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Click above for a high-res gallery of the Honda Civic Si sedan.

We've avoided glossy-eyed retrospectives of 2007, but if you were in the market for a practical, affordable and entertaining ride in the last year, there were a handful of vehicles to be had for under $25 large. The Mazdaspeed3, R56 MINI Cooper S and VW GTI have set the fun-to-drive quotient relatively high, but one vehicle that's been left out of the Autoblog Garage is the Honda Civic Si. While the coupe has garnered its fair share of praise, we understand that your average Joe and Jane have people and stuff to schlep; thankfully, so does Honda. So with little fanfare last year, it released the Civic Si Sedan to the masses and in the process created yet another entertaining steer for those of us unable or unwilling to break the $30,000 ceiling.

All photos Copyright ©2008 Damon Lavrinc / Weblogs, Inc.

As you're probably already aware, the sedan version gets the same 2.0-liter, iVTEC-equipped inline-four found in the Si coupe, mated to Honda's snickety-snicktastic six-speed manual. All 197 horses are sent to the front wheels through a limited slip differential, but are only available in the 7,800 rpm stratosphere. Torque is characteristically Honda, meaning it's minimal and sometimes laughable, with only 139 lb.-ft. of the stuff coming in at an unreasonably high 6,100 rpm. While winding the Si out to its 8,200 rpm fuel cutoff is tons of fun, we can understand that it isn't for everyone.

The exterior is understated boy-racer chic, like some of its competitors. A couple of Si badges adorn the grille and trunk lid, along with a pair of iVTEC stickers affixed to the rear doors. The 17x7-inch wheels wrapped in optional fair weather-friendly Michelin Pilot Exalto PE2 rubber are carried over from the coupe, while a low-key spoiler is perched out back. It's all very restrained for a vehicle that takes the cheese-wedge aesthetic to an unheard of level. And say what you will about the comically raked windshield, it apes the Countach in all the right ways, except for the acres of dash left in its wake.

And what a dash it is. Your opinion about the Civic's interior is strictly a matter of taste; you either like Battlestar Galactica or you don't. The idea behind the two-tiered instrument cluster is sound from a driving standpoint, but its function may as well be to break up the table tennis size expanse of soft touch plastic. On the high side of things, the second bezel houses a digital speedo flanked by two gauges to keep tabs on the fuel level and engine temp. If you aren't able to hear the engine's crescendo on its approach to redline (hint: keep the window down), a small red light will begin to blink on the second tier letting you know when the high-revving party is about to end. It's a bit hard to see in your peripheral vision, but a quick dip down to the central mounted tach can give you all the necessary information in standard, circular fashion.

If you can make your way past the massive amount of material between your hands and the windscreen (seriously, try), you'll find that Honda's interior engineers know how to keep things simple. HVAC controls are clearly read and a pleasure to push. The optional sat-nav ("Navi" in Honda parlance) is easy to use and even easier on the eyes. Set the display to "Auto" and all but the most inexplicable ambient lighting will cause the screen to change to suit the surroundings. The 350-watt, seven-speaker setup provides all the aural pleasures one could want when not concentrating on the four-pot's wail through the sports exhaust. Plus, the auxiliary input jack comes in handy when making a trek through an FM-barren wasteland.

However, it's all simply icing on top of a tasty driver's treat. The stuff that matters -- the seats, steering wheel and shifter – are as perfect as it gets in an economy-car-turned-corner-carver. The thrones in particular are things of beauty. Serious bolstering and grippy cloth (black with contrasting red stitching) assures that you won't need Mr. T's forearms to keep you stuck in the seat while tackling the bends. The steering wheel is a perfect diameter, the pedals are placed for easy heel-and-toe and the suspension is Goldilocks-approved – not too hard, not too soft.

