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  • 2012 Honda Civic Si

    Posted on December 13th, 2011 ninarussin

    High-performance coupe stays true to its roots

    By Nina Russin

    2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe

    It’s curious that Honda, a fundamentally conservative automaker, has become the marque of choice among millennial car enthusiasts. The compact Civic’s performance variant, the Si, is not a radical car by most measures. However, the OEM package, with its high-revving iVTEC engine, close ratio gearbox and compact sport-tuned suspension is the perfect palette for customization. It also offers superb ride and handling out of the box.

    Honda introduced the ninth-generation of Civics for the 2012 model year, including an all-new Si. An aluminum 2.4-liter block replaces the 2-liter engine on the former model. Engineers made both peak horsepower and torque available at lower engine speeds to enhance the everyday driving experience.

    As with its predecessors, the newest Si coupe is extremely light, and remarkably well balanced for a front-wheel drive car. Its performance adds a new dimension to everyday driving, without sacrificing versatility or fuel economy.

    Average highway fuel economy is 31 miles-per-gallon, according to the EPA. Because of the engine’s high compression ratio, the Civic Si requires 91 octane premium unleaded fuel.

    Base price for the Si coupe is $22,205, excluding the $770 delivery charge. The Si coupe comes standard with the 2.4-liter engine, six-speed close ratio gearbox, limited slip differential and 17-inch alloy wheels with all-season V-rated tires. A standard stainless steel exhaust will appeal to buyers in areas which experience severe winters.

    Standard comfort and convenience features include remote keyless entry, air conditioning, Bluetooth interface, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with redundant controls, aluminum pedals, adjustable sport seats, a 360-watt audio system with MP3 and USB interface and speed-sensitive volume. Buyers can add a navigation system with XM satellite radio.

    Test drive in the Superstition Mountains

    2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe

    I spent the past week behind the wheel of the 2012 Civic Si coupe. In addition to driving around the Phoenix metro area, I wanted to take the car out on some more challenging roads, so I could see how well the new engine functioned.

    The fact that Phoenix weather is rarely anything but sunny and dry is both good and bad when it comes to testing cars. Yes, it’s nice to drive under ideal road conditions. However, the lack of precipitation makes it difficult to experience what drivers in other parts of the country typically encounter.

    A slow-moving front through the valley this week transformed Phoenix’s cloudless skies into something more foreboding. Moderately heavy rain fell for several days in town, while snow blanketed the surrounding mountains.

    I wasn’t particularly anxious to try out a car with V-rated tires in the snow, but I was curious to see how well the coupe would handle in the rain. The Bush Highway east of town is known for its off-camber turns and pitchy hills. A substantial rain will soak low-lying areas, so drivers need to beware of hydroplaning.

    God is in the details

    2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe

    Borrowing a phrase from the architect, Mies van der Rohe, it is the details which elevate the Civic Si above its competition. For example, the windshield wipers are hinged so that the wipers overlap when they move, keeping the windshield clearer of water.

    The placement of the coupe’s B pillar is such that it doesn’t interfere with visibility, affording a better view to either side of the car.

    The instrument panel, especially the gauge cluster, is beautifully designed. It is simple and easy to read, yet stylish. A rev limit indicator lamp is useful when the driver is pushing the engine to the edges of the performance envelope.

    The new engine performs beautifully, with excellent acceleration off the line, and in the critical 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into high-speed traffic. The close-ratio gearbox is beautifully matched to it. A short-throw shift lever makes it easy to snap between the gears. The clutch is light enough to be very functional in stop-and-go traffic, yet it never feels sloppy during aggressive driving.

    The four-wheel independent suspension is responsive and crisp without beating up the driver. Although the coupe has large wheels with low-profile tires, there’s enough sidewall to protect occupants over uneven roads. Buyers looking for more performance can opt for Michelin summer tires instead of the all-season radials.

    Honda uses an electric power steering system in lieu of a hydraulic one, in order to save space and weight under the hood. Steering feedback is excellent at all speeds. I found the system virtually indistinguishable from its mechanical equivalent: ditto for the drive-by-wire throttle system.

    The coupe’s relatively short wheelbase translates to an excellent turning diameter of 35.4 feet. Performing the occasional U-turn, or squeezing into a tight parking spot on the street should be non-issues.

    Ventilated disc brakes up front and solid disks in the rear provide plenty of stopping power.

    Road and engine noise is on the high side, but is not unpleasant. The exhaust emits a pleasant belch during hard acceleration.

    Spacious interior

    Honda Civic Si Coupe Interior

    Inside, the Si coupe feels like a larger car than it is, thanks to some careful planning by Honda designers. The uncluttered instrument panel and careful placement of amenities such as cupholders and power points creates a feeling of spaciousness. A standard power moonroof  brings an abundance of light inside the car.

    The steering wheel is not too wide. The smaller diameter makes the car easier to handle for smaller-framed drivers. The shift lever is nice and short, moving quickly between the gears. Sport seats have enough bolstering to keep the driver and front passenger in place without being uncomfortable. Lower back support is adequate.

    The center console bin is deep enough to hold a DVDs and small electronic devices. The glovebox has enough room for the owner’s manual and car documents, but not much else.

    Access and egress to the back seats isn’t great, due to the large wheel arches. Legroom is adequate but headroom is limited, due to the roof’s severe rake. In the middle seating position, my head was up against the car’s headliner.

    The trunk has plenty of room for luggage and groceries. A small pass-through makes it possible to load longer items such as skis and snowboards in back.

    Standard safety

    The Honda Civic Si comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, vehicle stability control, a tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lamps.

    Honda builds the Civic Si at its assembly plant in Alliston, Ontario Canada.

    Likes: An affordable, fun-to-drive car with beautiful styling.

    Dislike: Lack of headroom in the second-row seats.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Honda
    Model: Civic Si
    Year: 2012
    Base price: $22,205
    As tested: $22,975
    Horsepower: 201 Hp @ 7000 rpm
    Torque: 170 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Towing: No
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 22/31 mpg city/highway

     

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