2022 Honda Civic Si First Drive Review: Still the Cheap Fun Champ

The Si has always been the livable, fun middle ground of the Civic lineup. The all-new 2022 model effortlessly maintains that reputation.

byKristen Lee| PUBLISHED Nov 30, 2021 9:00 AM
2022 Honda Civic Si First Drive Review: Still the Cheap Fun Champ
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With the arrival of the new Honda Civic, the next and most obvious enthusiast demand is for the 2022 Honda Civic Si. Compact economy cars are always good—but what about sporty compact economy cars? Since 1986, the Civic Si has been the last word in the segment. Buyers and fans alike will be delighted to hear that the current one still delivers.

All-new for 2022, the Civic Si boasts a bunch of performance features carried over from the outgoing Honda Civic Type R. It also wears the arguably much more sane design language of the 11th-gen model, probably to the relief of many. In terms of sheer bang for your fun buck, it doesn't get much better than this.

2022 Honda Civic Si Specs

  • Base price (as tested): $27,300 ($28,910)
  • Powertrain: 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder | 6-speed manual | front-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 200 @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque: 192 lb-ft @ 1,800 to 5,000 rpm
  • Curb weight: 2,952 pounds
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • Cargo volume: 14.4 cubic feet
  • EPA fuel economy: 27 mpg city | 37 highway | 31 combined
  • Quick take: For a reasonable amount of money, you can find yourself in a handsome, athletic, and properly sporty compact economy car that returns great fuel mileage. Just needs a bit more rubber.
  • Score: 8/10 

The Drive's infallible editor-in-chief Kyle Cheromcha did a spectacular job running down what's new on the 11th-gen Civic that this Si is based on, so think of this as the medium-rare sporty Civic on our way to the raw Type R, which you'll see for the 2023 model year. Powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, the new Si actually loses five horsepower over the outgoing Si to produce a claimed 200 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. Worrying about this, though, is like draining that last bit of spitty, room-temperature beer at the bottom of your pint: You already got a full glass so don't trouble yourself over the dregs. 

There's now a lighter flywheel, bigger brakes, and the rev-matching system out of the outgoing Type R—an Si first. The shifter throws have been shortened by 10 percent and the overall body and suspension stiffness and rigidity have been increased. Further Type R hardware includes front and rear compliance bushings and upper and lower rear B-arms. What distinguishes the Si from its non-Si brethren is its Si badge (obviously), a blacked-out honeycomb grille, black mirrors, 18-inch wheels, a rear spoiler, and silver dual exhaust tips. Offered exclusive with a manual, the interior comes with Si sport seats finished in red cloth, red contrast stitching, and red accents on the dash. A Bose sound system also comes as standard.

Honda pulled the A-pillars back slightly on the newest Civic for improved visibility so the Si benefits from that decision, too. Peering out of it on the impossibly twisty mountain roads of Southern California, I can confidently say its forward view is nearly unmatched by any modern production car. The pillars themselves are also skinny and you can scoot your seat up high enough to look down over the car's hood. 

Despite being an EPAS system, the Si's steering is very nicely weighted, even in normal mode. Driving it around town and in light traffic felt much less mundane than in other cars, and it was decent on the fun roads, too. Putting it in sport mode makes a world of difference, though. The steering wheel's resistance becomes noticeably heavier, inspiring more confidence to nose the car into and out of corners more brazenly. The chassis, paired with the encouraging steering and all the suspension goodies, is—in a word—stellar. Athletic and supple, it works beautifully with you and shines brightest on serpentine pavement. In cambered turns and down rapidly changing elevation hairpins, the car sweeps its weight into its outermost corners, but there's very little lean. You feel the centrifugal forces more so in your own body.

The clutch pedal-feel is on the lighter side but takes no time at all to get used to. Likewise, the engine is peppy at low speeds and feels appropriately powered to match the sub-3,000 pound curb weight. The real star of the show is the short-throw shifter, however. Leather-wrapped and topped with red lettering à la the Civic Type R, the lever slides into the gates with a satisfying heft. It takes effort, and no amount of toggling between driving modes changes that. 

There's no rubbery-feeling anything waiting for you at the end of those gates to bounce off of, either, like there is in the new BMW M3. The shifter thunks heavily into place and the sensation echoes pleasingly in your hand. It makes you want to shift just for shifting's sake. Combined with the weighty steering, the new Si's overall impression is that it is a car of substance. With how little power it has and with how little it weighs, it could very easily have gotten away with returning lighter feedback. But no; its engineers demand that we put in more effort in order to interact with it. The result is a car that dares you to chuck it around.

There were only two immediate downsides I picked up on. First, the engine sounds a bit droney under heavy acceleration. Second, the Si is slightly under-tired. The test car came with the optional summer tires (235/40 R18s) but I felt like I could have used a little more grip while carrying speed in a tight corner. But this is something that's easily remedied and also, it makes sense: We do have to make room for the upcoming Type R, after all.

The price is still relatively right, as the 2022 Civic Si starts at $27,300 when you add in destination charges. Like any good hotted-up compact economy car, it doesn't come with a massive list of options. The test car Honda loaned me just had the optional Blazing Orange exterior paint for $395 and summer tires. Total vehicle price came to $28,910. Perhaps only slightly incongruently, it can count the Hyundai Veloster N, Volkswagen Golf GTI, and Subaru WRX among its competitors, but keep in mind that the Si is the only one you can get that's priced below $30,000. Those competitors head off more directly against the Type R anyway, so in this sense, the Si occupies its own category. 

It's not often that a car can blend fun with casual and spirited driving, but it's where the Si's power lies. We don't yet know what the new Type R will bring, but the Si has always existed comfortably as the Civic middle child, combining sportiness with livability in a package that doesn't need to shout about itself with a giant wing. I didn't drive the new Si for long enough to really get a grasp on its real-world gas mileage, but if its window sticker is to be believed, it'll return 27 mpg in the city, 37 mpg on the highway, and 31 mpg combined. Not a bad deal at all for a five-person sedan that loves spirited, twisting roads. The cloth seats felt quality to the touch—indicating that you can have a nice, non-leather interior—and when linked with Honda's reputation for reliability, the Si is one of the more guilt-free ICE sports sedans you can buy.

If the Honda Civic is the king of compacts, then the 2022 Honda Civic Si still reigns supreme as its happy, agile sibling. For less than $30,000, you can get an infinitely tossable grin machine that comes only with a manual transmission. Sure, winning drag races is probably not in your future, but that's not what the Si is about. Whether or not you live near excellent driving roads, the new Si makes everyday driving an event. Even in its most normal modes, it's still compelling and engaging. That's largely owed to the very excellent shift-action and a chassis and suspension setup that punch way above their weight. Here, the baseline for fun is already so, so high. 

You really don't need much more than that.

Got a tip? Hit me up at kristen@thedrive.com.