2014 Honda Civic Si Coupe First Test
Heavier, But Ever Sporty; Oh, What A Shifter!
The Motor Trend card catalog indicates we’ve yet to have the, er, pleasure of testing a production Honda Civic Si weighing an honest to goodness 3000 pounds. That won’t change today, but we wonder what our reaction will be if and when Honda’s most dedicated sporty car crests the 1.5-ton mark. It probably wouldn’t be as severe as if an automatic transmission option were announced.
We’ve tested six different Si coupes and sedans since the 2012 model year began and you can tack on another five for 11 total when reaching back to 2006. The pudgiest to sit on our scales was the very first four-door Si offered (’07) at 2938 lbs, still svelte by modern standards. Next is the 2936-lb Rallye Red coupe seen here. Sandwiching it is another sedan (’09), weighing 2930 lbs. The rest managed to retain less than 2900 lbs of curb poundage. What we’re documenting is the heaviest Si coupe so far. But only one of the 11 can lay claim to having the most powerful Si engine ever.
For 2014, the 2.4-liter I-4 gains another 4 hp and 4 lb-ft of torque to produce 205 hp at 7000 rpm and 174 lb-ft at 4400 rpm, compliments of a freer-flowing exhaust system (piping shape and path were modified but diameter is the same) and refined powertrain control module data. Each peak output is achieved at the same engine speeds as last year’s Si. Paired with one of the, if not the, most engaging six-speed manual shifters on the market, the car bursts through the 60-mph barricade in 6.5 seconds before finishing the quarter mile in 15 seconds flat and trapping 93.5 mph. The times and speed nearly sync up with the first K24-equipped coupe we got our hands on and place the ’14 near the straight average of the 2006-2013 Si group.
It runs great around town on a commuter route too, where the short 4.76:1 final-drive ratio and close gearing mean you can row deep into the gear count without excessively and noisily winding up the smooth-running, fast-revving engine. The extra power doesn’t leave an impression in the spec box, but remember when it used to be a big deal if a naturally aspirated four-cylinder pulled low 15s? One day, you’ll be croaking to your grandkids about non-turbocharged, port fuel-injected, driver-shifted cars like these as they whiz around on their hoverboards while wearing fashionable-again acid-wash jeans.
But an engine does not an Si make, and, in a very subtle, Honda kind of way, numerous revisions were made to the rest of the car to further burnish its performance credibility. Eighteen-inch wheels and wider 225/40 Continental ContiSportContact 5s (a $200 upgrade for the summer tires) seize the corners, upping rim size an inch, increasing front track by 0.2 inch, and completely displacing the former Michelin factory fitments with Contis. Honda opted for bigger wheels on the back of customer and dealer feedback.
The ’14’s front springs are 4.3 percent stiffer, moving from a rate of 160 pounds per inch to 167. To help maintain the desired handling balance, the rear anti-roll bar was sized up in conjunction, from an 18-mm diameter to 20. The front anti-roll bar and rear springs stay pat at 21 mm and 254 lb/in, respectively. Engineers also targeted more responsive damping, especially at low shock-shaft speeds. Honestly, the car’s natural ride frequency feels harmonious enough that it doesn’t need a lot of damping to help control it. The touch of old school elegance in the suspension tuning is a nice throwback nowadays, with more Lotus and less Porsche in the feel of the motions and manners.
The car will ride firmly if you’re stepping out of a Civic EX coupe, but is very soft if you’ve been looking at other hot alternatives like a Ford Focus ST or Volkswagen GTI. As always, engine and road noise make themselves at home, as we’ve become familiar with in many an Si. As always, the seats look good and hold you in place without beating you up. As always, there’s a sense of lightness throughout the car, whether you’re measuring up a corner with the light-but-accurate steering, using the new Display Audio 7-inch touch screen without a volume knob (finger-swipe with a light touch for best volume-setting results), enjoying the light and easy driver controls provided by the foot pedals and shifter, or rotating the car through a (track) turn. Driver’s driver Randy Pobst definitely thought highly of the Civic Si after lapping it at the Streets of Willow, calling it “a real playground ride of a FWD car, a lot of fun” in spite of its obviously soft shock setup. He had much to praise: the shifter, the helical limited slip, the brakes, the optional oversteer. Pobst:
“There’s a fair amount of power understeer, like you’d expect from a FWD car. But if we take it in that context, it is not bad at all. It’s a well-behaved FWD under power and it doesn’t detract from the experience much. The only place you’re ever going to get oversteer is with a light trail-brake on the way in, before you go to power. What a great thing to have, that limited slip, a wonderful feature. Thank you Honda. The car really needs it. It has enough torque in the mid-range that it would be liquefying that inside tire.”
Contrary to what you might perceive when the 2.4-liter is singing to 7000 rpm, this is a car driven capably with a calm sense of mind. It might be outclassed on many performance fronts by its contemporaries -- by this point in time, it’s hard to fend off anything with an exhaust-spun snail -- but that knowledge doesn’t make this $23,780 coupe any less fun.
Like its acceleration, the ’14 Civic Si yielded no quantifiable improvement in average lateral acceleration (0.86 g is fine but not spectacular) or around the figure eight (it’s near but not at the bottom of the modern Si time table), although the 60-0 mph braking in 110 feet is always welcome. But we know what you really want to learn: Would Randy Pobst recommend it for a novice performance car enthusiast? His answer:
“Absolutely, it’s fabulous. The only thing wrong with it is it’ll spoil them because it shifts so well. What’s neat is it shifts. It still has a manual -- a real, live manual -- and a very good one. I enjoy that so much. I miss it when I drive cars with the modern versions of different automatics. Although, I’ll tell you the shifts are still so much slower than a modern automatic. That has to cost time (lap time).”
No matter how heavy the next Civic Si is, no matter whichever engine and transmission ends up beneath its hood, we’ll keep looking for it to inject fun sportiness into our lives.
Want more on the 2014 Honda Civic Si? Stay tuned - the sporty compact competes in a Motor Trend comparison coming July 7.
|2014 Honda Civic Si Coupe|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$23,780|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 2-door coupe|
|ENGINE||2.4L/205-hp/174-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||2936 lb (61/39%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||178.8 x 69.0 x 55.0 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.5 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.0 sec @ 93.5 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||110 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.86 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.9 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||25/32/28 mpg|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||22/31/25 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY/COMB||153/109/135 kW-hrs/100 miles*|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.77 lb/mile*|
|*Derived from EPA estimates|