Review and photos by
Michael Clark, CanadianDriver.com
Miami, Florida – Five can be a tough age: fun and games percentages have been steadily dropping year over year, replaced by responsibility, light chores, and the coming threat of school days. That’s the upside. Many a five-year old has had their world turned completely upside down by new and cute arrivals.
Such is the case with the five-year old Honda Civic. While a formidable sales leader, the Civic has been confronted with plenty of new arrivals that would love to acquire Honda’s sales crown in the Canadian compact segment. Of particular note are the Kia Forte and Hyundai Elantra sedans with their high level of standard equipment. Worse yet for the Civic Si Coupe is the arrival of the Kia Forte Koup SX, with such gotta-have features as Bluetooth and heated seats, plus a fairly potent mill to go with the visual thrill.
With all eyes set on the coming CR-Z hybrid, Honda sent out a friendly reminder to Canadian auto scribes this week in the trendy South Beach section of Miami, Florida. If there was a soundtrack, it would have included the Simple Minds classic, “Don’t You Forget About Me.” While you chant the “hey-hey-hey-heys,” Inside Story takes a primary look at the Civic Si Coupe, with an MSRP starting at $27,275. (Note: Honda Canada includes freight and pre-delivery inspection in their online configurator MSRPs. Prices shown do not include taxes, regional or promotional incentives. NOTE: Vehicles tested in Florida were Canadian production models.)
The Cockpit/Centre Stack
The dual pod instrument panel continues to be one of the best reads in the compact segment. Even the Si-red display is by no means overpowering. (Mazda, I’m looking in your direction.) As the day did involve track time at the Homestead International Raceway, we are pleased to report that plenty of engine limiter warnings are at the ready, in case you need them. Audio and cruise control tabs are found on the tilt/telescope three-spoke wheel. Honda did tip the hand on Bluetooth arriving in the near future. The driver information centre, below the tachometer sweep, provides dual trip meters, outside temperature, and oil life percentage. The stability control switch is housed on the dash, to the left of the driver, with the U.S./Metric toggle, odometer reset, and the instrument panel dimmer tabs.
Note the power exterior mirror toggle: on the sedan, this control pad is placed on the driver’s side window pod, which would be our preference. While we’re talking exterior mirrors, it should be noted that the Sedan units are of the breakaway style, while the Coupe versions are fixed, or the break-off style. At floor level is the uni-lever for fuel door and trunk release, with keyed lock-out. The driver’s door pod gets an auto pane for the driver’s side. The single-CD audio head unit is simple to dial in, as are the manual HVAC controls, up high and legible. As with most Honda products, exterior mirror defrost is engaged by the driver, with the rear defrost grid. The six-speed stick is a shifty treat, properly angled, with no fitment issues on the boot materials. Wipers boast adjustable intermittency.
While the front door pockets appear to have the width for water bottle swallow, there is no specific provision morphed into the injection moulding. Below the VSA switch bank is an open, cell-phone-sized cubby. Rear seat passengers get ‘cup-and-stuff’ cavities, at the front of both rear interior panels. The four-door opts for a rear fold-down centre armrest, with dual cupholders, plus oversized rear door panel cubbies, for maximum thirst-quench. The non-locking glove box is respectfully sized. The same can be said of the owner’s manual, which avoids War and Peace-thickness.
Below the centre stack is a 12-volt DC powerpoint, auxiliary audio jack, and two open cubbies, where flip-top or flexible roll-tops would be appreciated. There is a roll-top to cover the dual front cupholder. With its system of four spring cinchers per beverage, we’ve considered having the method bronzed. The centre armrest is well-padded, with simple-slide positioning. Lift the lid, and you’ll find a second 12-volt DC powerpoint, plus the USB tether for the audio system. A single storage pocket is found on the front passenger-side seatback. Flip-down rear hangers seem tough enough to hang copper pipe.
Dual vanity mirrors remain unlit on the hard-backed non-sliding visors. Looking at the indentations formed on the sides of the visors, Honda could consider incorporating card-style clips to flank the mirrors. The interior rear-view mirror is of the manual day/night variety. The tilt/slide sunroof uses a robust deflector biscuit.
The driver’s seat gets a manual height adjustment lever. Seats are Si-specific, with bolstering bent on plenty of cornering and slalom exercises. Sadly, there’s no heat treat for the Si. Brrr. Warming up the practicality for the Coupe is the easy-entry right-hand sliding front seat. As most Coupe owners know, floormats are forever being misaligned for the second row. That probably explains the retainer sticking up through this slab of carpet.
What, no trunk lid finisher? Strange, especially when the four door Si rates one. Seat backs are released via the pulls mounted on the underside of the parcel shelf. The pulls don’t send the seatbacks forward with catapult force, but they don’t fall back into Lock with the slightest of taps either, which can be even more annoying. Once collapsed, the load area is a respectable flat, with a sizable pass-through.
Removed for track exercises, the space-saver spare access needs work, with the cargo area floor. A simple cord-and hook tether could hold it aloft. Honda will change it for you, during the first three years, with no mileage limit.
The larger 2.0-litre 197-horsepower four still provides respectable access to key components. Fluid fill points are without issue, including the clutch slave cylinder reservoir. Honda rates the Si combo at 10.2 litres per 100 kilometres City, and 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres Highway. For those keeping score, the 140-horsepower 1.8-litre four in the rest of the Civic Coupe line achieves 7.4 City, and 5.4 Highway with the manual.
(28) Honda is asking the question that any manufacturer poses with a multi-year old model: is the car still relevant? The point-of-view factors need to be much broader than flavour-of-the-model-year options. If the Civic is destined to carry on into 2011 unchanged, the good news is that heated seats simply need to be made available, outside of their current sequestering in the EX-L model. Bluetooth? Take a trip over to the Acura site, where the Canuck-CSX holds the HandsFreeLink system, albeit tied to the Navi head unit.
Once you wade through the awards, sales figures, and numerous accolades earned, the Civic is still the choice for the Looking For Mr. Goodcar set. These are the buyers who grew up in family units with Honda products. Remember when folks would only buy a GM because that’s what Dad always drove? The median age of the Si customer is 40, with a high male skew. This is probably a customer who’s owned enough junk to know that a Honda and service grief don’t tend to go together. Having worked in the automotive parts world for a time, Civics tended to need only two things; timing belts at 100,000 kilometres, and sway bar links in the land of bumpy roads. Like a Toyota Corolla, the Civic is an automotive Maytag. The difference is that the Civic still knows how to have fun.
Michael Clark is a Winnipeg-based freelance automotive writer.
Inside Story is a review of interior comfort features, cabin controls, storage options, trunk space and under-hood accessibility based on a seven-day evaluation. For driving impressions, please see our Test Drives section.