2022 Honda Civic Si Review: The Affordable Stealth Fighter

You want to know a secret? The new Honda Civic Si is the stealthiest good time you can have on four wheels.

byMar 10, 2022 2:37 PM
2022 Honda Civic Si Review: The Affordable Stealth Fighter
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The 2022 Honda Civic Si is one of the few affordable sport compacts still around and kicking from the segment's heyday in the 1980s and 1990s. As a younger car enthusiast, I didn't understand why this spruced-up economy car somehow outlived its more bombastic rivals, like the Mitsubishi Eclipse and the Mazdaspeed 3. What did some Honda Civic have that they didn't? What about the Civic Si, of all things, excited people enough to buy one, and thus justify it sticking around for what'll soon be four decades of existence?

Exactly what became obvious when I drove the previous generation of Civic Si, a bargain-basement sport sedan so good we named it to our Very Best Cars list at the end of last year. I'm happy to say all of that magic carried forward to the all-new 2022 model, with which I spent a week. As always, the Civic Si combines everything good about the world-class economy car that is the Civic with the most important elements of any top-notch driver's car. It's comfortable, economical, and practical, but has terrific steering, a slick six-speed manual transmission, superb-yet-approachable handling, and sharp looks—all fronts where it equals or betters its already brilliant predecessor.

2022 Honda Civic Si, James Gilboy

This isn't to say I consider the Civic Si perfect. The lack of overall refinement throws what few weaknesses are there into sharp contrast, notably throttle sensitivity and rev hang. I personally didn't love its seats, and suspect the ride may be on the firm side for spines more worn out than mine. As a whole, though, the Civic Si remains—dare I say it for such a venerable vehicle—a terrific balance of commuter and canyon-carver that, in today's SUV-crazed market, is sadly becoming a well-kept secret.

2022 Honda Civic Si Specs

  • Base Price (As Tested): $28,315 ($28,910)
  • Powertrain: 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder | six-speed manual transmission | front-wheel drive
  • Horsepower: 200 @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque: 192 @ 1,800 to 5,000 rpm
  • EPA Fuel Economy: 27 mpg city | 37 highway | 31 combined (40 achieved in testing)
  • Cargo Volume: 14.1 cubic feet
  • Curb Weight: 2,952 pounds
  • Quick Take: Though not infallible, the timeless Civic Si is still a top contender among sport compacts for a reason.
  • Score: 8/10
2022 Honda Civic Si rear three-quarter, James Gilboy

The Basics

Now that the Fit is dead in America, the Civic is the smallest, cheapest sedan in Honda's lineup. But vaulting up to the Si makes it the gatekeeper for the pricier end, below the Accord Hybrid and Clarity plug-in hybrid. It's currently the highest-performing car available from Honda, and it'll stay that way until the new Civic Type R arrives later this year, with greater performance and a higher price to match. Both it and the Si have been tamed down visually from the prior generation (which looked like a Gundam with wheels) to something more mature, something slightly BMW-like—and I mean that in a good, pre-bucktooth way.

In its determined headlights, I see a gaze like that of the current 5 Series, while its roofline recalls some of the 4 Series Gran Coupe. There's nothing Bavarian about its backside though, where a low-profile spoiler and minuscule Si badge make it almost mistakable for a regular Civic—for better or worse. There's nothing bad to be said about the tester's Blazing Orange Pearl paint, though, which looks reddish but flashes tangerine-orange in direct sunlight. It'd be tough to say no to at almost any price, and at only a $395 premium, I consider it a must.

Inside, it's a conventional Civic, but with red motifs repeated throughout the cabin, from around the hexagonal-patterned dash insert to the steering wheel and shift knob's stitching. Red are the door cards and seatbacks, but not the seatbelts, a delightful detail lost from the last-gen Si coupe—it's one area where the Si could've stood to keep some of the last model's fun spirit.

