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I did a fanfuckingtastic thing

Illustration for article titled I did a fanfuckingtastic thing
Photo: Ernesto the internet sales guy at Ourisman Honda Bethesda

Squee. I got me a new car that’s reliable, practical, affordable, equipped with many safety nannies, and has insanely good resale value. It’s also a complete riot. That’s right, I bought a 2020 Civic Si sedan in the proper blue color for Si heritage. Well, I’m picking it up tomorrow, but the deal’s done.

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I finally decided it was time to move on from my 335xi before sinking any more money into it. The last straw for me was, a few weeks ago I was scooting around in it, and on a vigorous 1-2 shift I...pulled the shift knob clean off the shifter.

Gif: Giphy (Fair Use)
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The boot was still attached to the knob, and I was like wtf how am I supposed to shift now, but I found a forum thread that said just slot it back on to the shifter and give it a good whack to make the clip latch back into place. This mostly worked, but it and the rest of the shifter in general are all feeling loose, and probably the whole mess needs new clips, bushings, etc. Thinking about yet another thing to fix, even something relatively minor, along with the likely imminent need for tires and brakes, made me say enough.

With the mods it would’ve been a good candidate for a private party sale, except for its checkered past with its not-original motor, and my having once rear-ended a dive bombing idiotic DC driver. I tried selling it last year and got nowhere. I also considered trading it in to dealers and was less than thrilled with their trade offers. But I got to thinking with covid, used car values are up, maybe I could at least get close to those offers a year later, so let’s see about trading it again.

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I didn’t need a new new car, but in this case, a new Si was by far the best option.

2020 is the last best year of the current generation Civic Si. The new generation Civic is coming out as an early 2022 model “next spring.” But the Si is taking the 2021 model year off. The 2020 Si gained several new things over previous years, none of which are major, but nonetheless desirable!

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  • Black wheels that aren’t extra-special, but at least kinda cool for stock wheels, and the old ones were horrible.
  • LED headlights from the upper Civic trims instead of the lower trims’ uglier, dimmer halogen projectors.
  • More red interior accents including on the comfier-for-2020 seats. I didn’t know before trying a 2020 that the seats had been made comfier, but driving it, I thought they were comfier than I remembered of the 2019, and sure enough reviews of the 2020 mentioned new seat padding.
  • Little body color whiskers to break up the giant black plastic fake vents on the bumpers.
  • A shorter final drive ratio for more off-the-line acceleration.
  • HondaSensing safety nannies + active cruise control.
  • I’m not positive, but I think the gas pedal was moved closer to the driver. I thought heel-toeing the 2019 was garbage because the gas pedal was both tiny and set far back from the brake pedal. Many people agree this is a problem because there are multiple kits to move the gas pedal. I found heel-toeing the 2020 easier to accomplish but who knows. There’s no documentation of this.
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Each of these upgraded something that bugged me about the 2019 Si that I tried last summer. Well, I didn’t need more red interior trim, but it’s lively, and the new seat padding is comfier. The shorter final drive hopefully won’t grate on me on the highway, but so far so good.

I did however really want my next car to have active cruise and that in itself makes a huge difference for me. Basically I wanted something comfier than my lowered E92, but still fun, and with newer tech features like active cruise and Android Auto. The 2020 Si is one of the only cars with a manual transmission and active cruise.

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Since the 2020 model year is almost over, and the Si was by far the cheapest car I’ve gotten excited about, I decided now was the time to get one while they’re still available.

I’m very happy about this but instead of a full review, I’m sticking to the many things I love about the Si.

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1. Fundamentally, it’s still a Honda Civic sedan.

I’ve driven many stupid impractical cars for many years. But I actually like practicality! When I drive whatever current mainstream late model car my wife’s in at the moment, or decent rental cars, I’m like, “man this sure is comfy and quiet and handy for my day to day activities!” Putting aside that you can’t get the Si as a hatch anyway, I think the sedan is the only current Civic shape that approaches being decent looking if done up right. The sedan is roomy front and back, the trunk is huge, the ergonomics rock, and there’s many ingenious cup holders and storage nooks and crannies! It’s simple and un-fussy and oh so functional. It’s also reliable and cheap to fix and holds its value insanely well.

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Look at all the junk you could put in that trunk
Look at all the junk you could put in that trunk
Photo: Honda (Fair Use)

2. It’s a fucking hoot to drive with serious performance that totally blows past its numbers on paper.

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There’s nothing exotic about the Civic Si’s construction or specs that would make it seem all that great of a performance car. Except, it only weighs 2900 lbs. Objectively I’ve had way faster cars, but thanks in large part to that light weight and appropriate performance-y bits, the Si fun as hell at driving sportily in boring daily driver situations.

