If it wasn’t broke, why did they fix it? That is a question many have had for Honda after they released the 2012 Civic earlier this year.
As with the rest of the model lineup, the sporty Si was made over for 2012, enhancing a low, sleek athletic appearance with a long windshield rake, one that raises some criticism due to the design and construction challenges because of it.
Honda continues to employ the split-level instrument panel in the new model and as such some folks will continue to admire it while others are polarized away from that emotion.
Ride and handling has been changed in the new model and for Si the suspension receives some added tuning and tweaking that results in the sport models riding .4-inches lower than non-Si models.
Powertrain upgrades also ran the gamut of the rollouts and Si now sports a 2.4-liter i-VTEC inline four-cylinder engine. Gone is the nine-grand redline but added is four more horsepower and a resoundingly fun 31 more lb. ft. of torque that comes to life in the mid- to upper-band.
Drivers get a clear sense of the new engines performance range courtesy a set of i-VTEC engine rev idiot lights in the upper left portion of the dash panel. Taking the vehicle to its new limit of seven grand on the tachometer gets you four amber lights and an illuminated red i-VTEC indicator, not to mention a fun driving experience. As with previous generations, the 2012 Si gets body and interior enhancements that include stylish 17-inch alloy wheels, body-color deck lid spoiler, fog lights, chrome exhaust tip, aluminum shift knob, aluminum pedals, and firmly bolstered perforated sport seats. Seats, shift knob and steering wheels receive contrast red Si stitching.
A new “intelligent” multi-information display screen at dash top right offers an exclusive power monitor on Si models but to the point where pushing the limits of the new powertrain may have drivers tempted to take their eyes from the roadway where they belong to competing displays in the dash panel.
On the road, the new Si has its hits and misses. While the added powerband boost is greatly appreciated, the hanging engine revs when one takes their foot off the gas and depresses the clutch is disconcerting and when downshifting even caused my review unit to lurch a bit when I was slowing for turns and such. Hmmmm.
Engine noise is, well, atrocious. Only when pushing the i-VTEC into its powerband does one get more pleasing-sounding (intake) feedback from the engine compartment but one cannot drive that way continuously (I should know, I tried).
Steering feel is a bit dull and at times I felt as though the front tires were barely making a full contact patch with the pavement. I would have preferred a bit more resistance in the wheel along with reduced pitching of the vehicle even when operating on smoother stretches of pavement.
I also felt the sport shifter was a bit too tall with gear throws a bit too long to be called sporty. To be fair, given the amount of aggressive shifting I did in the vehicle it never went somewhere I did not wish it too, a rare accomplishment at this level. Fuel economy has been greatly improved across the 2012 Civic lineup. Our 201hp Si tester came in at 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway although my testing varied with EPA figures being disproportionate to the number of engine rev lights illuminated.
While offered in both sedan and coupe models, our tester was of the (preferred) latter in Si trim with base pricing of $23,705 and final MSRP at $24,475.
Perhaps the biggest hit Honda took with the newest Civic is losing the “Recommended” rating from Consumer Reports. Just before the holidays, CR announced it would put that label on the Si version of the model given the slight differences between it and Civic models previously tested this year.
While I do not have the reputation of the Consumer Reports rating system, my recommendations would simply come down to this: Based solely on fun factor I would recommend the 2012 Honda Civic Si – beyond that, not so much.