While the base Civic and Si both utilize a 1.5-liter turbo-four, the Si's is retuned for 20 more horsepower and 15 more pound-feet of torque, for a total of 200 and 192 respectively. Power and torque curves are broader, the latter peaking 300 rpm sooner than the last model, improving drivability and real-world fuel economy. Its new single-mass flywheel is 26 percent lighter, increasing responsiveness, while its shifter derived from the previous Type R shortens the six-speed manual transmission's gear throws by 10 percent. It's equipped with toggle-able rev-matching, and a standard helical limited-slip differential to distribute power.

On the chassis side, the Civic Si's unibody is eight percent stiffer than before, which it takes exploits with stiffer springs, bushings, and sway bars in its MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension. Its track expands by 0.5 inches and wheelbase by 1.4 for added stability, while enlarged 12.3-inch front and 11.1-inch rear brake rotors generate extra stopping power. High-performance summer tires are a cheap $200 factory option, but for my Colorado winter drive, the tester was fitted with all-season Goodyear Eagle Sport rubber.

Driving the Honda Civic Si

On the road, the Civic Si is as you would expect a Civic to be: Comfortable and quiet. Its ride, while on the firm side, isn't taxing if you find the right setting on its manually adjusted seat, though I did find it a bit tight around the shoulders despite not thinking of myself as especially broad there. The headroom was adequate front and back though, as was legroom, while cabin noise is minimal. It can't compete with a solid 12-speaker Bose stereo, which easily shouts down the quiet engine that struggles to make itself heard even in Sport mode.

That driving mode seems to increase its volume, as well as stiffen the steering and sharpen throttle response—not that it need be any twitchier, as even in Eco, I found the throttle so overly responsive that I accidentally spun the front tires from a stop without trying on multiple occasions. Maybe that's to simplify downshifts for those with good footwork, but it already has newbie-friendly rev-matching, and besides, it's not easy to heel-toe during anything but the heaviest brake applications. The brake pedal is just a little too long to make that easy anywhere but a racetrack.

At least the clutch is light and can be felt grasping at the flywheel, making getaways breezy, complementing a slick six-speed manual that never hesitates to get into gear—though excessive rev hang does delay clutch release. First and second gear are suited perfectly for hitting highway speeds from a stop, and sixth is tailored just right for interstate cruising, the improved low-rpm torque reducing the need for downshifts. Rather than feel breathless below 2,000 rpm like the last car, the new Si's lower peak torque and broader curve greatly boost drivability, in turn enhancing fuel economy, which in my week with the car averaged exactly 40 mpg. That's hybrid-like mileage in a car that's just itching to dart ahead of the dull commuter traffic around it.

Of course, the Civic Si's drivetrain has always been subordinate to its chassis, which in the redesigned Si is as good as ever. Like all quick front-drive cars, flicking the steering into a corner causes the front to cant over and lay its weight on the outside front tire, which travels through to the steering wheel to tell you exactly how much of that crucial front grip you're using. Even on inherently compromised all-season tires, the Civic Si had greater limits of grip than I was willing to explore on a snowy Colorado mountain road—make no mistake, it's sports car-quick in corners. Driven by someone who knows what they're doing, it'll undoubtedly hold its own against a few purpose-built performance cars. 

If I haven't made it clear yet, the Civic Si is goddamn great.

Highs and Lows

The new Civic Si gives you a lot more reasons to like it than dislike it, and it shows when comparing what Honda got right versus wrong. Its status as one of the world's best economy cars isn't compromised by its transformation into the Si: A fun compact that's surprisingly quick in corners, yet relatively modest in appearance. As value for money goes, it's extremely hard to find a better option than the Civic Si.

At the same time, improved control calibration would make it better still, especially with regards to the throttle. It's twitchy in all drive modes and has excessive rev hang that forces the driver to slow their shifts down—not ideal for a car like the Si, which is all about uninterrupted focus on the tarmac ahead. They seem like consequences of compromised software calibration, rather than Honda's best attempt at sport compact dynamics—which we know we'll see in the Civic Type R. Seeing as it'll be more expensive and considerably higher-performing (the last one gave supercars a run for their money on racetracks), Honda shouldn't treat it as a direct competitor and should do the Civic Si one better by tidying up the throttle calibration. Oh, and those seats, please make them wider around the shoulders, Honda.

