IT has to be one of the best looking small cars on the market: squat, wide-tracked and aerodynamic, and, for 2012, looking more like a Civic Type R than ever.
It’s the Civic Si, a UK-built Honda that uses much of the fiery Type R’s styling, but has lesser performance.
Main visual difference is the Si has a couple of extra doors, and under the bonnet there are 45 fewer kiloWatts.
Still, it’s a very clever bit of styling, with the back doors blending into the body so well that few people notice them.
The earlier plastic grille is now of mesh, just like the Type R’s, and inside there’s standard Bluetooth connectivity and cloth trim, or for a grand or so extra, optional leather.
The dynamic-looking hatch, which has been available in Europe for years, is a far cry from the Civic sedan.
Indeed, I can’t think of any other car maker that has such great disparity between sedan and hatch of the same model.
There are no mechanical changes.
The Si has a 103kW/174Nm 1.8litre engine compared to the Type R’s 2.0litres and 148kW but despite the big power difference, the Si can still put in a brisk run.
Honda says it’s good for 8.6 seconds to 100km/h. Best we could get here was 9.0 seconds. Pretty good, and better than most in its class.
Where it scores big-time over the Type R is in the fuel race. It has an official claim to 5.7litres/100km.
The Si makes a very good initial impression and we developed a greater liking for it every time we got behind the wheel.
It drives smoothly, has a typical Euro-style suspension, which, teamed with its wide track and big (17-inch) alloy wheels shod with low profile rubber, gave it wonderful handling qualities.
It could be powered through the twisty bits, where it stayed true to steering input and clung to the chosen line with no problems.
Our Si thrived on the 1.8litre’s high revs, a feature typical of Honda and its bullet-proof Vtec motors.
Standard fare on the car includes electronic stability control, electric power steering and anti-skid brakes with brake assist. Six airbags are standard.
It’s bigger inside than one would think and has copious legroom in front and adequate space for back seat passengers, too.
Features are plentiful and include dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, foglights, rear park sonar, tyre pressure monitors, heated front seats, remote keyless entry with alarm, power windows and mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights, cruise control, trip computer and push-button start.
It’s a lovely thing to drive and with Honda’s recent price ‘repositioning’ it’s an attractive buy at $29,990 for the six-speed manual.
The auto is $2300 extra.
That makes it about $10,000 less than the Type R.