2014 Honda Civic Si still struts but needs a bit more stride

2014 Honda Civic Si Sedan.

(MCT) -- Humble Hondas never wear purple.

They celebrate sensibility - kind of like the guy down the street who dons goggles and elbow-length rubber gloves to pull weeds.

(I guess you can never be too careful with aggressive clumps of Johnson grass.)

Hondas carry teachers and accountants, preachers and clerks - without a single sputter or shudder.

I've even heard that Honda stereos won't play the Blasters or the Buzzcocks - too much bashing and thrashing about for their sensitive electronics.

That is, all Hondas but the Civic Si, which apparently took its name from frequent frat-boy road trips to rowdy Mexican border towns.

It sleeps in on Mondays.

I always interpreted Si as the Honda Yes, a smirking, spirited, high-performance Civic that revs to 7,000 rpm with a sneer and slides luridly around every corner.

It was the Honda hoon - or maybe the Hoonda.

But, hey, even rebels age and move to North Dallas to get married and take up golf.

Maybe that's what happened to the 2014 Honda Civic Si I had recently, a coupe cloaked in end-of-the-world red but civilized enough to share garage space with an Odyssey minivan.

Still lean and more refined than ever, the new Si felt kind of like someone polished the party animal out of it - for better or worse.

Honda pumps up and tightens down Si models, swapping in a 205-horsepower 2.4-liter four for the Civic's standard 1.8-liter grocery-getter.

In addition to the 60-horsepower increase, the Si gets tighter steering, a limited-slip differential, firmer suspension and - for this year - 18-inch wheels with 225/40 tires.

In a near-perfect shade of red, it absolutely shouts hot hatch.

All of the grille pieces and inlets up front are blacked out, of course, but in an unusual gloss tone.

While the headlamps look common as table salt, the body sports some nifty character lines atop the front fenders and through the doors that keep it looking fit. It also gets visual help from a gracefully curved top that sweeps into a short trunk.

Though the rear fenders looked a bit thick to me, the Si has nice proportions and stance.

I could live without the "i-VTEC DOHC" in silver letters in front of the rear wheels - engine gibberish that means nothing to most people.

But given some of the criticism directed at recent Civics for their uninspired styling, this is a nice-looking car.

I just wish it had a little better performance to back up the fine lines.

Not that there's anything shabby about a 0-to-60 run in 6.5 seconds. But the Si's performance trails the longtime hot-hatch leader, the Volkswagen GTI, as well as the brash new Ford Focus ST.

Both of those Mighty Mouse hatches are turbocharged, while the Si remains normally aspirated.


Granted, the Si's fairly large 2.4-liter four is smooth and refined, with a rich-sounding exhaust note and silky idle - pretty typical Honda traits.

It also offers reasonably good low- and mid-range torque, powering effortlessly around corners at low revs in second gear.

But the Si from a couple of years ago was a lovably cranky howler, steadfastly refusing to dish out any power at all until it zinged past 5,000 rpm.

From 5,000 to 7,000-plus, though, the old Si surged forward abruptly with a sinister little high-pitched growl, blasting happily to the red line.

It dished out all sorts of surprises and excitement - kind of like your significant other, I'm sure.

Although the four-banger in the new Si can also spin to 7,000 rpm, it doesn't provide much snap beyond 5,000 rpm. You get the sense that the car has traded its tattered black-leather jacket for a tweed sports coat.

Fuel economy from the relatively large four is also about average: 22 miles per gallon city, 31 on the highway.

Like the previous-gen Si, the new car offered a smooth, sweet-shifting six-speed manual and light, positive clutch, but they weren't quite as much fun to play with.

Similarly, while the Si weighs in commendably at around 3,000 pounds, its handling didn't feel as precise and tenacious as the previous Yes.

The steering was light and quick, but I didn't think the car turned into corners quite as aggressively as before.

Moreover, sometimes in tight curves, the rear multi-link suspension squirmed a bit - though the body stayed planted. (Maybe I was just sawing away too much at the steering wheel, Jeff Gordon-style.)

While the Si remains a good-handling front-wheel-drive compact that rarely lapses into understeer, I doubt it could get by a GTI or Focus ST on the track.


On the positive side of the performance ledger, the $25,000 Si rode better than the GTI or Focus ST, sailing over smooth streets with a nice mix of firm and flexible.

Likewise, the Si displays some needed maturity inside.

Mine showed up with a red and black interior that looked fairly high-end for a Civic.

As Honda likes to do with many of its cars, the Si had a slightly odd two-tier black dashboard formed from fairly high-quality plastic.

A digital speedometer, nanny shift light and fuel gauge resided on the upper tier, while a large conventional tach lived downstairs.

Meanwhile, a rectangular-shaped center stack housed a smallish 7-inch screen with simple buttons for the climate-control system - something we simple drivers much prefer.

Although the red in the center of the seats didn't match the exterior of the Si, they looked OK and had supportive bolsters and good stitching.

Likewise, the door panels were mostly hard black plastic but were spiced up with curves, black cloth centers and some red stitching.

In addition, I could fit into the back seat fairly well and didn't have to struggle much getting in and out - meaning most of your preteen kids can ride back there with their digital devices and not even realize they've left home.

As Honda proved with the new Accord, it can quickly fix styling and other complacency issues.

The Si has a solid foundation, silky engine, decent handling and reasonably good value.

Honda just needs to say "yes" to a couple of handling tweaks and a turbocharger or some other modification that will add 30 to 50 horsepower.

Put the smirk back in the Si, I say.


AT A GLANCE: 2014 Honda Civic Si

Type of vehicle: Four-passenger, front-wheel-drive coupe

Price as tested: $25,080

Fuel economy: 22 miles per gallon city, 31 highway

Weight: 2,996 pounds

Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 205 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Performance: 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds

SOURCES: American Honda Motor Co.; Car and Driver



Terry Box writes for the Dallas Morning News. He may be reached at tbox@dallasnews.com.


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