• Jul 29th 2010 at 11:57AM
  • 111
2010 Honda Civic Si HFP - Click above for high-res image gallery

There was a time was when any serious discussion of "hot hatches" – small, lightweight economy cars pumped full of go-fast parts and body modifications of dubious taste – always included the Honda Civic Si. Back in the day, the D16Z6-engined Si would routinely do battle against the Volkswagen GTI and Nissan Sentra SE-R for import tuner supremacy. Times, however, change.

These days, the battle for hot hatch supremacy starts and essentially ends with turbocharged beasties like the Mitsubishi Evolution and Subaru WRX/STI, with a dash of MazdaSpeed3 or Mini Cooper S thrown in for flavor. The Sentra SE-R is little more than a sad shell of its former self (a fact we find odd considering just how much cache Nissan has built up for the brand with its exotic-destroying Godzilla GT-R) and the Volkswagen GTI has evolved into an entry-level Audi – lots of interior and NVH refinement, but lacking the kicked-in-the-you-know-where power necessary to keep up with the all-wheel-drive Japanese kids. But what about the Civic Si? Where does it fit into the import tuner lexicon, especially when loaded up with lots of Honda Factory Performance (HFP) parts? Make the jump as we attempt to find out.

Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL

The four-door Civic is more conservatively shaped than the two-door version, a double-wedge profile that we still find intriguing late into its life-cycle. The sedan, however, is sort of the BMW 3 Series of the small C-segment: Smartly shaped and aerodynamically efficient, but now getting on a bit. Honda has tried to address some of this lacklusterness by tricking out this particular Si with lots of HFP add-ons. While these supposed aero-mods might actually enhance performance, the front splitter seems only there to scrape up against gas station driveways.

Meanwhile, the rear wing is a total show piece, as a factory Civic Si is hardly capable of speeds where this sort of downforce is warranted. Worst of all, fart-can exhausts should never, ever come from the factory and we think this is a particularly shameful way for Honda to make $40. It's not that we find the Si HFP ugly (we think the paint scheme is great), but it's sending out the wrong sort of message, the sort that Jesse's Jetta sent out in the original Fast and the Furious movie. Almost a desperate, "Me too, me too..."

Inside is the now familiar Star Trek dashboard affair that people love or hate. We're (naturally) split. On the plus side, we really like the simplified layout where the tachometer is front and center, just like it should be in a performance-oriented car – though it does make you wonder why it occupies that place of honor in the more pedestrian Civic models that make up the overwhelming majority of sales. Still, fans of VTEC will appreciate knowing exactly when cam-phasing is set to take place.

But on the demerit side, it's easy to overlook the speedometer and the fuel gauge, two readouts most folks probably use more often than a tachometer. In fact, so hidden was the bar-graph fuel meter that we nearly ran out, inadvertently running the tank down to one bar before we rolled into a gas station on fumes. Also, the speedo is digital only. We wish there were a duplicate analog gauge, because if you turn the headlights on during the daytime, the speedometer fades to near invisibility without monkeying around with the dimmer settings. Speaking of invisible, the frustrating-to-use, aftermarket-looking navigation system is exactly that. Though, if you're into the last decade's aesthetic, we suppose it's a neat time capsule piece.

The single best part of the Si's interior is its six-speed shifter. More specifically, its silken, precise action. The shift knob itself is a HFP part, wrapped in cow and a little small for our taste. Also, the leather (or is that leather-ette?) shroud wasn't attached in our tester, and as far as we can tell, it isn't supposed to be attached. The resulting free-floating piece of material therefore feels cheap and annoying. But Honda could've covered the shifter in cactus and we really wouldn't have cared – the movement is that good. Say whatever you want about Honda's recent U.S. efforts, the one thing that's simply undeniable is how consistently wonderful their manual transmissions feel. Mazda and Porsche come close, but at the end of the day, Hondas just swap gears better than anyone else. And the clutch action is just as good.

