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

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Review and photos by Mike Schlee

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2012 Honda Civic Si

Over the past 20 or so years, the Honda Civic has been at the forefront of modern car culture. The Civic has been ‘the car’ when it comes to heavily modified rides and could be considered generation Y’s 1957 Chevy. The Civic has been the equivalent of a blank canvas for racers, tuners and modifiers. You are as likely to see a Civic at the local autocross event as you are at the grocery store; a pretty impressive feat for an economy car.

So the fact that Honda has decided to release a factory-tuned special Civic in North America should come as no surprise. The fact it took this long, long after the Civic’s Import Tuner heyday, is slightly more curious.

For 2012, Honda has introduced the limited production Civic Si Honda Factory Performance (HFP). The package is available only on the Si coupe and consists of a skirt package, rear spoiler, lowering springs, 18-inch wheels and grippy Michelin Super Sport 215/40R18 tires. Oh, and don’t forget the red floor mats and HFP badging here and there.

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

Before getting to the performance of the HFP, let me assess the exterior first. The bodykit isn’t the best looking and makes the somewhat attractive Si coupe garish. It accentuates the already blocky styling of the current generation Civic, and not in a good way. I’m still not a fan of the exhaust system placement either; it looks too far offset in the rear; Honda should make it dead centre or place it off to the side like a conventional exhaust. The rear spoiler, though, is a nice touch and I do really like the look of the two-tone wheels.

The wheel and tire package is not just for looks: combined with the upgraded suspension, the Civic Si’s handling is greatly improved. The vehicle hustles around corners with a sure-footed ability not usually found in front-wheel drive compact coupes. Tossing it around the back roads of the Niagara Escarpment, the Si HFP was lively, engaging and hard to upset. Push it hard enough though and the vehicle will wash into inevitable understeer, but the transition from grip to no grip is very linear and predictable. Part of this impressive grip is due to the true mechanical helical limited-slip differential.

I took this car down to the annual AJAC TestFest but was not allowed to take it on the handling course where it would really shine. During the previously mentioned spirited back road jaunts I could feel the potential of the HFP upgrades and wish I could have exploited them on a closed course. Even with a hefty weight upgrade from the LX coupe’s 1,191 kg to the Si’s 1,317 kg, it still feels light on its feet and begs to be driven hard.

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

To motivate this weight, all Civic Si’s come standard with Honda’s 2.4L VTEC four-cylinder engine, which produces 201 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. The HFP package does not include any parts that increase power nor does it modify the standard six-speed manual. Thus, straight line acceleration is not improved due to these changes and honestly, this drivetrain is already very slick and so well suited to the Civic’s compact platform that it doesn’t really need a big power bump. Even with stock levels of power, the front tires can still be overwhelmed by the 2.4L’s torque on less-than-ideal road surfaces—even with those sticky Michelins. Once traction is found, keep on the accelerator until VTEC (just –Ed) kicks in (yo –Ed) above 5,000 rpm and the engine comes alive in a fury of forward thrust, noise, and of course the ‘VTEC lights’ on the dashboard.

Being that this is a performance special, I will not spend a lot of time discussing the interior of the Civic Si HFP; it is still cheap plastic everywhere. The only upgrade inside the HFP is the addition of some gaudy-looking red floor mats. Not sure why they chose that particular shade for the floor mats but in my test car they looked like improper second hand floor mats that were purchased at a neighbourhood garage sale. The two-tiered dash is slowly growing on me and although I still prefer to not have it, I do not loathe it. I do like the digital speedometer readout being directly below my line of sight out of the windshield and wish the tachometer was in the same vicinity. I love the adjustable menu window beside the digital speedometer. It allows me to have full satellite radio information displayed while still having navigation on the conventional infotainment screen.

The sport seats in the Civic Si are not found in the rest of the lineup, which is a shame as they are both comfortable and supportive during spirited driving. Headroom up front is limited due to the sunroof that eats into my cranium’s real estate. My hair would constantly brush up against the roof when driving with aggression, which became downright annoying. Trunk space, at 331 L, is surprisingly generous and it easily took a large duffle bag, two computer bags, and a suit bag laid flat inside it.

Nothing during my time with the Civic Coupe Si was overly surprising—we all know it is a very practical vehicle with a good dose of sport. What did catch me off guard was how livable the HFP package is. There was no degradation in ride quality or comfort, while performance is noticeably increased. In fact, it makes me wonder why Honda doesn’t just make this package part of the standard Si kit (minus the bodykit of course). The final trick performed by this coupe is a Honda specialty: achieving its Natural Resources Canada fuel consumption figures. Officially rated at 10.0 L/100 km in the city and 6.4 L/100 km on the highway, in my nine days with the Si HFP Coupe I achieved an impressive 8.4 L/100 km combined average.

The HFP package does not come cheap, but if you total up the sum of the parts, getting all those goodies for under $3,000 isn’t a bad deal. After freight and PDI, the Civic Coupe Si HFP does eke over the $30,000 mark, which puts it into the realm of some serious competition like the ford Focus ST, Mazdspeed3, and Mini Cooper S. But, as you read this, I’ll be out testing the restyled 2013 Civic. If Honda addresses the main weak points of this compact, mainly the interior quality and exterior styling, they should make an already good car not only better, but also more competitive in the hotly contested performance compact segment.

Pricing: 2012 Honda Civic Coupe Si HFP
Base price: $28,690
Options: None
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,495
Price as tested: $30,285

Competitors
2012 Fiat 500 Abarth
2013 Ford Focus ST
2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo
2013 Mazdaspeed3
2013 MINI Cooper S
2013 Volkswagen GTI




About Mike

Mike Schlee is the former Social Editor at Autos.ca and autoTRADER.ca. He began his professional automotive writing career in 2011 and has always had a passion for all things automotive, working in the industry since 2000.