2022 Honda Civic Si on a mountain road in Colorado, James Gilboy

Honda Civic Si Features, Options, and Competition

The Civic Si is more or less one-size-fits-all, with a well-equipped base trim and little in the way of options. Visible from the outside are its standard 18-inch alloy wheels, LED taillights, running lights, and headlights with automatic high beams, heated door mirrors, and a power moonroof. It'll take getting in to notice its leather steering wheel and shift knob boot, and a thoughtful suite of technology, which include 12-speaker Bose audio and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, each controlled through the nine-inch infotainment screen with Bluetooth connectivity. It's also got all-important safety such as driver attention monitoring, blind spot watch, rear cross-traffic detection, and Honda Sensing: An amalgamation of adaptive cruise control, emergency braking, lane departure warning, and lane-keeping assist.

Given the above, the Si's options list is as short as they come. There are all-season and protection packages for those that need them, and $1,706 alternate alloy wheels that don't do much for me, but a mere $395 will net you a premium paint color—I'd love to get my classic Toyota painted in this orange, and you bet I'd pay that in a heartbeat if that's what it cost me. There's also an HPD Package that adds small extensions to the lip, skirts, and diffuser, but it's unclear if they're aerodynamically functional.

2022 Honda Civic Si near sunset, James Gilboy

Starting at $28,315, the Civic Si is pretty much the threshold for entry-level performance cars across the spectrum, so let's restrict the options to four- and five-doors, of which there are two main alternatives—both are more powerful and have available automatics, but they're also pricier. The Volkswagen Golf GTI has long been the gold standard for sport compacts, and has an available automatic transmission, but has a damning user interface that'd make it frustrating to live with. The new Subaru WRX on the other hand has full-time all-wheel drive, but that hurts its mileage, and its automatic option is a bleh CVT. That goes without mentioning its historically not-great reputation for reliability, or its pull-me-over image. The Civic Si, by comparison, can fly under the radar more effectively. 

There are a few dark horse alternatives, like the Mazda 3 2.5 Turbo, a refined choice available as a hatchback, but it's less thrilling and automatic-only. Then there's the Hyundai Elantra N, which is the highest-performing anything in its price range and loads of fun, but also, the most expensive thing you can reasonably compare to a Civic Si. The Toyota Corolla XSE Apex Edition and Kia Forte GT, unfortunately, do not factor into the equation.

Sustainability

The Honda Civic Si returns the best fuel economy in its segment, but it's otherwise not conspicuously more sustainable than its rivals. While Honda itself has reportedly asked suppliers to reduce their carbon impacts, according to Reuters, the company makes no specific sustainability claims regarding the plants in Anna, Ohio, where the Civic Si's engine is built, or the Ontario, Canada, one where the car is assembled. It bears saying, though, that there are guiltier pleasures out there than 1.5-liter sedans, and if the guilt is just too much, there's always the Civic hybrid.

2022 Honda Civic Si versus competing manual-equipped models, EPA.gov

Value and Verdict

Though the 2022 Honda Civic Si comes in at barely above half the price of the average new car, it doesn't at all feel like a cheap compromise. It's extremely practical and excellent to drive, be that to the grocery store or down a twisty detour. Its technology is exactly what owners will regularly use (and no more), casting pricier vehicles that don't offer its features as standard (if at all) into a bad light.

As a whole, the Honda Civic Si is as it always has been: The car you want when you want it. It's a pragmatic option for ferrying your family around, and once you've got the road to yourself, being the stealthiest delight on it. Once you'll drive one, you'll be in on the secret, and spot others who are, too, every time you see a Civic Si pass you by.

2022 Honda Civic Si, James Gilboy

Got a tip or question for the author? You can reach them here: james@thedrive.com