Small Improvements to the 2020 Civic Si Make a Great Car Better11/13/2019
Not much has changed on the 2020 Honda Civic Si. It gets new LED headlights, black 18-inch wheels, and revised bumpers. Inside, a few trim pieces have been tweaked, and the capacitive slider volume control has been replaced with a knob. Adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and lane-keeping assist are now standard. The only mechanical change is a six-percent lower final drive ratio, which improves acceleration.
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that this facelifted Civic Si drives pretty much identically to its predecessor. If you notice the shorter final-drive, you’re more sensitive than most. The adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist are great on the highway, and the volume knob is a welcome, if extremely minor addition.
The Si wasn’t really wanting for much, though. It already carried on Honda’s great sport-compact legacy with ease. The 2020 updates just help make a good car even better.
In everyday driving, the Si excels. Its 1.5-liter turbo-four is a gem, with tons of usable mid-range grunt—192 lb-ft of torque between 2100 and 5000 rpm. There’s a bit of lag, but it doesn’t take long for the turbo to spool up to its 20.3-psi maximum boost pressure, and when it does, it’s addictive fun. And while you might think 1.5 liters seems too small, you’ll come to appreciate those tiny pistons as the engine pulls hard to its 205-horse power peak at 5700 rpm. It’s delightfully spry.
As before, the only transmission available on the Si is a six-speed manual. The clutch pedal ande shift action are light and precise. Unfortunately, the rev-hang that plagues so many modern stick-shift cars is present here—you have to wait a long time on upshifts if you want to be particularly smooth.
Honda invited journalists to Austin, Texas to sample the lightly-updated Civic Si. On the surprisingly fun country roads outside Austin, the car shone. There’s a Sport mode, but you’re better off leaving it in Normal on the road. In Sport, the adaptive dampers get stiffer which causes the car to bob around, and the steering becomes artificially heavy but no more feelsome. In Normal mode, you get well-weighted, accurate steering and damping that’s far better tuned for public roads.
Wearing Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric summer tires—a bargain $200 option—the front end of the Si is wonderfully pointy. The steering is quick, two turns lock to lock, giving the Si a great sense of agility. And on corner exit, the standard limited-slip differential helps put power down with ease.
Honda also arranged for journalists to spend an afternoon lapping Circuit of the Americas in the new Si. Technicians installed upgraded Hawk brake pads, but otherwise, these cars were stock. While 205 horsepower feels punchy on the road, it suddenly seemed a little inadequate on COTA’s long straights. This is a big place, designed specifically with Formula 1 cars in mind.
At COTA, driving the Civic Si is all about managing the front tires and maintaining momentum—no easy task, especially through the tricky esses leading to turn 11. The steering isn’t very talkative, so you rely on your backside and tire noise to understand what’s going on. The Si is predictable, though. Front-end grip is strong, and the transition to understeer is gradual and easy to correct.
Journalists jumped in and out of the cars for an entire afternoon of lapping with minimal breaks. The cars held up well, though by the end of the day, the tires were showing some wear and the break pedals were starting to go a little long. The biggest issue with the brakes is the pedal itself. It’s positioned too far away from the throttle for heel-toe work—at least if you have size-nine feet like me. The automatic rev-match feature available on the Civic Type R would be welcome here, but a Honda rep told R&T that this feature will remain exclusive to the Type R to help differentiate it from its cheaper sibling.
Our complaints about the Si are minor. It’s a remarkably robust, easy-to-drive machine perfect for track-day beginners, or those looking for a fun street car that can handle track work on the cheap.
And price is the Civic Si’s best feature. With those $200 optional summer tires and destination fees accounted for, the 2020 Civic Si, in either Sedan or Coupe guise, costs just over $26,000. There are no option packages, only a choice of paint color and some available dealer-installed accessories. At $12,000 less than the average new-car price in the US, it’s an amazing bargain. To us, only the Hyundai Veloster N, at just over $28,300 offers similar value.
Not much has changed on the 2020 Civic Si, but not much needed to change. It was, and remains, a great performance bargain.
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