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TCC: 2006 Honda Civic Si Review

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2006 Honda Civic Si

The Civic we want.

by John Pearley Huffman (2006-03-03)

Sorry, but this is going to be one of those stories that take a while to start because I'm going to indulge myself. But the 2006 Honda Civic Si is a car that has been too long in coming and it deserves some perspective.

My relationship with the Honda Civic Si is a long and personal one. Back in 1990 my sister bought a new one and I took every opportunity to swipe it out from underneath her and drive it as my own. It was simply a great car that was also a greatly simple car - it had only as many moving parts as necessary and was better for it. Back in 1999 I was torn between buying either a new 1999 Civic Si or a Toyota Tundra pickup (surely a natural cross-shopping dilemma for many of you) and wound up in the Tundra. I still have that pickup and love it, but I've been kicking myself for seven years for not doing the obvious thing and buying both the Tundra and Civic Si back then.

Then four years ago I drove the British-made 2002 Civic Si hatch with which Honda decided to replace the American-assembled coupe and fell out of love. There was nothing wrong with that car per se, but too much of it wasn't quite right. With 160-horsepower on-board from its 2.0-liter i-VTEC four it was actually more powerful than the car it succeeded, but lacked the charm and eager personality of its predecessor. And why is that the Civic Si we got in America had 40-less horsepower, one-less gear, and wheels two-inches in diameter smaller than the Civic Type-R the rest of the world got?

What America wanted in a Civic Si was the two-door coupe body style shoved full of all the good Type-R stuff including the six-speed manual transmission, 200-horsepower engine, big wheels and tires, and a limited-slip differential. With the 2006 edition we get all that and more… maybe even too much more.

After the last Civic Si it seemed that Honda had lost its way. They've definitely re-acquired the path and this is the best sporting Civic of all time. The only questions now are: Is that enough? And, will I buy one this time?

More engine, more gears, more traction

The Civic Si's basics are straightforward: This is the new generation Civic coupe filled with what is essentially the drivetrain of the Acura RSX Type-S and a lot of other good stuff. As such, it rides on the same 104.3-inch wheelbase as the DX, LX, and EX coupes and shares virtually every other exterior and interior dimension too. However at 2877 pounds it does weigh about 100 pounds more than an EX coupe and that's enough to nudge the weight distribution from 60/40 front to rear in the EX to 61/39.

Strict adherence to the latest SAE testing standards have the new Civic Si's engine rated at 197 horsepower instead of 200 but that doesn't mean there are no differences between it and the similar powerplant in the RSX Type-S. Code-named K20Z3, the Civic SI's all-aluminum engine is a member of Honda's K-Series family and shares, bore, stroke, displacement, DOHC cylinder-head design, four-valve combustion chambers, 11.0:1 compression ratio and a thrilling 8000 rpm redline with the 201-horsepower K20Z1 used in the 2006 RSX Type-S. However it has a balance shaft that produces smoother operation but increases parasitic drag. In compensation for that the K20Z3 uses electric power steering and also incorporates an electric throttle and its own unique aluminum intake manifold.

This is an engine that lives to rev and loves to rev (you can add other alliterations of you have the time). There's only 139 pound-feet of peak torque here and that's not all available until 6200 rpm - after both the first VTEC transition at about 3000 rpm and the second at around 6000 rpm. So this isn't just an engine that can zing, it's an engine that needs to in order to provide automotive entertainment.

So this would be lousy engine for a bus or bulldozer, big deal. But stirring the six-speed through its sweet shifting mechanism is plain fun and that makes this an amazingly useable performance car. Take a Corvette, Porsche or Ferrari to its redline in practically any gear and you instantly risk having to deal with lawyers, insurance companies, orthopedic surgeons, and a nosy media for the next six months to six years of your life (depending on how quickly you heal and your particular state's sentencing guidelines). On the other hand, ripping to the red line in the Civic Si brings with it a glorious sound and quick-enough acceleration without attracting highway patrol officers and lawsuits.

Throw in the traction talents of the standard limited-slip differential and the result is a drivetrain that's flat-out joyous to use; the best match of four-cylinder engine, manual transmission, and differential ever put into a small, front-wheel drive car.

More car

This latest generation of Civics rides on an updated version of Honda's Global Small Car (GSC) platform that was introduced with the just-previous generation. This isn't a bad architecture for a car (it's also the basis for the RSX) or an SUV (both the CR-V and Element use it) or even a minivan (Honda doesn't sell the Stream here - at least not yet), but it's not exotic. And it still doesn't feature the double-wishbone front suspension that was once a distinctive engineering element of the Civic and a fetish object among the car's fans.

So the Si's MacPherson-strut front and multilink double-wishbone rear suspension is the same general layout as other 2K6 Civics with higher spring rates, specifically tuned shocks, and thicker anti-roll bars. All that connects to the pavement through 17-inch alloy wheels and standard P215/45R17 Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 all-season tires. If all-season seems like a euphemism for all-sucky, there's an optional "summer tire" that isn't as flexible in different weather conditions but is stickier.

It's always summer in Southern California, so the test car wore the more aggressive shoes, and this is a truly great handling car - particularly for a front-driver. The body roll is minimal, adhesion is tenacious, and what power there is all makes it to the ground thanks to the trick differential. The Si's transitional ability from left hand corner to right hand corner is amazing and as good as most BMWs. The previous Si also used electrically assisted rack-and-pinion steering, but the new car's system seems much better sorted and quicker to react. This steering is actually better than the conventionally aided steering in the RSX.