Let out on the clutch and although pedal travel is longer than expected, the friction point is easy to assess. First gear slots into its gate with ease and it's obvious why lazy reviewers resort to the tired cliché of unnecessarily swapping cogs. Honda's shifters are simply unmatched in this segment, so we too found ourselves rev-matching and downshifting just to enjoy the smooth action and the perfectly weighted shift knob.

After performing our required jaunt on the freeway to assess the Si's econo-whip credentials (it passed), we pulled off onto one of our favorite back roads to get a feel for what really mattered. The asphalt ribbon began with a long, high-speed right-hander that opened up onto a half-mile straight begging to hear the four-banger's siren song. With the long pedal floored in third gear, the revs climbed high enough to piss off the angels before we grabbed fourth and fell right back into the variable valve timing-enhanced powerband. At high speeds the Si is completely composed and rarely flummoxed by breaks in the asphalt or the occasional cattle guard. By the time we reached the first tight left hand bend, we had slowed down enough to slot the stalk into second and ride the VTEC wave into the next straight expanse. The LSD does it's best to shuffle power to the wheel that needs it, but trace amounts of understeer reared its ugly head when coming out of the corner too hot. Otherwise, the front-end tracks predictably around bends, with the rears following suit with little drama. While the Si's competence through the twisties matched our expectations, we did experience an unhealthy amount of brake fade after only a few miles of fitful flogging. While it's doubtful that many Si sedans are going to make it to the track for regular lapping sessions, anyone that plans to do so would be advised to swap out the stock pads and upgrade the brake fluid before performing an all-out assault.

Just like the rest of the Si variants we've sampled over the last two decades, this newest iteration splits the difference between daily driver and high-strung handful, and for the money, you could do a lot worse. The only thing that could stop you from ponying up the $24 large (as our tester was equipped) for the Si would be the similarly priced Mazdaspeed3. But for those who prefer high revving thrills over turbocharged torque, the Si sedan fits the bill, plus a couple of passengers and a full load of groceries.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      I don't know about the rest of the country, but in my area the dealership will laugh in your face and tell you to get lost if you won't pay the $2500 or more markup on a MS3. They know someone will happily pay way more than MSRP for a MS3, the whole more money than brains thing. Could just be my area, but most limited production cars are like this. It doesn't cost the dealership a dime to just let the car sit and wait for someone to pay more than MSRP, epsecially a dealership with enough volume to get MazdaSpeed vehicles in the first place.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Any markup that is greater than the airfare to another dealer or shipment from the other dealer, willing to discount is just stupid to be paid by anyone.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Cheap man's M3?
        • 7 Years Ago
        ^^^I assume you own this car, correct? At the very least, you HAVE driven it, right? Too many people scream for more power, yet can't properly drive what they already have. But I'm sure that isn't you...
        • 7 Years Ago
        Did you mean MS3?
        • 7 Years Ago
        The M3 isn't an econocar. The Civic SI isn't a performance car. Pretty much the weakest offering in its class.

        I will agree with the article, that engine is comically gutless. Nothing's changed, SI still stands for Seriously Inadequate...

        But heck, the Civic is the Prius of non-hybrids, Whatdya expect???
          • 7 Years Ago
          "the Civic is the Prius of non-hybrids"

          What does that even mean?
        • 7 Years Ago
        I've test-driven (fairly extensively, I might add) a 2008 Civic EX (the step below the Si - the only Si the dealership I was at had was a Sedan, and I'm 6'4), and I honestly wasn't impressed by much of anything, except perhaps the gas mileage. I found nothing terribly super-sporty in the EX when compared to my Cobalt LT, the Cobalt is quicker (a good deal more torque), and they're both full of hard plastic - just what you'd expect from a Compact car in the $15-20,000 range.

        The Civic looks like a spaceship - not a good thing in my opinion, and maybe it's my size, but the steering wheel was retardedly small. Perhaps if I were 5'7, it would work out better.

        The digital speedometer is not only awkwardly out of place, given MOST vehicles use a gauge, but the positioning of it is also just retarded.

