Will Honda be the last automaker to build a small, fun, affordable car with a manual transmission? It’s now one of just a handful of companies that’s able to make a business case for a car such as the Civic Si in the United States. We think it’s commendable that this sub-$30,000, turbocharged, stick-shift sedan still exists at all, let alone that it’s entering a new generation with numerous improvements.
The 2022 Honda Civic Si is part of the 11th-generation Civic lineup that features the same basic mechanicals as its predecessor but a nicer interior and cleaner exterior styling. The Si formula remains the same as before: a turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-four with a six-speed manual is the sole powertrain, and it’s available only as a sedan. But Honda has made upgrades that increase the car’s appeal without diluting the engaging driving experience we enjoyed so much in the previous Si.
The hard numbers don’t paint the best picture of the new car, as it’s a few thousand dollars more expensive than before and features less horsepower. Honda says it has retuned the turbo-four so that it both revs more eagerly and produces peak torque starting 300 rpm lower in the rev range. But the tradeoff is 5 horsepower less, for a total of 200 horsepower that now comes on at 6000 rpm, compared with 205 horses at 5700 rpm before. (The redline is 100 rpm higher at 6600 rpm.)
We didn’t notice much of a difference in the engine’s character during our drive, as its sound and power delivery largely mimic our experience with the 2020 model. The 1.5-liter is still somewhat coarse when pushed, but there’s little turbo lag. Honda has improved engine NVH, and the interior seems better isolated than before. We’ll be testing the new Si soon to see how the engine’s updates affect the car’s performance numbers. The previous model got to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, and we don’t expect much of a change this time around.
Shifting the six-speed manual is fun thanks to short throws and light action. One of the notable additions to the new Si is a rev-matching system, which was previously available only on the Civic Type R. It works well and is easily turned off via a menu in the touchscreen if you prefer to heel-and-toe yourself.
As before, the Si has a stiffer suspension and larger brake rotors compared with the base sedan; harder, better, faster, stronger—you get the idea. Its responses are noticeably sharper than the standard car’s thanks to eager turn-in, heavier steering, and a brake pedal with good bite. The model we drove had the optional ($200) summer tires, which give the Si great front-end grip that helps curb understeer.
A limited-slip differential is also standard equipment, and Honda has expanded the drive-mode selector to include a customizable Individual mode in addition to the previous Normal and Sport modes. It allows you to combine the quicker throttle response of Sport mode with the lighter steering of Normal mode or vice versa. Honda has removed the previous model’s adaptive dampers, but we didn’t miss them too much, as the standard suspension tune—at least on smooth California canyon roads—is satisfyingly firm without being harsh.
The Si starts at $28,315, which is a $2120 increase over its predecessor. Honda is attempting to justify this with more standard equipment. The Si now has a larger touchscreen, blind-spot monitoring, and an upgraded audio system. The interior materials are nicer too. But the new Si is missing the heated seats that it had before, which is a disappointing omission. Still, it remains significantly cheaper than the Volkswagen Jetta GLI and is a good performance value overall.
The existence of the more extreme Civic Type R, which will also be redesigned soon, means the Si inhabits a nice middle ground in the sport-compact sphere. The Civic Si isn’t a car that will wow your neighbors with flashy styling. Its power and performance specs won’t go viral on Reddit. And it lacks gimmicks such as the Hyundai Veloster N’s overboost function or the VW Golf R’s drift mode. The best thing about the Civic Si remains its commitment to being a driver’s car, and that alone is worth celebrating.
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