Honda-tech Review: Driving the All-New 2017 Honda Civic Si
The all-new Honda Civic Si is here, and it does not disappoint.
All eyes are on the 2017 Honda Civic Si right now. Why? It’s the first Si in over 20 years to come turbocharged from the factory. Honda has embraced turbocharging, but is that a good thing?
Honda’s sporting heritage is deeply rooted in simple, lightweight cars that excel in being fun to drive. In years past, this fun-to-driveness has been paired with naturally-aspirated, responsive engines that made do with less. Usually, that “less” was displacement, with most of the brand’s memorable cars having small displacement, four cylinder engines that you could wring them right out to the red line.
Enthusiasts have been worried that the new turbocharged Honda engines would lose that personality, and freneticism that made the old cars so great. To be honest, I was also a bit worried about that, as well. My daily driver is a stock 2010 FA5 Civic Si, so I feel like I have a good benchmark as to how an Si should perform. Let’s find out if the new Si is any good.
First stop: Honda Proving Center, Cantil, California.
Cantil lies deep in the heart of the Mojave Desert. This is where Honda’s Western proving grounds, HPC, is located. Far away from prying eyes, so that the company can test it’s products in peace. It’s also hot, very hot. The Mojave is unrelenting, even in May, temperatures were over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and shade is a scarce commodity. They call it a Proving Center for a reason.
HPC is an enthusiasts’ playground, with a 7.5 mile high speed, banked oval; 5 miles of multiple configuration “winding road” courses, located next to several off-road trails and courses, naturally. However, amongst our crew, all eyes were on the road course, as 5 Si’s were lined up on the front straight.
When the 2017 Honda Civic Si hits the track, it all makes sense.
This is the stiffest Si yet, in terms of the chassis structure and the suspension, and that’s a definite merit when the road gets twisty. Body motions are very subdued, especially compared to my 8th gen, or a 9th gen. This is appreciable inside, and outside of the car. When I wasn’t driving, I was trackside, taking pictures. The reduction in roll from previous Si is very noticeable from the outside, this means the car is quite responsive to your inputs. Look at the pictures below, and you’ll see both the coupe and sedan hitting the same corner entry. Right there, both of those cars are trailbraking into the corner, so braking and steering. The left-front wheel is fully loaded up, and theoretically, the inside wheels should be light, exhibiting the most roll. Looks pretty tame to me.
Speaking of which, the electric power steering has a nice, smooth motion. It allows appreciable feedback to bleed through, especially as the outside front wheel loads up under cornering. At first, it felt like the steering ratio was slower than my FA5, I soon realized that the difference was in the heft of the steering. In Sport mode, the steering is much firmer, allowing for more precise feel and control. Despite being on regular passenger car tires, turn in is crisp, and actually takes some getting used to. The quick front end offers a sensation not totally unlike an S2000 from years prior.
The brakes are the biggest upgrade of all. Full disclosure: for the track test, these Si were fitted with Honda Performance Development (HPD) performance brake pads, since we were taking the cars out back-to-back-to-back all morning. Pad fade was obviously a non-issue, however, that’s not what I’m getting at. The massive increase in rotor size over the old Si means that they can handle a lot more heat. The front rotors are 1.3″ larger in diameter than the old car. Unsure how much thicker they are, but just eyeballing it, I’m going to guess a few millimeters thicker. You better believe that pays big dividends on track.
ALSO SEE: Honda Civic Type R Track Tested!
I actually had issues destroying rotors on track with my stock FA5 because of how undersized they were. They can only handle so much heat before completely deforming, and cracking. Out of the box, the new Si is track-ready. Throw some good pads and fluid in it, and go.
In fact, my only qualm was the tires, which is a great problem to have. Hear me out: the overall package is so competent, that it needs stickier tires to truly experience it to the max. Throw some sticky 200 treadwear street-track day tires on this thing, and it will be a champ. Usually, stock cars tend to be quite soft, so increasing tire grip serves to only further accentuate that issue. Not with the new Si, it’s level of composure means it’s begging for more tire grip to match the rest of the car’s capabilities.
Also, let the record show that at 100 degree temps, with the A/C on and people back-to-back hammering these cars, the temp gauges never so much as budged. The track day bros are going to love the new Si.