Introduced to the U.S. market in 1985, the Honda Civic Si has enjoyed a storied history that’s as revered as that of other performance icons like the Mazda MX-5 Miata. Each generation Civic Si represented a leap forward in terms of performance, safety, and technology, but still remained faithful to the core values promised by the Si trim.
In the Honda Civic Si community, most of the praise and adoration is lauded on the 6th and, more specifically, 8th-generation models because they embody the lithe, rev-happy, and no-frills approach to performance that’s made Si models a hit among enthusiasts. The 8th-gen Civic Si (available from 2006 to 2011) was the last model to feature a small-displacement four-cylinder engine with a stratospheric redline, so many Honda fanatics were disappointed when the 9th-gen Si debuted in 2012 with a lower-revving, larger displacement power plant.
Critics also quibbled over the interior materials, sedate suspension tuning, and rather subdued styling of the 9th-gen Civic Si. Some went so far as to suggest that Honda watered down the Si formula to appeal to a broader driver base.
While there’s some merit to these criticisms, the hate is largely unwarranted because the 9th-generation Honda Civic Si is a brilliant driver’s car in its own right.
More torque for everyday driving
Yes, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder (code-named the ‘K20’) engine in the previous generation Civic Si revved all the way to 8,000 rpm and sounded fantastic doing it; however, the 2.4-liter four-cylinder (code-named the ‘K24’) in the 9th-gen model has distinct advantages over its predecessor.
The biggest advantage that the K24 has over the K20 engine is torque—170 lb-ft compared to just 139 lb-ft. What’s more, the K24 engine develops peak torque at 4,400 rpm compared to the lofty 6,200 rpm torque peak of the K20. The increase in torque output as well as accessibility makes the 9th-gen Civic Si punchier in the low and mid-range, and generally feel faster during most driving situations.
Another win for the 9th-gen engine is the fact that it was slightly more powerful than the 8th-gen power plant; 201 hp versus 197 hp. While the power delta between the two engines is quite small, the K24 makes its peak power at 7,000 rpm compared to 7,800 rpm for the K20. As a result, you don’t have to rev the bolts off the 9th-gen Si in order to extract the most out of its meaty power band.
More civilized ride
The 8th-gen Civic Si has razor-sharp steering and stiff suspension tuning, which makes it a blast to wring out on curvy roads but a bit exhausting to drive on the pothole-riddled highways most of us have to endure.
On the other hand, the 9th-gen Civic Si offers a more composed and comfortable ride at the expense of slightly less athletic handling. For most drivers, this is an acceptable compromise.
The 9th-generation Si is also quieter at highway speeds, which makes it an even better daily driver than its predecessor.
Compared to the 8th-generation Civic Si, the 9th-gen model is loaded with respectable tech features. The infotainment system is easy to use, intuitive, and responsive. A much-improved navigation system is user-friendly and quick to respond.
The 9th-gen Si also upped the audio system ante with an available 360-watt seven-speaker (the 8th-gen sufficed with six) audio system with a thumping subwoofer. Audio sources include an AM/FM radio, a single-CD slot with MP3 playback, USB connectivity with iPod control, an auxiliary audio input, and Bluetooth wireless audio streaming.
A particularly entertaining tech feature on the 9th-gen Civic Si is the secondary 5-inch LCD screen that displays vital vehicle information within the driver’s field of view. Not only can the driver quickly see stats like fuel economy and turn-by-turn directions via the navigation system, but also how much power the engine is generating at any given time. Cue the ‘VTEC just kicked in, yo!’ comments.
A more grown-up Si
The 9th-generation Honda Civic Si represents an evolution of the fabled Si formula. While some may prefer the frenetic, racier-nature of the previous generation, the 9th-gen Civic Si still offers the core elements of what makes these cars so superb but in a more livable package.