ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: We got to know the 2012 Honda Civic Si coupe real well when we rounded up seven performance cars starting under $30,000 last year. From a performance standpoint, the car was on par with the class with a high-revving four-cylinder under the hood and one of the slickest manual transmissions available. It handled the infield road course at Michigan International Speedway well and the extra torque available from the 2.4-liter versus the previous 2.0-liter engine was appreciated when shooting out of corners.
However, like all of the 2012 Civics, the Si coupe wasn’t immune to Honda’s cost-cutting efforts. The exterior was bland and didn’t do much to set the performance-oriented Si apart from the normal Civics, and the interior was littered with hard plastic panels. Unlike previous Si models, the seats were covered with slippery cloth instead of the Alcantara-like material.
Fast forward to the 2013 model year and Honda did the right thing in doing a fairly heavy update to the Civic. The Si’s carbon-fiber-like trim in the interior looks much nicer along with the soft-touch surfaces, higher quality plastics and redesigned center-stack controls. There’s a little more style sprinkled in on the outside with new front and rear fascias. The Si’s wheels also look rather slick.
So there’s a slightly more attractive wrapper now on the Civic Si coupe, and the interior isn’t a huge letdown anymore, which is a good thing. That was reason enough to take it out to GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, Mich., and shoot around the 2.14-mile road course for a Track Time video.
After just a couple of laps you appreciate the comfortable driving position, responsive engine, slick manual shifter and nicely tuned clutch with takeup in the middle of the pedal stroke. Among the group of front-wheel-drive sport compacts that includes the Volkswagen GTI, Scion tC, Fiat 500 Abarth and Mini Cooper, I find the Si the most comfortable and well sorted.
With our test car’s Michelin Pilot Exalto PE2 summer tires warmed up, the Si made its way around the track at a more than respectable rate. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder happily turned at the upper end of the rev band, delivering good power and throttle response for easy rev matching. Pedal placement is ideal for heel-and-toe action, and going down a couple of gears — as you slow for Turn 11 at the end of the back straight — is easy and entertaining. Like I said early, the shifter in the Si is one of the best available.
Around turns, there’s some body roll, but it’s minimal and if you throw it in hard the rear rotates around nicely letting you getting to the power early on exit. Credit the limited-slip and the sticky tires to prevent the Si from being too much of an understeering pig.
The car feels composed through the quick transition between Turn 8 and Turn 9, which is something I can’t say about a lot of cars. Under hard braking, the car feels good and doesn’t dance around.
Steering is well weighted and returns good feedback and is near the top of the front-wheel-drive performance-car class along with the Mini.
I was also impressed with the brakes that held up well under track conditions. Considering there were stock pads and brake fluid, brakes performance didn’t nose dive and the brake pedal never went to the floor, which is a good thing. As with many cars, with some more aggressive pads and high-temp brake fluid and the Si would be good to go for a full day of track work.
So what’s my verdict of the Civic Si on track? It’s a good car that’s easy to drive hard and delivers very respectable performance. And on the road, ride quality is still manageable and you no longer have to suffer in a cheap-looking cabin.
There are many performance options for around $25,000. If you want rear-wheel drive, you have the Subaru BRZ/Scion FR-S, Hyundai Genesis Coupe and Mazda MX-5. Then there is the Subaru Impreza WRX if you want something with all-wheel drive and there are the front-wheel drive entries I already mentioned above. Of the front-drivers in the field, the Civic Si is my pick.
2013 Honda Civic Si Navi coupe
Base Price: $25,005
As-Tested Price: $25,005
Drivetrain: 2.4-liter I4; FWD, six-speed manual
Output: 201 hp @ 7,000 rpm, 170 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
Curb Weight: 2,877 lb
Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway/Combined): 21/31/25 mpg
AW Observed Fuel Economy: 28.9 mpg