2013 Honda Civic HFP
2013 Honda Civic HFP
2013 Honda Civic HFP. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Brendan McAleer

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the world’s angriest Dustbuster.

I kid (sort of), I kid because I love. This highest-performance version of the angular Civic Coupe might look like it’s half-way between Worf’s phaser and a device for cleaning up crumbs, but after driving it for a full week, I’m somewhat charmed by it.

It’s certainly unlike anything else out there on the road, with its crazily raked windshield and pinched tail. Knock off the wheels and strap on a few fins, and some Jedi knight could fly it straight into an animated Star Wars series.

The black HFP badging – helpfully subtitled “Honda Factory Performance” in seven different places should you forget what the acronym stands for – denotes this car as a limited-edition model of the peppiest variant of Civic currently available. Unlike aero-kits of the past, Honda has packaged together appearance enhancements with some genuine go-fast goodies: for your $2,700 entry fee, you get multi-spoke, polished 18-inch alloys; front, side and rear skirts and spoilers; a slightly lowered and stiffened suspension; and stickier summer-only Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. Also badges. Many, many badges.

On the inside, the sedate red-and-black Si trim is enlivened with bright red carpets, also equipped with the HFP badge. Don’t laugh, it’s not as decor-by-Vin-Diesel as it sounds, and as it happens my mother-in-law quite liked it when Honda taught her how to drive a manual transmission in this very car. We’ll come back to that in a sec.

Further examination of the interior requires a listing of the various features that are crammed into this relatively compact car. Touchscreen navigation, Bluetooth, a multi-angle backup camera, heated seats, premium audio, aluminum pedals, text message capability, XM satellite radio – you name it, the Si has it standard.

Space is not bad either. The sloping rear glass impinges on headroom, but it is possible to cram a rear-facing child seat in the back and still have enough room for an adult-sized passenger to sit up front. Well, by “adult-sized”, I’m talking about my 5’3” wife.

It’s entirely workable though, much better than the BRZ/FRS twins, and the trunk also proved itself capable of swallowing up our Bob running stroller without much difficulty. The rear seats are split-folding too, so there’s a little extra space there if you need it.

2013 Honda Civic HFP2013 Honda Civic HFP2013 Honda Civic HFP2013 Honda Civic HFP
2013 Honda Civic HFP. Click image to enlarge

Up front is a little more of a mixed bag. Driver and passenger both get seats that could use a tad more side-bolstering – nothing like the Recaros of the Focus ST – and the seating position feels really quite high. Honda’s split-level instrument binnacle works well here, and is all kitted out in suitably angry-looking red and black, somehow reminding me of the Disney movie The Black Hole.

Forward visibility is good, apart from the way the long A-pillars can get in the way a bit when making 90-degree turns. Sightlines out the rear are also hampered by the tapered shape, but what’s more irritating is that the nearly flat rear glass lets moisture pool, and made reversing out of the driveway entirely reliant on the backup camera and side-view mirrors.

2013 Honda Civic HFP
2013 Honda Civic HFP. Click image to enlarge

Other than that, it’s a very easy car to drive, which brings us back around to a wet Monday spent watching a professional racing driver teaching my mother-in-law how to drive this thing around a coned-off autocross course. Honda ran the event, their “Honda Manual Challenge,” for local press in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, with the idea that we’d bring along non-stick-drivers and watch them get converted.

As it happens, everybody did rather well, and if Honda’s halfway-smart about it, they’ll expand the program to the public next year. It’s a great way to highlight the brand’s fun-to-drive heritage, it shows off the relative availability of Honda’s manual transmission options (you can still get one in a four-cylinder Accord sedan, which is pretty neat), and it helps give the skill of driving a manual car a fighting chance in this world of dual-clutch gearboxes and paddle-shifted automatics.

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