The 2007 Honda Civic Si sedan is one of the hottest family-friendly compact cars on the market. With 197 horsepower, an 8,000 RPM redline, a rock-solid suspension and a very reasonable price ($21,885 base, $23,835 as tested), the 2007 Honda Civic Si looks like a winner on paper. How does it work in real life? Read on. EPA fuel economy estimates 23 MPG city, 32 MPG highway.
First glance: Keep your license and registration in easy reach
If you have even the slightest hint of aggressive or adolescent driver in you, then I suggest you stop reading right now and give up any thought of buying a Honda Civic Si -- because it won't be long before you have enough speeding tickets to wallpaper a modestly-sized suburban home. The Civic Si's high-revving 197 horsepower 2-liter engine makes it the automotive equivalent of crack cocaine. One hit off the 8,200-or-so RPM rev limiter, one earful of the fantastilicious noises it makes, one push of the seat against your back as the variable valve timing system pours on the power at high revs, and you will be hooked.
The Civic Si reminds me of Honda's S2000 sports car: an alluring temptress of speed that simply doesn't take "no" for an answer. I have a decent amount of self-control and can usually drive the fastest cars with some restraint on public roads. After a week with the Civic Si, I found the only way to behave myself was not to start the engine.
The hot-rod Civic Si coupe premiered last year with the rest of the all-new Civic lineup; the Si sedan is new for 2007. By combining the thrills of the Si coupe with the family-friendly spaciousness of the regular Civic sedan, the Honda Civic Si sedan is an incredibly enjoyable way for devoted moms and dads to set a bad example for their children.
In the Driver's Seat: Minimal changes to one of my favorite interiors
I love the Civic's novel split-level dash (link goes to photo); it's one of the most modern and functional designs on the road. The Civic employs a digital speedometer, fuel and temperature gauges just below the windshield, while a big tachometer lives in the lower pod. Since high-revving antics are part of the Civic Si's nature, a red light next to the speedometer flashes when the engine revs past 7,500 RPM. Other features that differentiate the Si from lesser Civics: Unique seats, red gauge markings, red interior trim, and a small three-spoke steering wheel that looks like it should be attached to a Play Station rather than an automobile.
Fellow test-driver Liz Kim, who reviewed the Civic EX sedan, thought the back seat was lacking in space, but my six-foot-plus friends were happy back there. Trunk space is decent, though far from best-in-class.
Power windows, locks and mirrors come standard, as does a host of safety equipment, including seat-mounted torso airbags, roof-mounted side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, and electronic stability and traction control. Complaint time: The Civic Si's combination of daytime running lights and always-illuminated dash gauges makes it easy to forget to turn the lights on at night. Cars that have DRLs really ought to have automatic headlights.
The option list consists of a navigation system ($1,750) and high-performance "summer" tires in place of the stock all-seasons ($200). No automatic transmission is offered; the Civic Si comes exclusively with a 6-speed stick.
On the Road: The devil inside
As fast as it is in a straight line, the Civic Si is just as wonderful in the curves. The steering responds sharply, though it doesn't offer as much feedback as I'd like. Lifting off the throttle in the middle of a fast curve will allow just a hint of oversteer (fishtailing). That won't mean much to most drivers, but hard-core enthusiasts are going to love it -- it's a level of handling balance not commonly found in front-wheel-drive cars. Springs and shocks do a perfect job of maintaining the body's composure, but they make for a very firm ride that, like the noise of the engine, gets tiresome on those long, uneventful drives.
Journey's End: A little too hard-core?
My only other major complaint is fuel economy. The Civic Si sedan's EPA estimates of 23 MPG city/32 highway should yield well over 350 miles per tank, but I managed less than 250 miles before the low-fuel light went on. Guess I spent a little too much time above 6,000 RPM. (The Civic Si requires premium fuel, so budget accordingly.) The lack of an automatic transmission may be a show-shopper for some potential buyers, but you won't hear me complaining.
Aside from the Volkswagen GTI and Jetta GLI, the Civic Si's main competitor is the all-new Nissan Sentra SE-R. It's less expensive and, like the GTI/GLI, offers an automatic transmission, but its speed, handling and pure fun factor are an order of magnitude below the Civic Si. Were I spending my own money, I'd be hard-pressed to pick between the Civic Si and the Volkswagen GTI. I'd probably opt for the GTI, only because if I bought the 2007 Honda Civic Si, I'd probably lose my license within a month. The Civic Si is an amazing car -- I just don't have enough self-control to own one. -- Aaron Gold