Sometimes in this line of work, there’s that one car you just never seem to drive. Not some million-dollar exotic no one else will drive, either, but something totally normal and common. For me, that bogey always seems to be a Honda Civic. The universe has made a sudden course correction because I’m now responsible for our 2020 Honda Civic Si HPT Sedan for the next few months.
In keeping with the pattern, though, I won’t be driving this one a full year. Let’s see what we have to work with then.
It’s a short and sweet list, but it requires a little decoding. The Si is Honda’s storied mid-tier performance sub-brand, focused more on handling and driver involvement than raw power. In this case, it means the turbocharged 1.5-liter I-4 has been tuned up from 174 to 205 hp, and it only comes connected to a six-speed manual transmission. Crammed in the middle of that gearbox is a limited-slip differential and a slightly shorter final drive ratio, helping put the power down better and improving acceleration. Stuffed under each corner of the car are adjustable adaptive dampers. All in all, that is some pretty serious hardware for a car in the Civic’s price class.
At each corner are the high-performance tires that account for the HPT part of the name. In this case, that’s not a euphemism. Honda has fitted Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 tires, the same tire fitted to a 455-hp Camaro SS. As pure summer performance tires, they come with an explicit warning not to drive on them if it’s snowy or icy. It might sound a little overkill for a compact family sedan with barely more than 200 hp to you, but you haven’t driven a Civic Si. When cars handle well, they need tires that can keep up.
Honda typically makes each trim level of a given vehicle a specific combination of features rather than offer options packages, even if it makes for a lot of trim levels. The Civic is no exception, so the Civic Si HPT Sedan is basically a mono-spec car. There are three paint colors, three wheel options, and a handful of dress-up accessories and that’s it. We’re happy with the standard wheels, and while one or two accessories looked enticing (wireless phone charging, auto-dimming rearview mirror), we decided to save our pennies.
As a result, our Rallye Red Si has no options, packages, or additional charges on its window sticker, so we’re out the door for just $26,130 after destination and handling. That’s an incredible performance value, considering Honda’s top-tier Civic Type R is the best-handling FWD car on the market, and this is basically the less extreme version. Cars this fun to drive don’t usually come this cheap, and if they do, they aren’t this practical.
True, we could’ve got the sportier-looking Civic Si Coupe for the same price, but at the cost of everyday usability. Coupes are great if you never have to use the back seats, but more and more people every day are deciding they don’t want the hassle, and coupe sales are hurting across the industry. And until Honda starts offering the Si configuration for the Civic Hatchback, the Civic Si Sedan is the have your cake and eat it, too practical sporty car. There isn’t another four-door sedan under $30,000 you can buy with this kind of handling.
Is being fun to drive while retaining an adult-accessible back seat and a good-sized truck enough, or will the stiff performance suspension wear thin after a few months? Will we regret not coughing up for a few of those relatively cheap accessories we passed on? Will MotorTrend Head of Editorial Ed Loh regret scheduling his shoulder surgery right before the stick-shift Si showed up and having to give the car up to me? I’ll let you know next quarter.