Photo: Paul Williams. Click image to enlarge
by Paul Williams
Toronto, Ontario – Honda Civics have been around so long that for many people, early versions are now classic cars. Their appeal has remained consistent because over the years, and along with Honda attributes of excellent build quality and high resale values, they’ve morphed into pretty much whatever the market requires. From zippy little hatchback to the first family car to street tuner special, there’s always been a Civic to suit most peoples’ needs.
But these days, there’s big competition in the compact car market, and even though the Honda Civic is still Canada’s best-selling car, sales of Civics this year over last are down. Consequently, the folks at Honda are introducing a new variation of their sales champ. The 2004 Civic Si sedan arrives with several popular features as standard equipment. The Si sedan is oriented toward the buyer looking for some sportiness to go with the practicality of a Civic purchase.
You may be familiar with the Si sedan from the “Civic Nation” television commercial. It’s the one where two Hondas are approaching each other on the highway. One is driven by a mainstream-looking guy in a garden-variety Civic, listening to classical music. The other is a modified Civic with a blacked-out grille, and an young driver listening to hip-hop. The latter waves to a pleased-but-bemused former as they pass in opposite directions.
Changes across the Civic line are for 2004 are subtle. The “bolder, sleeker” styling referred to in Honda’s advertising is mainly confined to a more aerodynamic headlight and grille treatment. The rear lights, hood and bumpers are also massaged into a smoother shape.
Under the hood of the Si sedan is a 127 horsepower, 1.7 litre, four-cylinder aluminum engine with variable valve timing (VTEC). Previously available only in the Si Coupe, this is the main source of the Si’s sporty character. Other Civic models – the DX, SE and LX in coupe and sedan forms – are powered by the same 1.7-litre motor, but rated at 115 horsepower.
The VTEC engine is nice indeed. Combined with a five-speed transmission, this engine seems perfectly matched to the weight of the car, and would meet or exceed most people’s expectations from a compact sedan.
The light clutch makes the Civic Si simple to drive (for anyone considering a standard, this is about as easy as it gets) and the overdrive 4th and 5th gears contribute to smooth highway cruising and excellent fuel economy.
The interior now features a version of the electo-luminescent instrument panel formerly found only on the Civic Hybrid. The gauges are big, bright and easy-to-read. This has an unexpected benefit, because as day turns to night, the brightness of the gauges reminds the driver to switch on the headlamps, thus dimming the gauges and turning on the rear lights.
A power sunroof with privacy screen is standard, as is a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob (on the manual transmission only), a carbon-fibre look instrument panel and console, and an illuminated ignition lock. Additional standard equipment includes an in-dash CD player, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, locks and mirrors, anti-lock brakes and 15″ alloy wheels.
On the road during a press preview, the car felt completely stable, with brisk acceleration and sure stops. Visibility is excellent all-round with big windshield wipers, effective washers and big rear-view mirrors.
The seats are comfortable and easily adjusted (including height); other controls (emergency flashers, lights and wipers, heating, ventilation and air conditioning) are in plain view, and simple to operate. The trunk offers a lot of room for groceries and luggage, and the 60/40 rear seat folds down for additional cargo capacity. The floor in the rear passenger compartment is flat, maximizing space for rear-seat occupants.
The Civic is a car you can simply get in and drive; all the years of development and refinement have produced what is arguably the quintessential compact sedan. The Si simply bundles additional features into an already excellent vehicle that is now slightly more rakish and current. (And in case you still think of Civics as perhaps being too small, note that its external dimensions are virtually the same as a 3-Series BMW.)
If you do buy an Si (or any Civic, for that matter), you can enjoy the knowledge that five years down the road (ten, even) people will pay top-dollar for your used Honda.
On the Honda.ca website, you’ll find several “Genuine Honda” accessories (as opposed to aftermarket superchargers and what-not) you can choose to personalize your Si. Just for fun, I checked them all, and added 35 items including the gold plated emblem kit. The result? Yours for $32,050.23, plus tax.
Now that’s a fully-loaded Civic. But even though no-one’s going to do buy such a car, it does equal the amount of money that some Civic enthusiasts will pay for trick suspensions, paint jobs, wheels and engine modifications for their cars. There’s room for all types in the Civic Nation, you see.