THE SAME, BUT DIFFERENT
I've seen a lot of Civic families come and go over the years, and just like clockwork, their pre-release hype and eventual delivery to your local dealership's sparkling showroom floor is almost always met with some doubt, a bit of scrutiny, and of course, never-ending comparison. It's human nature to point out any thoughts of flaws or shortcomings, but with the digital age in full swing the commentary is amplified and the shouts of negativity often far exceed any signs of support.
We've seen it time and time again, starting with the fifth generation Civic that, when introduced, did away with the quaint, boxy styling of its older, '88-'91 sibling, and instead relied on a rounded shape that left the enthusiast circle scratching their heads. Sure, the increase in horsepower and inclusion of Honda's then new variable valve timing system was celebrated, but at a time well before forums and digital social outlets, the masses were asking, "what happened?" Not long after, the bubbly '92-'95 era Civic garnered a cult-like following that's not only stood the test of time, but established a foothold as one of the most popular Honda chassis of all time to modify.
Run down the rest of the Civic lineage and it was the same thing over and over again—new models typically raising a concern, but in time welcomed into the aftermarket circles with open arms. Of course, there were a few exceptions that didn't quite hit the mark, but overall the majority found a place in the hearts of tuners. Based on all of that, it was really no surprise to see some negativity surrounding the 10th generation Civic line up.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT THE MIDDLE CHILD
Beyond the fact that a new model is sometimes off-putting to loyal fans of previous generations, the 10th gen. family's Si model, Honda's 8th "Sport Injected" iteration, seemed to be unintentionally pushed to the side as the build-up and eventual release of the Civic Type R stole the spotlight not only from other Honda models, but from every other manufacturer at the time. The result was plenty of talk about the FK8 Type R, along with a ton of Sport and lower trim models hitting the road, while quietly the Si slid into the line up. Surprising to me when considering that the Si's MSRP, at around 25K, isn't out of reach for the Sport model buyer and is significantly lower than the Type R.
Just a few weeks ago Honda handed over the keys to this 2018 Si sedan in Aegean Blue Metallic. I'll have the car for the next 10 months and will be making some changes all around while bringing you along for the ride with the progress. Slow down now; the car has to go back to Honda in stock condition so upgrades aren't going to be too extreme, but rather focus on real world upgrades that any Honda enthusiast could tackle. I'm excited to say the least. The Si is the perfect fit for Honda Tuning Digital and the Super Street Network being that it's a car that hasn't been fully sorted out yet—that new car smell still lingering and the parts development options are starting to increase at this point.
PEAK ISN'T EVERYTHING
Being that this generation is the first in Honda's Civic history to include forced induction means a few things. First, the 2.0 and 2.4L engines that powered the previous two Civic Si models, which many expected Honda to continue development on, are long gone, replaced by a much smaller 1.5L power plant. The new mill spans the entire 10th gen. family (sans the FK8 and a naturally aspirated 2.0L base model). The glorious, high redline that was always fun to flirt with in the past has now dropped significantly, though the trade off is a legitimate increase in useable midrange power.
You're still hung up on the fact that the new Si makes the same 205hp as the previous model even with a turbo, but what you're missing is the fact that peak numbers don't tell the whole story, especially from the driver's seat. For example, the new Si's 1.5L delivers over 190 lbs-ft of tq. from 2,100 to 5,000 RPM, something previous models weren't capable of from the factory. That's grunt that's readily available when passing, coming out of turn, or just commuting to work and you want to feel a little rush of power without wringing out the engine in order to find power up top. With that said, I do wish this engine had more displacement. In fact, I would have liked a 2.0L variant of the Type R, detuned of course, to maintain a performance gap between the two - like an exaggerated version of the late '90s GS-R to Type R relationship. However, behind the wheel that little 1.5L performs better than what you might assume just based on numerical value.
That midrange punch I mentioned is a welcome addition to a whisper quiet exhaust and helps move the new chassis, which is over 100lbs lighter than the 9th gen., nicely over surface streets and on/off ramps. Hitting the back roads I felt a little "off" based on the powerband and needed some time to adjust. The last time I'd frequented our local twisty mountainside I was behind the wheel of my old high compression K24/K20 8th gen. Si sedan. With that car the power was pretty much everywhere and it loved to pull without hesitation right up to 8K (a number I used as a stopping point for engine longevity, though it was capable of moving up to 9K without a fuss). With this model, it felt more like a game of "find your groove" as I actually focused on keeping revs down in order to enjoy that fat midrange that carried me through turns without a sweat and continued to deliver even as the altitude increased.
