Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Long Term Test: 2020 Honda Civic Si Sedan

I first test drove the current generation of the Civic Si almost 3 years ago when it first debuted. It was a 2017 Civic Si Coupe that I was actually quite impressed with and had sort of thrown around the idea of bringing home with me. Ultimately, I decided against it, especially since the S2000 was still in great shape, and the Accord Touring was still less than a year old at the time. In 2018, I test drove the Si again, except this time in Sedan form, and back-to-back against a 2018 Accord Touring 2.0T. I was still very much impressed with the vehicle, but there were some things missing that really kept me from wanting to take one home right then and there.

Enter the 2020 Civic Si. The 10th generation Civic, now having been on the market for nearly four years, was finally due for its mid-cycle refresh. For 2020, Honda finally added some of the features that I had been wanting on the Civic Si, including LED headlights and the Honda Sensing driver assist suite. Coupled with a revised and much more aggressive looking front and rear end, new wheels (which I am admittedly not a huge fan of), and some additional tech goodies, I finally decided that if I was going to get another daily driver, this would be it. As my S2000 crossed the 93,000 mile mark, my fear of the car losing a large portion of its value at the 100,000 mark drove me to the decision to bite the bullet and get the newly updated Si. And so, on a rainy day in December of last year, I ventured out to a local Honda dealer and took home a Modern Steel Metallic Civic Si Sedan.

It's now been four months since I've had the Civic and has been my daily commuter during this time. In those four months, I believe I'm able to sum up my thoughts about this car in one sentence: Despite some minor gripes, I believe this car is worth every penny.

OK...done...end of article...

Oh, you're still here? Well then, let me give you some more details on why I think this car has been worth every penny, and those minor gripes that I have.

When it comes to vehicle content, the Civic Si probably has some of the best content in its class.
Standard LED headlights, standard driver assist features (radar cruise, lane keep assist, collision mitigating braking), standard touch screen infotainment with Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, standard heated front seats, and the list goes on. Let's not also forget that this might be the only car that has adaptive dampers for under $30,000. Of course, this does lead me back to my old complaint about Acura and why Honda continues to sell Acura vehicles with less content than their Honda counterparts.

Then come the way the car drives. A smooth, turbocharged 1.5 liter inline-4 mated to a six-speed manual with limited slip differential, along with the aforementioned adaptive dampers make this car drive incredibly well. I mean, sure, it doesn't quite handle as sharply or quickly as a certain Honda sports car that I own, but for a front wheel drive people mover, it handles extremely well. The best part is the fact that despite its handling characteristics, the Si is not uncomfortable to drive at all! Leave the car in its normal mode, and it is just about as comfortable as the 2016 Accord Touring I once previously drove. Put it into sport mode, and the car really transforms with enhanced throttle response, tighter steering, and the adaptive dampers keeping the handling tight and flat.

And what about the car's looks? Let's put it this way. One of the questions I often get asked is why I didn't sell my S2000 and just get a Type-R instead. While I think the Type-R is a cool looking car, it does feel a little juvenile considering my age. The Si offers an aggressive and sporty look without looking like I've fallen back into my rice rocket phase of the early 2000s. It looks just sporty enough that people can tell the car is different in some way without drawing a ton of attention like the Type-R does. But, there are two design elements that I'm not a huge fan of, and so begins my minor gripes about the Civic Si.

The one major design element that Honda carried over from before the mid-cycle refresh is that large, center exit exhaust tip. At first, it didn't bother me much, but the more I looked at it, the more I thought it looked extremely familiar. Then, one day, when I told a friend that I was looking at getting a new Si, his first comment was, "oh, so you're getting the Honda HDMI?" At first, I was confused, thinking he meant Honda includes an HDMI port in the car somewhere. He then showed me a picture of the rear of the car and it dawned on me. He was talking about the exhaust. After seeing the car on a daily basis for four months, I've grown accustomed to it. There is, however, one more design element that I was not a fan of. In fact, it bothered me enough that around February of this year, I decided to go aftermarket with it: the wheels. The pre-refreshed Civic Si wheels were a very good looking split five-spoke design. For whatever reason, Honda decided to go with a much busier multi-spoke design for the refresh. It's something I probably could have lived with, but I decided to go in a different direction when the wheels became available. I'll reveal what those wheels are in my next post.

Two more gripes I have about the car are related to the transmission and exhaust (again). This was something I mentioned in both of my previous reviews of the Si, and I believe it deserves to be repeated once more: the clutch pedal is way too light. It takes barely any force for me to completely depress the clutch pedal and does leave the engagement point feeling a bit on the vague side. Once I was used to it, it was fine, but coming from driving the S2000 on a regular basis, it felt downright strange at first. Lastly, we have a secondary exhaust issue. The Civic Si actually sounds pretty good. I like that it has a fairly deep rumble at idle and makes some great noise at full throttle. My gripe has to do with putting the car into sport mode. Rather than a valve of some sort that opens up in sport mode to make the exhaust louder, Honda opted to pipe in additional sound via the sound system. So while the car may sound louder inside, it sounds exactly the same from the outside. In short, it's stupid and Honda should feel bad about it.

In the four months I've had this car, I have also fallen down the rabbit hole of modifying it. What started with just the wheels ended up with me going beyond what I expected to do with the car (which was supposed to be nothing). I'll reveal what I've done with the Civic in my next post, but let's just say I think I may have inadvertently made it faster than my S2000, but just in a straight line. At some point, when we're all allowed to leave our houses again, East Brother and I will go out and test this theory, but for now, I think I have the car at a point where I want it and I'm just hoping I don't start getting the itch again. Besides, I should be working on my S2000, not my daily driver! 

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