We also liked the leather-wrapped HFP steering wheel, and in terms of the HFP seats, we were split. The material was properly racy and the bolstering good – especially the upper back-bolsters – but the seats were a little too squishy (to one of us) for true pocket rocket duty.

After giving our blue four-door Si tester the once over, and especially after looking at the headline-font-sized "VTEC/DOHC" graphics on the rear doors, a very wise lady said, "My initial reaction to lettering on the side of a car is that it's stuffing its pants." A keen observation, perhaps, especially when you look at the Civic Si's engine through 2010-eyes. Rated at 197 horsepower and 139 pound-feet of torque, the mill is a torqueless wonder. Consider the Subaru WRX for a moment, and never mind about its 265 horsepower. Even with a plastic intake manifold, the Rexer managers to lay 244 pound-feet of torque down to all four wheels. This Civic's got barely half that going to just the fronts. The good news? You need torque to have torque-steer.

There is, however, plenty of plain old steer. Honda has done a commendable job of equipping its hottest Civic with a smart suspension, one that's able to take what little power there is and make the most of it. Additionally, the age old question of "Fast car slow or slow car fast," receives a pretty good answer from the Civic Si. Compared to its competition, at least, you can essentially drive the thing flat-out at almost all times. Not only will it take you longer to get into extra-legal speeds, but when you are cooking along, you're in total control of the kitchen.

But again, cooking alone takes some effort, as just getting up to 45 mph from a standstill takes all the cam-phasing the little VTEC can muster. That said, the little motor spinning off into the stratosphere sounds wonderful. We can't tell you how many times we were startled to finagle a perfect launch, roughly slam our way through the gears through fourth only to look down in amazement that we hadn't yet cracked 50 mph. Frankly, it's sort of an odd sensation.

But back to the handling, where we need to stress one particular point. In some ways the handling is very good, meaning that when you head straight out of the box and onto your favorite road, the Civic Si will delight you. Turn-in is sharp, the steering is fairly communicative and the damping is crisp with a near-perfect amount of rebound across uneven stuff. But there's a catch: Enthusiasts out there who will appreciate the sort of sharp reflexes offered up by the Si are likely to be the exact people that can't get over the power deficit. They'll demand more power. And while we're certain the aftermarket is brimming with solutions (hi Mugen!), a large power infusion would probably upset the Civic's balance. Evil, steering wheel-ripping torque steer would doubtlessly be an issue, and any more weight over the front wheels is not what the performance doctor ordered. The 2010 Civic Si is and will remain a slow car, which is probably not what its target customer wants.

At the end of the day, the base $22,255 Civic Si is a good driver's car. But it's severely down on power to its competition and all the HFP parts don't help the equation – especially at an as-tested price of $25,165. For that kind of money, you could take your pick from an entire fleet of more capable pocket rockets. The WRX starts at $24,995, and with options and destination will cost you more than the Honda, but it's so much more car. More to the point, perhaps, a Mini Cooper S starts at $23,000 and offers as much handling with more grunt (due to its lower weight, not power).

Essentially, Honda is going after the kind of customer that likes the idea of customized and tuned cars, but one who doesn't feel like doing any work. Or market research. We're guessing there's not too many of them, which is why you don't see a Civic Si all that often, especially one loaded with HFP parts like our tester. Maybe in the next generation. Or maybe next time, Honda will finally give us Yanks the opportunity to sample the buffer Civic Type-R, the Honda us fast-driving types actually crave. Until then, with the retirement of the S2000 and the perpetual cancellation of any sort of NSX-successor, the Civic Si remains Honda's sole performance product. Not only don't we think it's good enough, we doubt Soichiro Honda, the company's founder, would either.

Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      WOW...after years of reading autoblog I can honestly say this is the first time I have felt compelled to write a comment because of such an inept review.

