Test Drive: 2004 Honda Civic Si Sedan car test drives honda
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by Greg Wilson

More performance, but is it enough?


Small sedans have entered the horsepower wars in a big way, and the 2004 Civic Si Sedan is a rather half-hearted attempt to keep up. Now offered with a 127 horsepower 1.7 litre VTEC four cylinder engine borrowed from the Civic Si Coupe, and some sporty new bodywork, the new Civic Si sedan is not really a match for it bulked up competitors. The numbers tell the story: the Mazda3 GT offers 160 horsepower; the Nissan Sentra SE-R 165 horsepower; Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart 162 horsepower; Subaru Impreza TS sedan 165 horsepower; VW Jetta 1.8T 180 horsepower; 2005 Toyota Corolla XRS 170 horsepower; and the 2005 Saturn Ion Red Line with 200 horsepower.

Arguably, the Civic Si sedan has the best fuel economy of the lot, but buyers looking for fuel economy will likely choose the 115 horsepower DX, SE, or LX Civic sedans. The Si Sedan is intended for those who want more performance and sporty looks. I’m not sure it delivers on either.


What’s New

All 2004 Civics received new, more aggressive styling with new front and rear bumpers, hood, grille and headlights. To me, the new styling is more flash than substance, but fortunately, the basic proportions are still there. Inside are new-style gauges similar to those of the Civic Hybrid, and improved speakers.

The Civic Si sedan, which is new for 2004, also receives the 127 horsepower 4 cylinder engine with variable valve timing (VTEC), 15 inch tires with alloy wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather wrapped shift knob, carbon-fibre like trim on instrument panel and console, power moonroof with tilt/slide feature and sliding sunshade, and open front head restraints.

The base price of the Civic Si sedan is $21,500 with a 5 speed manual transmission, and standard features include power windows and mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control, and anti-lock brakes. With freight charges and A/C tax, the as-tested price of my test car came to $22,610.

Additional dealer installed accessories available include a 6-disc in-dash CD changer ($855), cassette player ($412); metal or woodgrain dash trim ($240); security system ($373); special alloy wheels ($1200-$1300); bike and ski racks ($186-$228), and a block heater ($155).


Pleasant, simple interior

Test Drive: 2004 Honda Civic Si Sedan car test drives honda

Test Drive: 2004 Honda Civic Si Sedan car test drives honda

Test Drive: 2004 Honda Civic Si Sedan car test drives honda

Test Drive: 2004 Honda Civic Si Sedan car test drives honda
Click image to enlarge

The interior of the 2004 Civic Si Sedan is well-equipped, and controls are typically Honda-simple and easy to operate. The three attractive metal-rimmed gauges have extra large white-on-black numerals, and at night, are lit with a glowing blue perimeter. They are easy to read day or night.

The look and feel of the interior is generally of a good quality. The dash plastic and soft seat cloth look durable and the leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob (manual transmission only), add some class. The fake carbon-fibre trim adds contrast, and the occasional metal accents round out the variety.

The centre instrument panel, which extends outwards for easier reach, includes three vertically-stacked dials for the heating and ventilation functions. Close to the driver’s right hand, these controls are easy to operate. In the centre dash, the standard AM/FM/CD player features type large enough to read at a distance, and a sensible rotary-style Tune function. Just below it is a covered storage slot for CDs, and below that are three buttons for air recirculation, a/c, and rear defroster – again easy to reach.

The lower console includes a 12 volt powerpoint and a couple of blank buttons. As the Si is the top-of-the-line Civic sedan, I’m not sure what those buttons would ever be used for.

The two cupholders, with a flip-down lid, are nicely positioned ahead of the shift lever – I’ve driven a number of cars recently with the cupholders behind the shift lever..

A folding centre armrest has a storage container, but it’s rather small due to its indented shape caused by the position of the handbrake lever (see photo).

To the left of the steering wheel are controls for the power sunroof, power mirrors, and main cruise control, while secondary cruise functions are on the steering wheel. A handy flip-down coin storage holder is also located to the left of the steering wheel.

The rear seat is surprisingly roomy for a compact car, with generous headroom and legroom for two adults – the rear floor is flat. There is no centre folding armrest. Rear passengers have two height adjustable head restraints.

A roomy, lined trunk is well-shaped for packing in bulky items, and the standard folding seatbacks are handy for longer items. The folding seatbacks are lockable by the way.


Driving impressions

Test Drive: 2004 Honda Civic Si Sedan car test drives honda

Test Drive: 2004 Honda Civic Si Sedan car test drives honda

Test Drive: 2004 Honda Civic Si Sedan car test drives honda

Test Drive: 2004 Honda Civic Si Sedan car test drives honda
Click image to enlarge

The Civic is notable for its tall roof and roomy interior which will seat four adults comfortably. From the driver’s seat, the driver has excellent outward visibility over the low hood and through the large side windows, but the trunk is a bit high.

I liked the comfortable driver’s seat which is height adjustable via a rotary knob on the left side of the seat cushion. There is also a tilt steering wheel. A padded centre armrest allows the driver to rest his/her right arm when cruising, and does not get in the way when changing gears.

The Civic Si is a very easy car to drive. Small and manoeuverable with lightweight (variable power assist) steering, a 5.6 metre turning circle, a wonderful manual gearbox and a light clutch, the Civic is a great car to whip around the city.

But even with its more powerful 127 horsepower engine, the Si Sedan is weak when accelerating due to its low torque rating (114 lb-ft @ 4800). You have to keep the revs up to extract the power, and above 4000 rpm, the engine is quite buzzy. I noticed this on the Civic Coupe Si as well, but it seems more pronounced now that I have driven other more powerful competitors with more torque and less noise.

On the freeway, the engine does 3000 @ 100 km/h and 3500 rpm at 120 km/h, and it seems quite happy at those speeds.

Fuel consumption is better than most of its rivals: 8.0 l/100 km (35 mpg) city and 6.0 l/100 km (47 mpg) highway. Only a base Corolla can better those figures.

A fully independent suspension (front toe control-link strut/rear double-wishbone with coil springs) provides a comfortable ride and competent handling, improved by the Si Sedan’s slightly larger 195/60R-15 inch all-season tires. The Si Sedan is a fun car to drive.

Standard brakes are front disc/rear drum with an anti-lock braking system and electronic brake distribution to harmonize front/rear braking forces and prevent lockup.


Verdict

While offering the traditional Civic virtues of fuel economy and fun-to-drive handling, the Civic Si sedan isn’t powerful enough to compete with many of its performance-oriented compact competitors.


Technical Data: 2004 Honda Civic Si sedan

Base price (Si) $21,500
Freight $1,010
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $22,610
Type 4-door, 5 passenger compact sedan
Layout transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive
Engine 1.7 litre 4 cylinder, SOHC, 16 valves, VTEC
Horsepower 127 @ 6300 rpm
Torque 114 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
Transmission 5 speed manual (4 speed automatic )
Tires P195/60R-15
Curb weight 1208 kg (2663 lb.)
Wheelbase 2620 mm (103.1 in.)
Length 4455 mm (175.4 in.)
Width 1715 mm (67.5 in.)
Height 1440 mm (56.7 in.)
Trunk capacity 365 litres (12.9 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 8.0 l/100 km (35 mpg)
  Hwy: 6.0 l/100 km (47 mpg)
Fuel type Regular unleaded
Warranty 3 yrs/60,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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