Test Drive: 2012 Honda Civic Si coupe car test drives reviews honda
2012 Honda Civic Si coupe. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2012 Honda Civic Si

While horsepower figures and zero to 100 km/h times are the most frequently mentioned stats in performance vehicle reviews, it’s engine torque that provides the low and mid-range throttle responsiveness that consumers want in typical day-to-day driving.

Perhaps that’s why Honda chose to introduce a new larger displacement 2.4-litre DOHC 16-valve i-VTEC four-cylinder engine in the redesigned 2012 Civic Coupe Si and Sedan Si. Borrowed from the Acura TSX, this engine offers 22 per cent more torque at much lower revs: 170 lb.-ft. at 4,400 rpm vs 138 lb.-ft. at 6,100 rpm in the previous 2.0-litre engine, while offering about the same horsepower at slightly lower revs, 201 at 7,000 rpm vs 197 at 7,800 rpm.

This normally-aspirated 2.4-litre engine, with its tuned high volume intake manifold and reduced internal friction, makes the same kind of exciting, race-car-like sounds that the 2.0-litre engine did, but its chief advantage is improved throttle responsiveness at lower revs. For example, driving in the city is less of a chore because the driver is not constantly shifting down gears to find more power; and on the freeway in top gear, the driver can maintain a steady speed up slight inclines without having to gear down. Highway cruising is also more comfortable with the engine turning over about 2,700 rpm at a steady 100 km/h in sixth gear.

Test Drive: 2012 Honda Civic Si coupe car test drives reviews honda
Test Drive: 2012 Honda Civic Si coupe car test drives reviews honda
Test Drive: 2012 Honda Civic Si coupe car test drives reviews honda
Test Drive: 2012 Honda Civic Si coupe car test drives reviews honda
2012 Honda Civic Si coupe. Click image to enlarge

As before, the Civic Si comes with a standard close-ratio six-speed manual transmission – an automatic is not offered. With its easy-to-grip, leather-wrapped round aluminum shift knob and short, simple notchy throws, this six speed manual shifts quickly and definitively.

What’s odd, though, is the way the engine suspends revs in between shifts. Normally, engine revs drop when the clutch is depressed, but the 2.4-litre engine keeps revs up for a few seconds. Though this sounds and feels unusual, it has the advantage of keeping the engine in the sweet spot of its power band, enhancing acceleration when the next gear is engaged. (I’ve seen this phenomenon, known as “rev hang,” explained as an emissions reduction measure, and it apparently also helps to extend the life of the catalytic converter. –Chris Chase)

Above 5,000 rpm, as the engine approaches the 7,000 rpm redline, a flashing i-VTEC display in the upper left side of the instrument cluster lights up to indicate that the VTEC’s high-lift, long-duration cam profiles are operating to produce maximum horsepower. I found this a bit gimmicky, bit it does alert the driver to the fact that they are nearing the redline.

Even with its bigger engine, the 2012 Civic Coupe Si’s fuel economy is better than the previous Si and is very good for a performance car: its official figures of 10.0 L/100 km city and 6.4 L/100 km highway are slightly better than the 2011 Si’s 10.2/6.8 city/hwy. However, Premium gas is still required because of the engine’s high 11 to 1 compression ratio. In my week of test driving, I was seeing as low as 6.2 L/100 km on the highway, according to the onboard fuel consumption gauge.

Driving the Civic Coupe Si is a certainly a different experience to driving the standard 1.8-litre Civic Coupe. The speed-sensitive electric rack and pinion steering is quicker and sharper with just 3.11 turns lock to lock, the ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes with ABS and Brake Assist are more powerful and more sensitive, the ride is stiffer, and the handling is flatter and grippier courtesy of a fully independent suspension (front McPherson strut, rear multi-link) and front and rear stabilizer bars, and standard Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 P215/45R-17-inch all-season radials.

The Si’s handling and traction are enhanced by the Si’s exclusive helical limited slip front differential which transfers more power to the wheel with the most traction when cornering and/or accelerating. As well, standard stability and traction control help mitigate understeer and oversteer and traction loss. Normally, you don’t notice these functions operating, but they’re particularly effective in improving cornering stability and traction on wet pavement.

About Greg Wilson

Greg Wilson is a Vancouver-based automotive journalist and contributor to Autos.ca. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).