      First off "...so hidden was the bar-graph fuel meter that we nearly ran out, inadvertently running the tank down to one bar before we rolled into a gas station on fumes." What? seriously?!?!? The gauge is huge (1 of only 4 gauges) and the bright orange idiot light comes on when there are only 2 bars left. I can only assume you must be one of those inattentive drivers that putts along in the passing lane with your blinker on for miles if you failed to notice the gas gauge or the idiot light.

      Secondly "We can't tell you how many times we were startled to finagle a perfect launch, roughly slam our way through the gears through fourth only to look down in amazement that we hadn't yet cracked 50 mph." This statement is either a very poor guess by you (really dumb to guess on a website for enthusiasts) or you have no idea how to drive a car with a manual transmission. I tested my Si today and hit 55MPH in 3rd gear at only 5200 RPM (hardly "roughly slamming the gears").

      At least your leaving autoblog soon.....
      • 5 Years Ago
      @ BK: The point miketim1 is trying to make is the fact that Toyota has now made a shift into the right direction of offering more options for performance-type vehicles. Keep in mind that the new president of ToMoCo is a race-car enthusiast himself with countless hours of time at the track. The Lexus F series line is really new and it will take some more time to catch up to the likes of BMW's M series or Mercedes AMG line, but those come with a heftier price tag along with countless electronic issues. I've personally driven an IS-F for a good period of time and although 416 hp may not seem to be a lot of power for you, but its an overall great vehicle, feels good, great looking interior cabin, etc. Toyota will also bring back the spirit of the AE86 with the FT-86. There's no denying that Honda has most definitely switched their role in performance type cars.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I've said it before and I'll say it again: VTEC has outlived its usefulness. Sure, it makes decent power high in the rev range, but most people aren't willing to run the engine that hard.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Uh, Mike.

        Power per liter, who builds the more efficient vtec-ish engines? Hint: it's not the brands that you say are better. More power doesn't mean they do it better when the engines are nearly twice as large.

        No kidding they'll make more power...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Honda: turbo + direct injection.

        Irony of ironies is that the Germans do 'VTEC' [camshaft profile switching] better than Honda does.
        Look at the 3.8 in the Porsche 911, with 'power kit' (souped up high lift profiles) nets you 400hp.
        Look at Audi with their AVLS, that has extended the life of their small bore/bore center engines. The new A8 has 372hp, 328ft-lbs from 4.163 liters.
        and the 'scavenging' turbo 2.0 in the A4. and 270hp in the 3.2 V6
        Jaguar too, (in the new 5.0 V8)
        Volvo too, (in their 3.2 inline 6)
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think this article is a little harsh on the current Civic Si's. Honda's engines have never been torque monsters, so that number shouldn't suprise you. The horsepower of this Si is better than any previous year. Also, have we forgot how horrible the previous gen "euro" hatchback si was compared to the current Si? This model was a huge upgrade to previous year models. Of course all the HFP parts suck...factory accessories are always a waste of money.
      This car is still quite impressive and fun to drive given its 22,500 starting price. Of course it doesn't compare to the torque and power of the GTI's or WRX's or Mazda's. But, remember, its a Honda, and its likely the most reliable thing on the road. I'm sorry, but I have friends with VW's who have to bring in their cars for repairs multiple times a year. Subaru's are no better, if not worse. I've owned hondas for years now (3 different new vehicles) and I've never had anything go wrong with any of them outside of normal wear and tear.

      For that kind of reliability, pretty good gas mileage, and a very fun handling, car you can't beat it for that price. And the 197 hp is still a lot of fun and sounds/feels awesome when you feel like letting it rev.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I found myself at a loss of words, a searing sense of disbelief as I read through this review. I can't seem to understand what prompted you to stop short of flaming the car especially since it had not changed much in the years after it was introduced (other than minor design items).

      Your review of the 2008 Si Sedan (http://www.autoblog.com/2008/03/26/in-the-autoblog-garage-2008-honda-civic-si-sedan/) nailed it for me and I found myself purchasing the car and have not regretted my decision thus far. But I digress.

