsion bar connecting the steering shaft to the steering rack pinion gear. Thanks to an extra half inch of rear track and a 1.4-inch longer wheelbase than the 2020 model, the 2022 Civic Si allows the driver to toss it around with greater agility. Lateral grip is surprisingly high in the 2022 Si, shrugging off the understeer you’d expect from a front-wheel-drive compact car. Attribute much of that stability to the limited-slip diff, and Honda’s tinkering with the steering system that greatly improves feedback in the bends.
I appreciate Honda offering sportier tires as a factory option on the Civic Si, but I’m not a big fan of the Goodyear Eagle F1 rubber that’s wrapped around the cool black 10-spoke wheels. While they’re more than confident in the corners, with a square 235/40R18 setup, the noise level is a bit high. I love the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S over damn near any tire, but understand that every OEM isn’t going to equip them. Maybe Bridgestone’s 5001 would be a good alternative, like I’ve tested on a few affordable fun cars. An upgrade over previous generations of the Si, this 2022 model gets bigger brakes than the standard Civic models, now with 12.3-inch front rotors (up 1.2 inches), and 11.1-inch rear rotors (0.9 inch larger). If your weekend plans include track or autocross duty, you’ll want to upgrade the pads and fluid, as a longer stint of tossing the Si got the brakes to exhibit a bit of fade.
Rather than being a bit over-the-top like its Type-R sibling, the Civic Si receives more subtle styling. Honda wants people to recognize the Si as a fun variant, and I appreciate that its packaging is more tame. Simple badges adorn the decklid and front grille, and a reasonable black rear lip spoiler is fixed to the trunk. Even the exhaust pipes are more civil on the 2022 Civic Si, using a small tip on each side of the rear bumper, a departure from the big central trapezoidal outlet that was fitted to the 2020 model. The note resonating from the exhaust isn’t exactly gnarly, but at least the turbocharged Si isn’t totally muted in an era of OEMs being concerned about melting glaciers.
Some Pros And Cons
Revising the Civic Si’s looks was a smart move by Honda. The 2022 Si can attract slightly more mature buyers who still want a fun yet practically priced car. Gone are the aggressive and downright pointless exterior angles, replaced by smoothly flowing contours from nose to tail. The Civic Si’s cockpit is neatly upgraded too, getting a smaller version of the good steering wheel from the Accord, which utilizes physical switches and buttons for the audio and cruise control system. Deviated red stitching completes a sporty effect too. Honda is now offering a cabin that’s as nice as the one in the VW Jetta, and is definitely better sorted than its Subaru and Hyundai rivals.
The Si’s front seats are woven with sporty red cloth centers, get black Alcantara outer sections, and are pulled together with red stitching. Not as flashy as the seats in the Civic Type-R, the 2022 Si’s are slightly calmer. This theme carries over to the door cards, competing a tastefully fun interior. My one gripe with them is that Honda got rid of the heated function to the front seats, which was a standard feature in the previous generation Si.
In its effort to move upmarket, the Civic gets a few treatments from its Accord big brother, including a similar instrument cluster. I’m not in love with this gauge pod, as it’s a bit too spartan. The last Si had a more prominent speed display in the center, and the overall look of the cluster was more sporty. Now it’s kind of plain. With a huge amount of cargo space in the trunk, the Civic Si can haul a ton of your stuff, with added capacity when folding the rear seats 50/50. I just wish there was a bit more versatility and compartments in there, to better stash smaller items away.
A honeycomb design element is featured in the quick Civic’s front grille, and there’s a hint of that look used in the cabin’s vents. While they’re cool at first glance, what’s lacking in the Civic Si is dual-zone climate control, which was standard in the last generation, and is only available in more nicely-appointed Civic trim levels. As someone with a frequent passenger who’s often colder than me, that’s a big feature to delete, Honda. At least the control knobs for the climate control system have a nicely textured finish and a positive detent.
Still The Affordable Fun Car You Want
Honda has continually upgraded the Civic Si with each new generation, but it maintains its identity. It’s a blast to drive, offering enough power for a car of its size, boasting plenty of grip in the corners, and has one of the best manual shifting experiences available. At the same time, the Civic Si is still the practical sedan you expect from Honda.
I can’t help but offer a tiny gripe that Honda has taken away a few creature comforts while bumping up the price a couple grand. In the past generations, the Civic Si was a steal in its class, offering a load of standard equipment and performance for less cash than its competitors. While sneaking in at just under $30,000, which is on-par with its rivals, Honda still delivers a great value play with the Civic Si, and it’s definitely the fun compact sedan I’d opt for.