        About the only thing terribly good, besides the aformentioned fuel economy, about the Civic was the build quality on the stereo. I've driven Pontiac G6s and Ford Fusions with worse-feeling HVAC and stereo buttons, and Scion (a company I feel more directly competes, in this segment, with Honda than it's parent company) is just ridiculous.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I don't mind the newest civic, but I'll stick with cb7's myself...

      I'd like to see the Audi A3 mentioned in the comparison of cars in the article, though. I've always liked it from what I can tell.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I can't recommend the Civic Si to anyone right now, especially with the 3rd gear grind issues along with the electronic throttle that Honda just can't seem to get right. Granted now every Si is going to have these issues, but it seems to be widespread enough to cause owners to complain in virtually every forum I've visited.
        • 7 Years Ago
        the 3rd gear issue has been fixed with the new Honda MTF formula. if anyone has issues with 3rd, they can take it to their dealer and have them put the new MTF formula in it and BRAVO it's fixed. that being said, my Si has no problems with the transmission at all, but it is an 08MY that I just bought a few weeks ago.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Civic is one of the best cars out there, comfort, ride, price, fuel economy (non Si Models) are all great.
        • 7 Years Ago

        the big difference is when you go to trade that civic in you will probably have spent way less on maintenance and get way more for your dollar.

        Sorry, looked at the Cobat and Focus - laughable, won't touch a VW after listening to people at work with them, and I wasn't a fan of the Yaris, Corolla, or Matrix styling all that much they were nice cars.

        So yeah, I own an 07 Civic Ex coupe. Previous vehicles were a 05 Murano, 05 G35 coupe, and even a Miata. go figure, I like cars but have to realize that expensive cars don't mean jack.

        Friends own two, 06 and 08 - both sedans. Co-worker bought her 07 lx coupe ten days before me - and is the primary reason I even bothered looking at them. I hadn't considered buying a Honda after remembering how wind noisy my sisters 95 accord was....

        Love the speedometer placement... once you drive it awhile you just can't believe no one else does that. Especially the two gauges they chose to place with it.

        Oh, 36 miles per gallon on my 26 mile (one way commute) which is a mix of 35,45, and 55 limited roads. (no interstate) which hands down beats my murano (20) and the G35 (22). Only thing I miss from the G were the power slides... but service on the G was excessive and I came to realize plunking down 1K for tires every 10k miles was stupid.
        • 7 Years Ago
        "Civic is one of the best cars out there, comfort, ride, price, fuel economy (non Si Models) are all great."

        Nothing about the Civic, as a whole, has made it stand out in terms of comfort or ride (all vehicles in this segment are wholely the same in those two regards, due to cost constraints), and fuel economy is good (although the Toyota Corolla, and even Ford Focus, are comparable).

        I suppose if you only test drive a new Civic, while trading in, say, a 1996 Escort or something, then yeah I can see how you'd be so awed. But if you honestly go and test-drive a Civic, Corolla, Cobalt/G5, Focus, Sentra, Rabbit, etc then I fail to see how you'd be THAT amazed by this vehicle.

        The Si is a different story, I imagine, however so is the Cobalt SS, Sentra S-ER Spec-V, etc.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Kudos to Honda for bringing it over the Si as a sedan as well this time around. I particularly like the spacey styling, but the interior is a bit of a mixed bag. The Civic of reminds me of the fourth generation Prelude in its dare to be different design.

      After driving a 94 Integra GS-R for many years, the high strung VTEC engines are definitely for those who like to shift and like to rev.

