Review: 2022 Honda Civic Si
There’s nothing very special about the new Civic Si, but don’t worry: about half the time, that’s par for the course. The original 1983 Civic 1500S, an example of which my mother absolutely adored from the spring of that year until a drunk lady in a Cadillac put the rear seat into the front seat some time in 1986, wasn’t really special at all. It was just a 1500DX hatchback with GTI-ish trim and a very mild suspension upgrade, sold for five hundred bucks above the DX hatch and heads-up with the DX wagon. The car’s sole reason for existence: in a world where everybody wanted a Civic, this was the coolest one.
With a few exceptions—the high-revving sixth-generation coupe that now fetches new-Cadillac money on the auction sites, the bizarre British-made “breadvan” three-door that had a dashboard-mounted shifter—the Si has always simply been a normal Civic with a little more mojo. And so it proves here, in the new eleventh generation. Keen observers, however, will notice that the gap between an Si and a “normal” Civic has never been less. With just 200 horsepower—no more than its predecessor had in 2005, back when a Mustang GT had just 300 slightly lazy ponies and a base 911 had 325—this Si isn’t fast. Does that make you furious? Then you’ll want to wait for the inevitable Type R, which has handled the maximum-Civic duties for a while now.
Let’s reverse the usual auto-review template and give you all the bad news up front. Not only is the Si objectively slow, unable to turn a fifteen-second-flat quarter-mile in the hands of even the most enthusiastic and, ahem, temperature-adjusted publications, it feels even slower than it is. Blame a Dollar-General-levels-of-depression 6500-rpm redline, a weak puffer of a turbo that equalizes the torque curve the way Diana Moon Glampers equalized Harrison Bergeron, plus a clutch that offers less feel, and a weaker spring return, than what you get in a $99.99 Playstation driving controller.
It would be difficult to imagine a Civic less enthusiastic about making haste than this Si. Maybe the old carbureted 1300 “sedans” that were really hatchbacks with no hatch. Or a diesel. Your humble author once had the privilege of racing a Mugen-motored 2008 Civic Si in the Koni Challenge; it spun to 9200 rpm and sounded like a psychotic break with reality. This is the complete and utter opposite of that. One of my friends suggested that I’d no doubt prefer the engine dynamics of the Civic Sport Hatchback, which has the old-reliable K20 naturally-aspirated engine. Well, I couldn’t like it any less.
To clarify, I’m merely speaking of the powertrain here, which is dismal. The rest of the car? Why, it’s grrrrrrrrreat. Let’s start with the interior, which seats four full-sized six-two American adults in placid comfort and offers a hitherto-unavailable level of materials quality. Your GTI-owning friends won’t have anything to sneer about when they confront the same piano-black-and-red-trim aesthetic they enjoy in their cars, with the additional benefit of all parts being competently installed. Everything you touch feels legitimately expensive. Did I mention that the Si is just $27,695 with the extra-cost paint and no available options?
Wait, there’s more. As Bjork would say, it’s oh so quiet. I drove my 2014 Accord “6-6” coupe (V-6, six-speed manual) up to our Ann Arbor office for my Civic Si test drive, just for the sake of context. In a street race, drag race, autocross, or road course contest, the Accord would rip the Civic’s spine out, gnaw the remaining flesh off the vertebrae, then urinate on the Si’s corpse—but the new car has got to be ten decibels quieter inside. The difference is astounding. Don’t think this doesn’t matter. Interior noise is a primary factor in over-the-road fatigue, and the Si has very little of it.
Just as reassuringly, Honda’s periodic and inexplicable fetish for bizarre Civic styling both inside and out has been thoroughly banished from the new Si. There’s a volume knob instead of the infernal touch slider, and it’s just one of several nice chrome-metal-finished knobs scattered through the center stack. The instrument panel is Accord-normal, not ninth-generation bi-level Civic insane. Everything is easy to see and understand. This is what made people fall in love with Honda to begin with, and it’s worth respecting. I cannot imagine being irritated in any way by this Civic, even after a decade’s worth of use.
On the move, the Si makes the most of its powertrain. While it’s not all that possible to get on-the-limit handling impressions in a Michigan winter, I was pleased with the car’s balance, its responsiveness in the midcorner, and the sense of security it imparts to the driver. Again, Volkswagen’s previous-generation GTI was clearly a target here; as with the tartan-seated German hatch, one has no difficulty imagining a 22-year-old college kid and his 55-year-old professor enjoying the Civic Si for entirely different reasons. My initial impression of the brakes is that they are better than Honda has traditionally provided, which is a good thing and long overdue.
Other notes: The sittin’-in-a-bucket feel of ninth-generation Civics is gone here, replaced by a very ’90s-esque seating position and window relationship. Visibility is predictably excellent, and this is the least cab-forward car to wear a legacy Honda badge in a while. Don’t look for an auto-dimming mirror, dual-side temperature control, or a particularly vivacious sound system; those goodies are not on the Si menu. The trunk opening is a little, ah, parsimonious, but the trunk itself is very roomy. If you liked the size of the 1987 Accord, you will like the size of the 2022 Civic. (If you liked the size of the 1987 Civic, you will like the size of the 2022 Chevrolet Spark.)
It’s tempting to damn the new Si with the faintest of praise. Certainly it doesn’t have the visceral feeling of various ST-badged Fords or N-badged Hyundais. But Honda has a pretty good sense of who is buying these cars, which is why there’s no Civic Si Coupe for 2022. In a world where only well-heeled grownups can seriously consider a new car, this is a Civic Si for well-heeled grownups. They’ll love the poise, the quiet, the high-touch interior, the delightful manner in which this sub-$28K car makes some of the $40K-plus contenders out there feel a little low-rent. Assuming you have enough compromising information on your local Honda dealer principal to secure a spot in line for one, the 2022 Civic Si is worth the wait. There’s nothing very special about it—but it’s special, nonetheless.
2022 Honda Civic Si
Price: $27,695/$27,695 (base/as-tested)
Pros: Quiet, competent, spacious, usable, high-quality, looks decent inside and out.
Cons: The least inspiring powerplant fitted to a Civic since the carburetor era.
Summary: Exceptionally normal, but also (for a Civic Si) normally exceptional.