2017 Honda Civic Si first drive: looking the part Page 2

For that, Honda relied on its under-valued, over-performing 1.5-liter turbo-4. Instead of the base 174 horsepower, the Si gets up to 20.3 psi of boost to increase output to 205 hp. That’s a significant bump on paper from the base Civic, but only 4 hp up from the last generation Si that used a long-stroke 2.4-liter inline-4 with VTEC to make 201 hp.

A quick check of the numbers. The 2017 Honda Civic Si’s power-to-weight ratio: 14.1 lb/hp. The last-gen's power-to-weight: 14.9 lb/hp. This new version is indeed better by arithmetic, but only in the way that product planners would appreciate.

Opting for turbos instead of a free-revving VTEC gave the new Si more torque down lower in the rev range and better fuel economy. The 1.5-liter turbo-4’s twist kicks in close to idle—2,100 rpm—and pulls all the way up to 5,000 rpm. Peak hp happens sooner in the rev range too, just 5,700 rpm instead of the prior generation’s peak at 7,000 rpm. Fuel economy rests at an impressive 32 mpg combined.

2017 Honda Civic Si First Drive

2017 Honda Civic Si First Drive

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The sum? A 2017 Honda Civic Si that delivers sooner, sharper, without constant attention to staying on the boil—but also without a wail that it’s had for more than a decade.

On the track that’s a win, but only on paper. The new Si is faster, but perhaps not more fun.

Tradition = Better?

Purists take comfort in the Civic Si’s only transmission, a 6-speed manual. The shorter throw from the Civic Sport, forgiving takeup, and comfortable weight will be an old handshake for fans. (It certainly was for me, an old 6th-generation owner.) It's reassuring that Honda still knows how to make a competent and drivable manual.

MUST READ: 2017 Honda Civic Type R sets front-wheel-drive 'Ring record

The standard helical limited-slip differential and electric steering rack with variable ratios also return together for a third consecutive generation to make for a comfortable, confident set in each corner. But bigger tires over the last generation and stiffer bushings may contribute more to the overall performance.

On the track, during our days under the Mojave sun and at Honda’s new proving grounds, the Civic Si turned lap after lap with cautious optimism. The Si has performance to be found, but only by patient drives. Coaxing speed out of the Si is the way to go, deep stabs at the throttle aren't quickly rewarded.

Honda engineers were frank in their quasi-admission about the Si’s performance credentials: the Si could be a track car, but it’s not designed for that type of duty daily. The Si models we drove were fitted with fade-resistant Honda Racing pads and we were limited to just a few laps at a time.

As the track temps soared, the 2017 Honda Civic Si excelled in straight lines and long sweepers. Traction control kicked in early and often around tighter corners, which can be defeated, but the Si is quickest when its driven to within a hair of those restraints.

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