Thursday, December 11, 2014

Review: 2014 Honda Civic Si Coupe

2014 Honda Civic Si coupe Orange Fire Pearl Lead Image

The ninth generation Honda Civic, including the high-performance Si model, has been a constantly evolving affair. There have been numerous interior and exterior updates each year since the car was redesigned in 2012—something fairly unheard of in the auto industry these days. We’ve driven the 2012 Civic Si and 2013 Civic Si, so when the 2014 Si came up for review, I initially wondered if there’d be any difference. Well, sure enough, Honda made yet another round of changes to the Civic Si for ’14, and luckily, they’re all good moves.

2014 Honda Civic Si Orange Fire Pearl front
The ’14 model has a different, more aggressive front and rear fascia. Our tester also included $1,300+ worth of optional front lip, rear valence, and side skirts. Also different: Orange Fire Pearl paint. This orange hue actually makes the car look pretty sporty and I dig it. The combination of body kit bits, revised front end, and orange finish help the car look less long and awkward, too. I’ve previously said the Civic coupe almost has a fish-like look to it. These body add-ons help reduce that, and I think the car looks best in brighter shades. I still, however, am not a fan of the 18" wheels, which look like they were pulled directly off a Hot Wheels car. However, the overall look is more aggressive, more sporty, and better looking than any other ninth-gen Civic Si to date. Still not lusty, but at least it’s making an effort.

The interior is very similar to previous models we’ve tested. There’s the triangular-like “Aztec temple” gauge cluster, complete with digital speedo and analog tach, and separate menu screen to the right. The digital speedometer with separate tachometer is off-putting at first, but you learn to actually appreciate its functionality. The sporty Si seats are comfortable with plenty of lateral bolstering, too. I like the color inserts, but wish the seats were heated. In classic Honda fashion, however, the general ergonomics are outstanding with everything falling within arm’s reach.

2014 Honda Civic Si interior

The car has a seven-inch LCD touch-screen head unit which included the company’s HondaLink infotainment system. I found the touch screen menus to be straightforward enough, but in execution, there always seems to be one too many steps to get to what you want. Another thing: Where’s my damn volume knob? Adjusting the volume is cumbersome due to touch-screen slider built into the display, making it nearly impossible to quickly turn down (or up) the volume. Why is this better than a knob? (It’s not!) I employed the steering wheel-mounted audio controls instead, which work much better. The 360-watt seven-speaker stereo sounds good, but I would’ve expected more bass range from a subwoofer-equipped system. It is very clear, though.

Another new-for-’14 feature is the camera mounted on the passenger-side mirror. When you go to make a right turn or right lane change, the LDC screen shows the area next to the car to ensure there’s no one there and it’s safe to change lanes. There are a few hash marks on the screen to gauge how far back the other car is, too. You can also press a button on the turn signal stalk to turn the camera on if you just want to have a look. It takes some getting used to and is actually a bit annoying at first. But I grew to like the system.

For 2014, the Si gets another five horsepower, thanks to a revised exhaust system. This brings total horsepower up to 205 at a very high 7,000 RPM. The fast-revving “big block” 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine produces 174 ft/lbs. of torque at 4,400 RPM, and combined with the very good gearing, makes for plenty of usable torque. The engine remains sewing-machine smooth, and still produces a symphonic engine/exhaust note in the upper rev range. The car also still has its world-class six-speed manual transmission—one of the best on the automotive market. It’s extremely precise with a slight mechanical feel to it. But it is truly wonderful, and makes you wonder why all manufacturers don’t make them this good. My only gripe is the sewing on the shifter knob was a bit rough and irritated my palm after a while.

Acceleration feels quick and linear; handling is precise with fast turn in and fairly flat cornering. There’s also the legitimate mechanical limited slip differential—something that sets the Si apart from other front-drive performance-oriented vehicles, such as the Scion tC, which has an open diff, and Hyundai Veloster Turbo, which has electronic torque vectoring instead of a true LSD. The Si's handling makes you want to take it into the twisties, flog it at the autocross, or attend a track day. It just feels right. It’s not the fastest kid on the block in a straight line, but it handles very well; exceedingly so for a front-drive car.

Our orange test model stickered at $23,780. Add on that body kit ($1,311) and that brings things up to the $25,000 range, which I feel is still adequate. At the $23K mark, I’d say the Si is a performance bargain. No, it’s not rear-wheel drive, no it doesn’t have a turbo, and no, it’ll never have either. But like so many Si models before it, everything just comes together in one great-driving package. The looks are better than before, but still not something I get hot and bothered about. The engine and transmission, however, are truly sexy.

2014 Honda Civic Si Coupe in Orange Fire Pearl Rear

Choices are limited in the front-wheel-drive performance coupe category these days, as most manufacturers are opting to tart up their hatchbacks or offer smallish rear-drive sports cars. However, if you’ve got to have FWD and want a sporty two door, the Si is the one you want. The 2014 Si proves that the third time (or third year) is the charm. Well, at least it's the best of three ...

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