Throw in effective four-wheel disc brakes with standard ABS and the new Si stands out as the most satisfying pure driving machine Honda has ever sold in the United States that wasn't called S2000 or NSX. And unlike the NSX or S2000, this machine can hold (if just barely) four people and their luggage.

Too much more inside?

There's been a lot of critical praise thrown the Si's way in the past few months and I'm doing my best here to spread even more love. But if there's one element in the Si that will be polarizing, it's the interior.

The interior's best pieces are obviously the front thrones. With aggressive bolstering, a perfectly shaped back cushion and neat nylon mesh upholstery, these are first-class driving seats. And that's even for those of us with bodies as wide as they are tall.

Close behind is the steering wheel that is a perfect three-spoke design with thumb indents for improved grip and audio and cruise control switches elegantly integrated into the horizontal spokes. And it sits atop a tilting and telescoping column that makes it easy to position it perfectly for any driver.

Beyond that the parking brake is a neat design that saves space and the shifter is perfectly shaped.

Also due for praise is the 350-watt audio system which even in its base form feature seven speakers of crystalline sound and the ability to easily plumb in an iPod. Up for excellent optional satellite navigation system (imagine, a Civic with navi) and you can also play MP3s directly off a memory card. XM is an option and so is a kit to integrate an iPod's controls into the Honda system. It's very slick and very easy to use. Plus kids think watching the nav system's screen tilt away is the neatest thing since Sponge Bob was fitted with square pants.

Also thoroughly uncontroversial are the power windows and mirrors, the sunroof, the side curtain airbags and virtually everything else - except the dashboard. Like so many cars today that need as much room as possible in their dashes in order to package features and safety equipment, the base of the Civic's windshield is well forward and there's an amazing amount of acreage atop the dash itself. Rather than push the speedometer toward the driver however, Honda has tiered the Civic's dash so that the speedo exists on its own level and about halfway back along the dash top. It's a digital speedo too with big red numerals. The tachometer meanwhile is centered in the lower dash with the rest of the instrumentation.

For me the Si's dash works just fine. But it is unconventional and others will find this arrangement more awkward than they're willing to accommodate. So be it. I like it and this is my review.

The decision

I'm not thrilled with the Si's rear spoiler (I'd rather have a flat deck) and think it's atrocious that fog lights are a dealer option rather than standard equipment. But at $19,990 this car is a staggering value. Even optioning it up will only push the price to about $22k and change.

So I decided to go to my local Honda dealer and buy one. And there on the window sticker was a smaller sticker where the dealer proudly announced an additional markup of $4000. I could resist paying that. And then a couple of days later the new Car and Driver arrived in the mail saying that VW's new GTI was even better (I haven't driven the GTI yet). And then after that, Honda showed the sedan version of the Si at the Chicago Auto Show that's coming in the fall and that would make putting my kids in the back a lot easier.

So I haven't bought a new Si. At least not yet.

2006 Honda Civic Si

Base price: $19,900

Engine: 2.0-liter in-line four, 197 hp

Drivetrain: Six-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive

Length x width x height: 174.8 x 68.9 x 53.5 in

Wheelbase: 104.3 in

Curb weight: 2877 lb

EPA city/hwy: 22/31 mpg

Safety equipment: Dual front airbags, side curtain airbags, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes

Major standard equipment: Power windows/locks/mirrors, cruise control, CD player, keyless entry

Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles

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Link: http://www.thecarconnection.com/Vehicle_Re...184.A10100.html

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Guest YellowJacket894

God, I hate this car. A part of me hates that its simply a Honda, yes, in my typical biased fashion. But I loathe the styling. Minivan nose, ugly, mass of flab for an ass, buck-toothed Honda logo, hunchback styling...makes me sick. The stupid thing looks like a mildly retarded beaver, for lack of a better comparison.

And, goddammit, I hate the interior, too. GM got kicked for a digital guage cluster in the Vette in the '80s. But, when Honda does it -- and twice as bad I might add -- it's a work of God.

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God, I hate this car. A part of me hates that its simply a Honda, yes, in my typical biased fashion. But I loathe the styling. Minivan nose, ugly, mass of flab for an ass, buck-toothed Honda logo, hunchback styling...makes me sick. The stupid thing looks like a mildly retarded beaver, for lack of a better comparison.

And, goddammit, I hate the interior, too. GM got kicked for a digital guage cluster in the Vette in the '80s. But, when Honda does it -- and twice as bad I might add -- it's a work of God.

your take works for me.

too bad the A3 and GTI are so much better frickkin cars. too bad the mazda 3 looks nicer and normal. to bad the SS Cobalt is faster.

Edited by regfootball

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Well that was a biased reviewer with his mind already made up if I ever heard one. I really like the car, but I don't know if I'd own one. It would be hard for me to go back to a Civic, when I could get an 05-06 RSX Type S which looks much better, and only lacks an LSD in comparison.

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8000 RPM redline... wierd...

The guy I know who has one constantly rags how he revs it all the way to 10k...

Again I just shot back at him that I don't even need to rev to overtake a bus.

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