Roadfly tests a lot of cars, and we are inclined to look for the good in all of them. However, in some cases we don’t have to look very hard. One of these cases presented itself this past week in the form of the 2007 Civic Si sedan.
Let me take a moment to dispense with my personal and professional biases. I am a Honda fanboy to the core. My first car was a black 1998 Civic HX coupe, which featured the world’s first viable continuously variable transmission and got 40mpg. I replaced it with what is almost universally regarded as the best-handling front-wheel-drive car of all time – the 2001 Acura Integra Type-R. With 195hp, a limited-slip differential, and an awesome roar at 5700rpm when Honda’s variable valve timing system (VTEC) kicked in, it was a formidable weapon.
My buying habits may at the outset appear to compromise my objectivity. However, I hold Hondas to an even higher standard than the other cars I review, precisely because I buy them. I’ve never owned anything else. So with that in mind, the Si is a worthy heir to the screaming front-drivers that have come before it: in particular the 1992-2001 Integra and the 99-00 Si coupe. The last-generation Si, produced from 2002 to 2005, was a solid car but lacked the winding powerband and 8000rpm-plus redline of the true cult classics.
The 2007 Civic Si has 197hp, a limited-slip differential, and the same VTEC kick at approximately 6000rpm found in the old Type-R. It even has a similar interior, with black alcantara (faux suede) seats with fabric inserts and red stitching. Like previous Si models, it has a sunroof. But for this year, the big news is the extra set of doors.
The impact of those two doors goes far beyond the obvious increase in interior room, or the totally flat floor that makes the Si sedan a true five-seater. It transforms the entire ownership experience. Being active in the Honda community, I know many young enthusiasts that sold their Integras, CRXs or Civics (coupes or hatchbacks) because they started a family and needed something more practical. It killed them to do it, and they invariably moved on to something they enjoyed far less than their screaming VTEC Hondas.
Now they won’t have to. The Si brings all the excitement of the coupe (introduced in 2006) and adds a serious dose of practicality. In our video review of the Si, I called it a car that a Honda enthusiast would never outgrow. It’s well equipped, roomy, and efficient. Not to mention a hell of a lot of fun, and typical Honda in its devotion to harmony with its driver.
Hondas and Acuras typically hit the showroom floor nearly loaded, with only a few high-dollar options to be selected. Our tester Si, decked out in the classic blue-flaked Honda hue called Nighthawk Black Pearl, was upgraded with an excellent navigation system. It features voice recognition, and the screen neatly slides to reveal loading slots for the navigation DVDs, normal CDs, and a PC card. Nav systems can be a real pain to operate, but true to Honda form this is exactly the opposite. It’s touch-sensitive, and all you need is common sense to figure out how to operate it. A neat feature is that when the driver dims the Si’s instrument panel more than two clicks, the navigation screen will completely change its color and contrast. The idea is to use the brightest setting for daytime, and the darker setting at night.
The instrument panel has been a source of controversy for the new Civic in general – many reviewers have been put off by the double-dash design that leaves the tachometer in the traditional spot, but re-locates the speedometer to a digital display very near the base of the car’s windshield. For my part, I appreciate it – if you’re on crowded roads and need to watch your speed primarily, the speedometer won’t take your eyes off the road. What’s more, the large digital readout ensures that you don’t need to visually process the needle’s position on the gauge.
However, once you get the Si into an environment where it can stretch its legs -i.e. the drag strip or a road course – the tachometer is front and center. And the Si has some serious legs. The 2.0-liter K20 engine has a broad torque curve, and once that needle pops past the 6,000 mark the Si howls in a frenzy of high-profile cams and blazing piston speeds. Like all VTEC Hondas, the Si has a dual personality – docile and compliant when driven lightly, yet hair-raising and symphonic when pushed hard.
The only disadvantage to this magical Jekyll and Hyde act is that you must push the Si very hard to extract maximum performance. Some of our staff members remarked that the car felt “slow,” yet it dashes to 60mph in less than 6.5 seconds. In order to stay in the powerband (6,000rpm and above) when you upshift, you must wring the Si out to within a few hundred rpm of redline. Otherwise, you’ll be left wondering what all the fuss is about. But that’s the beauty of this car. It accelerates furiously with the right technique, yet still gets over 30 miles per gallon on the highway if you stay out of the higher rev ranges.
Despite its sporting credentials, the Si sedan is still a Honda. That means it just works, plain and simple, in the subtle ways that you never think about before you buy a car but grow to love later on. An example is the operation of the sunroof. It opens and closes automatically with one push or pull of the switch, and even when tilted upwards, one touch is all you need to open it completely. It’s a small thing to be sure, but after experiencing such a simple, common-sense approach, all other sunroofs seem cumbersome and annoying.
That’s the Si in a nutshell. Thoughtfully designed, ruthlessly efficient, yet absolutely thrilling when you put the spurs to it. Hondas in general will never look as good on paper as they do on the road – the only way to appreciate their charms is to go drive one yourself. As if there weren’t enough reasons already, the Si sedan has a base MSRP of $21,290. Our tester, equipped with the navigation and the premium sound system, and XM Radio, rang in at just $23,835 including all destination and handling charges. As a footnote to this article, my Integra Type-R was sadly stolen a little over a month ago. There’s only one new car out there right now that could possibly replace it, and that’s the 2007 Civic Si.