I guess I’m something of an oddball when it comes to the Civic Si. I actually really liked the fifth generation 2002-2005 Civic Si, the one everyone else thought was ugly; I liked the console mounted shifter and the big headlights and the stubby nose and the fact that it was a hatchback, I liked the whole package. A taffeta white 2005 Civic Si with dark tint all around is a beautiful thing. So I wasn’t super happy in 2006 when Honda totally redesigned the Civic and brought back the coupe. But I recently drove a 2008 Si and it blew my mind.
I have the luxury of working at an auto repair shop, and because of that, I come into contact with a lot of different cars everyday. A customer recently came in looking for a side view mirror for his 2008 Civic Si, we ordered him a new one, and I gave him discount for letting me drive his car around. Everyone wins. On top of that, I got to drive my cousins 2004 Honda Civic Si hatchback a few years ago, and the memory of that drive will be my control.
Like I said, the look of the old Civic Si Hatchback was great, the only problem was everything else. Considering it was supposed to be a ‘performance’ car, it was surprisingly lacking in the power and handling department, with pretty obvious understeer on tight curves. The new sixth generation Civic Si definitely fixes that.
Honda hasn’t really done much with the Si since they redesigned it in 2006, but it’s still a major improvement over the hatchback Si. Where the 5th gen hatchback had 160 hp from the 2.0 VTEC engine, the new 6th gen coupe has 197 hp, and the 6 speed trans that the hatchback should have had. You don’t have to push the 2008 Si the way you had to push the hatchback, it wants to go. And the transmission is perfect, shifting is swift and easy, almost effortless.
The power is only a small part of the improvements though. Like I said earlier, the hatch Si had some pretty severe problems with understeer, it just wasn’t as tight as it should have been, and the new coupe corrects that. The 2008 Civic Si took the tight curve on the south end of Wheatsheaf lane perfectly, whereas the old hatchback nearly threw me up on the railroad tracks at the same speed a few years ago. This car handles beautifully. It wouldn’t do it justice to say the new Si is just an improvement on the fifth generation, it’s so much more than that, it really is one of the most enjoyable cars I’ve ever driven.
It is a much tighter ride than the hatchback was, but the whole class has upped their game. The 2008 Civic Si has some very stiff competition. The Chevy Cobalt SS, Mazdaspeed 3, and Volkswagen GTI all have more horsepower than the Civic Si, the Cobalt SS considerably so. And the Mazdaspeed 3 and VW GTI are both on Car and Driver’s 10best list. So what’s the deal?
The Civic Si is a twisty car. Yes, it’s beat in the power department, but I doubt the the Cobalt SS could take the hairpins I’ve taken in the Si. And the Honda is more refined, it has a quality interior, not the chintzy plastics of the Cobalt. Plus, the overall quality of Honda…the car will last. And starting at 21k, it’s the cheapest of the 4 sport-compacts.
As for the look, I still don’t like it the way I liked the hatchback Si. The rear spoiler makes it look silly and the tiny headlights give it a much less aggressive, more boring look. Still, this car was a thrill to drive. I’ll take mine in taffeta white.