      Personally, I'd rather buy the MS3 for its overall package over the Si.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I know people are going to trash this car for having no torque, but they are fun cars. I loved my acura integra in highschool, it was such a fun car because you could beat up on it and not worry about breaking anything expensive. It wasn't the fastest car but it was truly fun on twisty back roads. Every car has it's selling point.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Styling aside, the Civic Si stays true to the standards set by cars like the old Integra Type R (arguably the best handling front driver ever produced.) It's not quite ITR, but it's close. Very few people do manual transmissions better than Honda: perfectly spaced gates, and well weighted firm, positive throws. I know a lot of people cite the lack of torque as one of their biggest gripes but those who love high rpm horsepower will adore the K series motor. Plus, keep it off the big cams and the fuel economy is very impressive. This dual personality is actually a plus for those who want a fun, mild mannered street car that'll exhibit one helluva mean streak when pushed hard.
        • 7 Years Ago

        lx you are talkin about? because no way in hell SI gets that kinda mileage. i get about 23.5mpg doing 50/50

      • 7 Years Ago
      The dash is one of the best parts! You can glue Army Men to it and recreate the Battle of the Bulge!
      • 7 Years Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      I love Hondas, and I would really like to get a new Si. My problem is how the car feels when I get in behind the wheel. It feels like I am sitting in a hole, and I cannot see any aspect of the front of the car. The view out of the windshield is really disturbing to me. My current car is a 2001 Acura Integra GS-R, so that is the perspective I am bringing to the situation. Anyone else experiencing a similar reaction when sitting in a new Civic?
        • 7 Years Ago
        Cramped was more like it for me.

        And the engine was buzzy...I don't want to feel like I'm driving a chainsaw ALL the time.
      • 7 Years Ago
      typical of hondas, at least in 4 cyl, is the lack of torque.

      but this is not a bad thing. typically a 4 cyl car has much more aggressive gearing AND a higher redline. sure you may have to wind it out, but you will get a mechanical advatage of larger torque multiplication.

      where as you might have a set of gears like 2.7 (1st) and a diff of 3.55, a hond amay have a 1st gear like 4.2 with a 4.7 diff.
      secondly the lighter weight usually compensates for other deficiencies.

      does this make the best sports car? no. but with vtec (and similar processes) it allows an engine to be both a high output race engine AND a commuter. since you have to rev so high for the big lobes, you really don't use it unless you really want to.

      it's a good balance, not everyone needs 400/400, and turbos altho mighty, use mighty amounts of fuel (explains my 18mpg ms3)
        • 7 Years Ago
        The lack of torque is GOOD in cars like minivans. No one wants a jerky, jack-rabbit start off the line while kids are drinking from their sippy-cups.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Wow, only 18mpg? How do you drive? I get 22-24 in my MS3 and I still have lots of fun.
        • 7 Years Ago
        "allows an engine to be both a high output race engine AND a commuter"

        Did you just refer to an engine that makes 197 horsepower at 7800 rpm and 139 lb.-ft. of torque at 6100 rpm as being a HIGH OUTPUT RACE ENGINE?

        What in the hell is wrong with you?
        • 7 Years Ago
        Gearing can make up for a weak bottom end from a performance standpoint.

        But from a NVH standpoint, needing to boil the engine to 6k to get passing or merging power out of it is exactly the opposite of what you want for relaxed commuter duty.

        You can get away with this to a degree if the engine is smooth enough. Econocar four bangers aren't.

        • 7 Years Ago
        I dunno, I drove Hondas for a long time, and the lack of torque is maddening. Unfortunately, the power band is so narrow that it's difficult to keep it in the usable range.

        Blipping the throttle through a corner is one thing, but blipping to something north of 6000rpm, then being able to use that for another ~2k before a shift is phenomenally tough. If you're good enough to do that, chances are you're not in a Civic Si anyhow.

        IMHO, for small engines... twin-scroll turbo is your best bet; day to day or at the track. The R56 Cooper S, for instance, has something like 80% of it's torque available from 1500rpm to max hp (sorry if that's not exact, just pulling it ooma). And if you keep your foot out of it, it can realistically get much better mileage than the EPA estimate (40mpg freeway isn't unheard of).
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