2012 Honda Civic Si sedan
2012 Honda Civic Si sedan. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

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2012 Honda Civic Si

With the demise of the Honda S2000 roadster, the 2012 Civic Si Sedan and Coupe carry the distinction, or perhaps burden, of being the only Honda-badged performance cars for sale in North America.

This latest, and cautious remake of the Civic sedan may be getting tepid reviews in the automotive press, but I suspect Honda knows what it is doing. Yes, the new ninth-gen Civic is pretty bland, breaking no new stylistic or technological ground, but it’s quieter, rides better and feels more grown up. To many of us, that reads boring with a capital “B”, but to others, like my father, it’s the one. He recently drove all the contenders in this congested segment and settled on the 2012 Civic sedan for its comfort, price and clever, highly visible two-tiered dash that agrees with his senior eye-sight.

So how does the performance version of this gentrified Civic stack up? Does the Si badge stand for Seriously Involving, Somewhat Intriguing or Sadly Inadequate?

2012 Honda Civic Si sedan
2012 Honda Civic Si sedan. Click image to enlarge

Those who loved the outgoing high-strung Si with its rev-to-the-high-heavens 2.0-litre VTEC four and scrappy chassis will likely find this 2012 variant a little too polite. That could be good news for Honda, as it will surely have a broader appeal.

The 2012 Honda Civic Si comes in Coupe and Sedan guise, both with a starting price of $25,990. Here we’re looking at the practical four-door that should be a draw for hot-shoes with domestic considerations. Honda plays the value card, loading the 2012 Si up with standard Bluetooth, touch-screen navigation with bilingual voice control, 360-watt seven-speaker audio, fog lights, sun roof, fabric sports seats, multi-information display and XM Satellite radio.

In true Honda tradition, the engine remains naturally aspirated, but the old 2.0-litre VTEC makes way for the 2.4-litre VTEC four lifted from the Acura TSX. It is hooked up to that sedan’s excellent six-speed close ratio manual transmission – no auto is offered in the Si.

2012 Honda Civic Si sedan
2012 Honda Civic Si sedan. Click image to enlarge

While power is up only four horses to 201 hp, it’s the 22 per cent bump in torque you can really feel. While the 2.0 litre’s modest 136 lb.-ft. peaked at 6,100 rpm, this new mill serves up 170 lb.-ft. at 4,400 rpm. As might be expected, this large displacement four with its 7,100 rpm redline will not do the “scream like a stuck pig” thing the 2.0-litre did so well as its tach needle swung from 6,000 to 8,000 rpm.

That said, the Si is satisfyingly brisk, and the short throw shifter and super smooth clutch make operating the six-speed a joy. They’ve tuned a nice little rasp into the exhaust, and with this newfound midrange torque, you’re not caught flat-footed under 6,000 rpm like in the old Si.

But is it enough? The Si’s turbocharged competition (the Mazdaspeed3, VW GTI) will leave it behind, although those cars cost several thousand more. A more realistic contender might be the $23,487 200-hp Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V.

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