2008 Honda Civic Si sedan
2008 Honda Civic Si sedan. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Chris Chase

Photo Gallery: 2008 Honda Civic Si sedan

Ottawa, Ontario – While I was growing up, my parents owned two different Honda Civics. My father drove me home from the hospital in a blue ’78, and later traded that one for a red 1986 sedan. When I got my license, I learned to drive on the ’86. Despite the years of trouble-free service those cars gave us, my dad now drives a Toyota, but to this day I have a soft spot for Civics.

But man, they don’t make them like they used to. The red Civic my dad taught me to drive in had a carbureted motor making a whopping 76 horsepower, and couldn’t get out of its own way in a stiff headwind. There are a lot of years and an ocean of technological improvements between that car and Honda’s new-for-2008 Civic Si four-door sedan.

The Si isn’t new – that sporty designator has been around since Honda built my dad’s ’86 (though Canada wouldn’t get its first Si till 1988). The Si treatment has been applied to Civic hatchbacks, coupes, and sedans.

2008 Honda Civic Si sedan
2008 Honda Civic Si sedan
2008 Honda Civic Si sedan. Click image to enlarge

Bolted into the 2008 Civic sedan body is the same 2.0-litre four-banger previously found in the Si coupe, and starting last year, the Acura CSX Type-S. These days, with family sedans running around with horsepower figures getting frighteningly close to 300, the Si’s 197 horses seem like small potatoes. Still, there’s lots of fun to be had. As with other high-output Honda motors, the real power here doesn’t come on line till you cross the 6,000 rpm VTEC threshold. There’s still usable power at more reasonable revs, but it’s no hardship to listen to the motor race up to its 8,000 rev redline. Fortunately, the limited slip diff sandwiched between the drive-train and wheels keeps the inside front wheel from spinning wildly when calling for acceleration out of a turn.

The six-speed manual transmission, the only one available in the Si, is a slick shifter, too. Throws aren’t that short, but the shift lever is wrist-flickable and the clutch is wonderful. Smooth shifts – up or down, whether rev matching or not – are a cinch. That’s in contrast to Editor Greg Wilson’s experience with a Civic DX coupe he drove last year, in which he found it hard to make lurch-free shifts. I did notice the same rev-hanging syndrome noted by contributor Haney Louka when he reviewed last year’s Civic Si; for him, it made for rough shifting, but again, I had no such issues.

2008 Honda Civic Si sedan
2008 Honda Civic Si sedan
2008 Honda Civic Si sedan
2008 Honda Civic Si sedan
2008 Honda Civic Si sedan
2008 Honda Civic Si sedan. Click image to enlarge

Inside, there’s the same futuristic dash that’s polarized people since this eighth-gen car came out in 2006. I admit I was one of the haters at first: I’ve always preferred the look of traditional gauges with numbers and needles, but after driving this car and a Civic Hybrid last fall, I’m sold. The speedo readout is large and easy to read, and it’s barely below the driver’s line of sight. (Which, of course, makes the excuse “I had no idea how fast I was going, Officer” completely obsolete.)

Likewise, the secondary controls on the centre stack are nicely placed and simple to use, though the knobs at the right can be a bit of a reach from the driver’s seat. The standard stereo in the Si, a 350-watt system that includes a subwoofer mounted in the rear parcel shelf, sounds terrific.

The seats, heavily bolstered chairs unique to the Si, are very comfortable and proved perfect for a drive from Ottawa to Niagara in late October. Space is good throughout the interior, but the back seat is really only big enough for two to sit comfortably, as some passengers discovered during what was, thankfully for them, a short drive.

The trunk’s 340 litres is about average for the class, and the useful shape of the space and large opening look useful; I didn’t get a chance to stuff the Si’s trunk, but the Civic Hybrid I drove last year offers just 294 litres of space and accommodated a week’s worth of luggage quite nicely.

In keeping with the Si’s sporty nature, the ride is much firmer than what you’ll get in a regular-grade Civic, but it’s hardly punishing. Road noise seems louder than in non-Si Civics, which I figure is due to the 17-inch wheels that come as part of the package. But any comfort penalty is worth the great handling that comes as a result of the stiffer springs. Cornering is accomplished with little roll or drama; just point and shoot. Perhaps the only real negative consequence of this car’s set-up is that it can be darty on the highway. There’s not much of a dead spot on-centre, so making small steering adjustments can be tricky; it’s noticeable enough that my wife complained and accused me of driving aggressively (I wasn’t, I swear!). Whether it’s the big wheels and tires or a sharper steering ratio, I can’t say.

2008 Honda Civic Si sedan
2008 Honda Civic Si sedan
2008 Honda Civic Si sedan. Click image to enlarge

With the Si’s gutsier motor, fuel consumption suffers compared to other Civics, with NRCan ratings of 10.2 L/100 (city) and 6.8 L/100 km highway; I was able to just about split the difference to achieve overall consumption of around 8 L/100 km during my week behind the wheel. That’s decent for a performance car, but the Si is no cheap date and drinks only premium unleaded.

The Civic has come a long way since I was a kid, but even without the family ties that endeared to me the ones I grew up with, this latest generation still offers plenty to like. It’s even better now that Honda understands that many enthusiasts like four doors with their fun.

Pricing: 2008 Honda Civic Si sedan


  • TBD


  • 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt
  • 2008 Ford Focus
  • 2008 Hyundai Elantra
  • 2008 Toyota Corolla
  • 2008 Kia Spectra
  • 2008 Mazda3
  • 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer
  • 2008 Nissan Sentra
  • 2008 Pontiac G5
  • 2008 Saturn Astra
  • 2008 Suzuki SX4

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