2011 Honda Civic Si six-speed manual: $29,990 (As tested: $30,465 with metallic paint).
The Honda Civic hatch – called the Honda Civic Si in its current form – is once again a modern-looking, well-equipped and reasonably priced option for small car shoppers in Australia.
The British-built Honda Civic Type R reintroduced the hatch body style to the range in mid-2007, and was joined by the standard Si hatch early in 2009. Unfortunately, Honda Australia got the pricing and positioning all wrong. Although it was well equipped, the asking price of $38,990 for the manual and $41,290 for the automatic was well beyond what most Australians were willing to pay for a Honda Civic hatchback (back in 2005, the Civic Vi hatch cost just $25,950 in manual form).
The new Civic Si hatch is a real head turner, even when finished in Alabaster Silver paint like our test car was. The March update brought with it a new mesh front grille, making it look even more like the hard-core Type R. Outside you get triangular front fog lights and matching chrome exhaust pipes at the rear. The satin silver front door handles look like spaceships, while the rear handles are hidden in the window frames, adding to the coupe illusion. The headlights and windscreen wipers are automatic and the door mirrors are heated.
The interior of the Civic Si won’t disappoint fans of the exterior design. The sci-fi theme continues into the asymmetrical cabin, with all the controls focused towards the driver. Standard equipment includes dual-zone climate control (with climate controlled glovebox), auto-dimming rearview mirror, metallic pedals, cruise control, push-button start, and a tilt and reach adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The split-level dashboard is an ergonomic triumph, with all of the most important vehicle information positioned intuitively. The digital speed readout at the base of the windscreen means you can check you speed while keeping your eyes close to the road. The display is flanked by two LED indicators – Eco and Rev – which add a bit more theatre to the interior, but offer little in terms of practical driver information.
Most of the interior is finished in hard plastics, but in a way it suits the car’s sharp, sporty edge. It’s all put together perfectly so it doesn’t feel tacky like most other scratchy-surfaced cabins. One feature that looks half-baked, however, is the manual’s gearstick. Without a surrounding boot it just looks flimsy and cheap.
The worst thing about sitting in the driver’s seat is the car’s rear visibility. The C-pillars (the panel between the rear passenger windows and the rear windscreen) are definitely some of the widest in the small hatch segment, and the wider the C-pillar, the bigger your blind spot. It means you have to spend an extra moment looking over your shoulders when moving around in traffic. The rear windscreen incorporated what Honda calls a ‘glass spoiler’, which in reality is just a bar through the middle of the hatch that further obscures your view.
The five-speed automatic transmission adds $3000 to the price, decreases your efficiency and takes away some of the driving enjoyment. If you’re happy driving a manual, it’s a good option in the case of the Civic Si.
The ride is just firm enough to give the car sporty undertones, and rarely feels harsh or uncomfortable. Like many vehicles in Honda’s range, the steering is well tuned: light at low speeds and focused when you’re on the highway. A little more feedback and some extra weight in corners would make a good dynamic package even better.
The Civic Si has been awarded a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating. Standard features include six airbags (dual front, side and curtains), electronic stability control (Honda calls it Vehicle Stability Assist), traction control and seatbelt reminders for all passengers. One extra feature that would be nice in the manual model is a hill hold function to counter roll-back. The security system includes engine immobiliser and alarm, making it better protected than most of its competitors.
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