The welcome feeling of that rush of boosted assistance in the middle of the RPM gauge is awesome, but up top, as the needle climbs toward redline, the process slows noticeably - something I hope to improve upon with some ECU adjustments and basic bolt-on upgrades. Until then, I stopped by GReddy Performance in Irvine, Calif., for a quick baseline on their Dyno. I expected the numbers to look a little healthier than what Honda's flywheel horsepower rating claims since many owners have reported the same and this Si was no different, registering 193whp and 219 lbs-ft of tq. GReddy's president, Kenji Sumino, also mentioned that the Si coupe they've been developing parts for had checked in with a similar baseline.
EXPLOITING THE CURVES
Far more important than power and torque when hitting back-to-back turns for well over three miles is a vehicle's suspension. Like the Si offerings of the past, this is where we expect these cars to shine right out of the box and the latest Si makes has no problem doing just that. Active dampers onboard allow you to drive in Normal or Sport mode, the latter of which tightens up all four corners along with the power steering while simultaneously offering more throttle response. Driving to and from the office, Normal mode is ideal, as the sportier setting gets a little too bumpy for my taste while traveling on the uneven freeways of a traffic-laden SoCal.
When it's time to have a little more fun, however, tap that Sport button and the response is immediate, indicated by red glowing accents on the gauge display. And though the steering input is a little too tight for my liking, it, along with the factory LSD help maintain control under acceleration, especially through the turns. Both modes certainly have their place and having the option to choose is something I never imagined from a factory-issued Civic, and I'm completely sold on it. In fact, I'd love to have driver selectable damping options on some of my other kidney-jabbing projects.
The instrument display is of course all digital and gives you quite a few info options from a shift light to music info, MPG and even boost pressure. And similar to just about every car on the market currently, the audio and climate controls are centered on a touchscreen LCD that juts up from the dash like a small tablet in landscape configuration and is actually very easy to navigate through.
For the 2019 model Honda added a volume knob to the screen but I haven't had any issues with controlling volume by touch, though I generally rely on the steering wheel controls since ergonomically, they're perfect for me. Honda has thankfully done way with the dual tier gauge display; something I wasn't too fond of on the 8th and 9th gen. models.
The rest of the interior feels more refined overall compared to the previous generation and then there's the seats, oh those seats. I don't know if it's my lavish dad bod or that the Honda engineers threw in a few extra algorithms to get these right, and I wouldn't change a single thing about the new Si seats. Wide enough for my shoulders to lay flat but cradled and mild thigh bolsters to provide some rigidity in the turns and they remain comfy when I'm on the road for more than a few hours - they nailed it.
What I would change, however, is the shift knob and that's actually the first thing I did when I got the car home after realizing my sausage fingers weren't at all comfortable on the spherical leather/aluminum knob provided. With a drawer full of random aftermarket shift knobs in my garage, I threw on a new one every few days to get a feel for them and in the end, it was Hybrid Racing's smooth textured, one-piece billet "Maxim Performance" shift knob that became the keeper. Obviously everyone has his or her own shifter grip preference but if you're in the market, I highly recommend giving the Hybrid Racing version a try.
APPLES TO ORANGES
Styling is subjective and, trust me, I get that the front and rear bumper grills are rather large and many are upset about it but if you take a look around, oversized main and supporting bumper grills have been the norm for a few years now and probably not going anywhere. So when you compare a '93 Civic's front and rear to something designed over two decades later, realize that they're not in the same realm and pitting them against one another doesn't make much sense. I wasn't a huge fan of the rear grills either, to be honest, but as I took notice of other 10th gen. sedans zooming around town I realized that the large openings on both ends of the rear add a more aggressive look that really should accompany the Si. Once lowered, I was even happier with the look. That's right, less than two weeks in and the car already has a full suspension work up, but that's another write-up altogether. Stay tuned...