      Perspectives change as time elapses and I can understand that you may have grown disillusioned with the Si, but that in no way means that you do such a shoddy job of a review. It appears Honda bashing is in vogue and while some of it may be deserved I find that your review is unfair to the Si.

      Where I was really appalled was to see the author describe stock parts on the Si as HFP. The seats are/were and have always been alacantara with suede inserts. The shift knob which has been the same since day one is the same one from the AP2 S2000 (or similar to it). The spolier on the rear (which in the esteemed reviewers opinion offers no functionality) comes fittted onto to sedan and is not a HFP part. The steering wheel, I mean come on - can it be more obvious that Jonny Lieberman has never ever cast a glance at an Si since they came out in 2005. He appears to have done a hashed job of this review to fulfill his commitments before heading out to Motor Trend. God bless that magazine.

      May I suggest that Jonny boy read Damon Lavrinc's awesome and accurate review from 2008 and correct his post. Everything in Lavrinc's review is true and has been my experience with the car, including brake fade on track. AutoBlog has done some great work and I find that this review totally takes away from what is currently the only performance Honda one can buy.

      oh! and lest he erred, the Si HFP is not a trim offered by Honda like the limited edition Mugen Si. This car is a 2010 Si sedan with HFP parts. Jonny Lieberman has left AutoBlog, if you should ask me, he should have been fired for shoddy work.

      The battle lines seem to be drawn over at 8thCivic and AutoBlog must be mindful about how they go about reviewing cars in the future. This is no different than the WSJ review of the Porsche Boxster Spyder.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You said everything I said... I agree wholeheartedly. I think JL just didnt want to do much, his reviews are not normally so biased, well, at least not without an explanation. He didnt like the car... fine, whatever, but to blatantly miss so many facts really irks me.

        BTW, your Si doesnt have alcantara or suede anything, its imitation.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "In fact, so hidden was the bar-graph fuel meter"

      Sorry, but WHAT? There are exactly 4 gauges you can see on the displays:
      large tachometer
      smaller but still large odometer above it
      engine temp to the left and fuel gauge to the right of the odometer

      How is that hidden? Perhaps you can't see it that well in full-blown sunlight, but it's not hidden! Shame!
      • 5 Years Ago
      the absolute most useless nonfactual garbage "review" ive ever read.

      does autoblog have editors?
      this reads as if it were written by some "troll" teenager on a forum. and this "journalist" just got a job at motor trend, which by the way, is the joke of the top US auto mags-

      zero respect for the reviews on this blog now.

      autoblog- 'the onion' of automotive car reviewing
      • 5 Years Ago
      I used to love Honda, had 4 Hondas in total. Now I lean more towards Toyota, it has become a way more functional car for me. It is on my top 10 best car list http://www.25bestnewcars.com/10-best-cars/
      • 5 Years Ago
      What a boring car/brand.

        • 5 Years Ago
        what a meaningful comment
      • 5 Years Ago
      My buddy has an 07 Si and I must say it alot more fun than you would think. That little V-Tech motor is so much fun to wind out to 8,0000 rpm. Sounds like a mini ferrari at redline.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's VTEC, not V-Tech. It's an acronym. Also, it doesn't rev to 80000. And no, it doesn't sound like a mini Ferrari. You should find out what a real Ferrari sounds like some time.
      • 5 Years Ago
      So this is Jonny's farewell review at Autoblog? He should have done better.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Honda is just too depressing nowadays. It's like an old pet that just won't die but still wants to play fetch with you. You completely love it, but at the same time you just want it to go, to end the suffering. That one last trick Honda has is, as great as it is, now just a sad reminded of the good ol days. Honda, do us all a favor and just drop the Si and become the early 2000s Toyota you want to be. Clearly, unless some really drastic changes are made, the good days are gone.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "It's like an old pet that just won't die but still wants to play fetch with you"

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