Back in 2006 the conservative Civic was relaunched as a futuristic-looking hatch. But the past four years have helped mellow the sci-fi looks, so to jazz things up Honda has launched an Si-spec Civic.
Essentially the Si kit is just a trim level – there are no chassis tweaks, and the kit is available with all the current engine and transmission options. And it’s the same car that Mark Walton recently used to blat across France as he raced HMS Albion's time back from Santander using nothing but Honda-powered vehicles.
It’s hard to believe that the current-gen Honda Civic looks so normal on UK roads now...
Indeed, and even with the Si trim (17-inch graphite-coloured alloys, colour-coded bumpers, front foglamps, a Type R-style mesh grille, plus dark chrome door handles and a fuel filler cap) the Civic continues to look relatively innocuous. Still, the sharp creases, wedge shape, hidden rear door handles and split-rear screen make sure you'll still stand out among a sea of much more mundane Golfs and Focuses.
Inside the Civic cabin still feels quite edgy, with a driver-focused dash design that clusters all the controls around the steering wheel, and effectively cuts off the passenger. What Honda hasn't changed is the OAP-appealing practicality. The Civic’s fuel tank is located under the floor just behind the front seats, and together with the torsion beam rear axle (a step backwards from the old car’s independent rear), it means a big boot. You'll stuff in 485 litres of clobber – 100 up on the Focus – and the seats fold flat with absolute ease. And there’s even lots of space under the rear seats themselves.
You sit too high, but everything is neatly clustered around the driver, and once you learn where to look it becomes second nature to have the air-con controls within such easy reach. Si spec brings half-leather seats and a USB port, to add to the SE’s electric windows, climate control, multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheels and aluminium pedals, but the plastics can’t match the Golf's, and you don’t get the same sense of heft and solidity from the doors as you would in Germany’s finest.
How does the new Honda Civic Si drive?
The plus points first. The steering is sharp and the front-end is pretty pointy, the gearshift is slick and pedals share the shame great positioning as the Type R. And it was actually great fun to thrash around on our favourite local roads – it feels alert and light on its feet.
Unfortunately the ride quality is only middling, feedback from the wheel is non-existent, and the 1.8-litre petrol engine (which is silent at idle) is loud and rather unrefined further up the rev range. And it’s not that fast either. We’d stick with the 2.2 diesel, or opt for the full-blooded Type R if you really want petrol power and have the funds.
There's a lot to really like about the latest Honda Civic in Si spec, especially when you chuck it around and discover it's a decent drive. It's remarkably roomy, too, and that oddball shape masks a surprisingly spacious family hatch.
But with the Mk6 VW Golf as good as ever, and a new Ford Focus just around the corner, the Honda Civic is starting to feel old and outpaced in some areas, and the Si kit doesn't do anything to change that.