Stick Shift: 2020 Honda Civic SI

The Honda Civic has been around for a long time. Its popularity growing more and more with each new generation. To most, its a dependable, reliable mode of transportation. With just enough character to keep your commute interesting. To the remaining few, it’s a blank canvas of tuning potential. Begging for another bolt-on upgrade. A slightly edgier bodykit or interior tweak to really make it an extension of its proud owner. Until just recently, the top dog of the Civic pack, the Type R, wasn’t even available for purchase in the United States. Thankfully that’s changed. Before that though, any tuner-crazed enthusiast with a fraction of knowledge about the potential of a car like this knew that while any Civic is good, the Civic SI is the best.

So how have things changed since the Type R became available? Has Honda dumbed down the SI to make the Type R look and feel all the more aggressive and performance focused? Thankfully, it doesn’t seem that they have. Like the Civic SI of the past, this car continues to be one that must be experienced first-hand to really be appreciated. To the layperson, The 2020 Honda Civic SI might not look that special, but a precious few alternatives can offer this level of fun for the price.   

For starters, the Civic SI finally has what so many payed extra for with companies like Greddy, Apexi and Muegen. A turbocharger. While the VTEC was always incredibly good, there’s nothing like good ol’ forced induction to get you up to speed. Although it’s a small turbo, with a little lag at low rpm’s, once it hits, there’s no mistaking the marked improvement in acceleration. Paired to it is a 6-speed manual transmission that’s an absolute joy to throw around. The clutch engages at the top and is a little springy, but once you get used to it, the engine and transmission work wonders together.

Photo by: Brandon Randall

What always set the underpowered Japanese market apart from the less refined but more powerful American market was good handling. The Civic SI continues this legacy. Though most of the underpinnings are shared with the standard issue Civic, the SI has stiffer suspension. It also brings adaptive dampers and more aggressive steering. None of this translates to an uncomfortably rough ride though, as the SI remains smooth over bumpy, uneven surfaces. Turn up the heat on a windy back-road though and you’ll love how flat it corners and the copious amounts of feedback that you’ll get from the nicely weighted steering wheel. 

In the looks department, the 2020 Civic SI brings just enough to stand out from the rest of the crowd. All while being careful to not steal any Type R thunder. Helping the cause along is a sporty center exit exhaust, 18” wheels, a rear spoiler and sharp, aggressive lines all around. The interior matches the same level as the exterior. Sport pedals, leather wrapping around the steering wheel and shift knob and front sport seats look great. The seats fall on the narrow end of the spectrum and could become uncomfortable on long trips if you’re on the wider side. But they sure do lock you in place when tackling the tight turns at speed. Also, packed into the interior is a long list of Honda’s driver-assistance technology and infotainment features.

Photo by: Brandon Randall

Overall, the 2020 Honda Civic SI balances performance and practicality like never before. It can be docile when you want, and simultaneously raise absolute hell if the mood should strike. You’d be challenged to find a car that’s as fun to drive while still making 30 combined mpg. You’d be equally challenged to find a front-wheel-drive vehicle that handles as well. All for a price that’ll really get your pulse racing. For more, the Type R is finally available for purchase stateside and stands ready to deliver. For less, there’s a long list of toned-down Civics in the fleet. The SI is that ‘just right’ model that will satisfy the needs of most in near perfect form. 

Price as tested: $25,200.00

By: Brandon Randall

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