The Honda Civic Si, one of the best values in performance, gets updated bodywork and some new electronics to keep it competitive for the 2009 model year. None of these changes are drastic--just a few add-ons and styling to comport with Honda's new look--because the Civic Si doesn't need much changed. It gives extraordinary driving pleasure, as it has since the introduction of the 2-liter engine version in 2002.
The 2009 Honda Civic Si evolves the design introduced in 2005, introducing a more angular grille with diamond-pattern inset. But the basic silhouette is the same, at least in our coupe model test car. Welcome additions to the cabin tech are a USB port in the console and a Bluetooth hands-free cell phone system.
Test the tech: Dynolicious performance
The Civic Si has long been the poster child for the boy-racer compact car set, with its combination of low price and class-leading performance. With Car Tech Editor Antuan Goodwin behind the wheel, we tested our Civic Si's performance in a manner fitting of the Civic's young and tech-savvy target audience: with an iPhone app.
The Dynolicious application for iPhone and iPod Touch uses the device's accelerometers to measure vehicle movement on two axes. By calculating movement over time, the app can measure vehicle speed and, subsequently, distance and acceleration. For purposes of our testing, we measured 0 to 60 mph time and skidpad lateral G-forces.
Securing our test iPod Touch to the windshield with a suction cup, we lined up for our 0 to 60 mph test. Previously, we'd tested the 2009 Honda Civic LX-S using the same Dynolicious application, reaching 60 mph in 9.76 seconds, and we wanted to see how much better we could do in the Si. On our first launch, we were a bit overzealous with the revs. The front wheels spun helplessly for grip before the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA) intervened, dampening the acceleration and resulting in an embarrassing time of 14.50 seconds. Subsequent launches were met with equal amounts of wheel spin and equally dismal times, even with the VSA disabled.
After a few more runs, Goodwin started to hone in on the Civic's sweet spot for the perfect launch and lined up for a final pass. Using fewer revs this time, we dropped the hammer between 2,500 and 3,000rpm. The Si's front tires sounded a chirp before digging in and launching the vehicle forward. Unlike previous generations of Civic Si, the power no longer comes on like a light switch at 6,000rpm; instead the acceleration is a much more gentle and linear push toward redline. Sixty miles per hour was reached at the 8,000rpm redline of second gear at 8.13 seconds. We were sure that another half-second could have been shaved off with practice, but Goodwin didn't want to abuse the Si's clutch any further. Having beaten the Civic LX-S' time by more than a second and a half, we moved on to the skidpad test.
Our skidpad consisted of a figure-eight loop on a closed course. Accelerating up to 35 mph, Goodwin piloted the Civic Si through the course under the watchful eye of the iPod Touch's accelerometers. Steering was a bit vaguer than we'd expected from a small performance Honda, but still precise. In practice, it was mostly judicious feathering of the throttle that kept the Si's slight understeer in check around the course. Checking the readouts in the Dynolicious app, we noted 0.84 g on the left-hand turn and an impressive 0.91 g on the right-hander.
Our better-than-the-average-Civic 0-to-60-mph time of 8.13 seconds is good, but not what we'd call impressive. Thanks to its lack of low-end torque, the Civic Si is no drag racer. However, with a peak 0.91 lateral g on all-season rubber, we think it would make a fantastic auto-crosser, and be even better with stickier tires.
In the cabin
Based on an economy model, the 2009 Honda Civic Si doesn't do luxury, but Honda fitted it out with some performance elements. The seats offer all the bolstering and grippy fabric you need to keep from sliding around the cabin as the car demonstrates its cornering. The console lid features fabric similar to the seats', providing a comfortable arm rest for cruising. The shifter's metal construction gives it a solid feel.