The 1.5T motor is dinky but punches above its weight just like my the first car I ever bought with my own money, my ’92 Integra GSR with its B17A VTEC powah! While the Si’s motor is a tuned-up version of the regular Civic’s 1.5T, for Si duty, it gets a bigger turbo shared with the CR-V, a different intake cam, higher-flow fuel injectors, beefier lower-compression pistons, and sturdier connecting rods.

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With the light weight, short gearing, and LSD that will chirp both front tires on hard 1-2 shifts, the Si isn’t fast but it feels way quicker than you’d think from the numbers. Honestly, I don’t care about bench racing. My 335xi had roughly double the Si’s power, but the Si, regardless of numbers, feels quick & sporty enough for what it is, with legit off-the-line quickness and midrange punch, not at all like a normal econobox.

Where the light weight most shines through is handling. The steering has an extremely quick ratio and fantastic feel. Turn-in response is immediate. Balance in turns is fantastic. There’s a little body roll but not much. Body control from the adaptive dampers is really, really great. There’s no perceptible torque steer. In addition to chirping the tires on 1-2 shifts, the helical LSD lets you jump on the gas very early when powering out of corners, and contributes a lot to the feeling of loads of mechanical grip, even on the stock sporty all-season tires. There’s an option to upgrade to summer tires for $200, but I wanted the all-seasons so I could use them in DC’s generally mild winters and next spring I’ll buy cooler/wider wheels and proper summer tires.

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The shifter is loads better than the Veloster N that I test drove before deciding to buy the Si.

Illustration for article titled I did a fanfuckingtastic thing
Photo: Honda (Fair Use)
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Above all else, I want a car to be fun in normal regular-ass driving. The Si more than delivers.

3. Even with all that fun, the ride stays plenty comfy including in sport mode.

The Si doesn’t ride like a luxury car, but it does ride like a moderately firmer version of a typical mainstream car with plenty of suspension travel. Coming from my long history of lowered performance cars, this feels great, especially for the amount of fun the Si is to drive so much of the time. The adaptive dampers keep things planted in turns and provide suppleness over bumps. Just being able to drive a sporty grippy car with zero crashiness over bumps is a win to me. I love these dampers.

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4. Unlike the Type-R, the Si is the proper amount of stupid for a sporty Civic.

Like all current-generation Civics, the Si looks like a robot, but a little more robot-y than the regular version. It’s not crazy, covered in tacked-on aero bits (other than the trunk spoiler), and is made less crazy by the fact that Civic sedans are plentiful. The sedan’s styling is the more graceful than the smushy hatch or the just-plain-weird coupe with its compromised back seat. The 2020 styling updates are subtle, but welcome. The LED headlights are much more attractive, the little whiskers of color break up the fake bumper vents, and the wheels go from atrocious to above average.

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Illustration for article titled I did a fanfuckingtastic thing
Photo: Honda (Fair Use)

The seats are way bolster-y and super cool looking (now with red accent stitching instead of light gray accent stitching!) and continue a long line of neato OE Honda sport seats that aren’t quite full racing seats. I love them. They’re glorious cloth! There’s fake carbon fiber on the dash, several new-for-2020 red accents, the gauges go red in sport mode, and there are a small number of Si logos. The shift knob is cool but you need to cover it with a towel in the summer when you park outside because it’s real aluminum, and the steering wheel is nearly as girthy as a BMW.

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It has giant single center-mounted exhaust tip shaped like an HDMI port.

Illustration for article titled I did a fanfuckingtastic thing
Photo: Honda (Fair Use)
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5. It has *just enough* equipment.

The Si is by no means loaded up, and it’s missing many table-stakes luxury features, but it’s pretty solid with what it offers in tech and livability.

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  • Very comfy bolster-y seats, with heaters
  • Dual-zone auto climate control
  • Multi-angle backup camera + LaneWatch passenger side mirror camera
  • Honda Sensing active safety nannies + active cruise
  • Android Auto & Apple CarPlay
  • Full LED headlights
  • The upgraded stereo from the upper Civic trims with an amp & more speakers sounds good enough to not feel like I’m stuck with crappy base model economy car speakers.
  • The gauges have a center screen with fun shit like a boost gauge and g-meter and shift lights, and will display Google Maps from Android Auto (which is really necessary because when you put on your right turn signal the LaneWatch display takes over the main dash screen)
  • Auto-dimming mirror (this was a dealer accessory but gotta have it)
  • Mother. Fucking. Sunroof.

6. Any knocks against it can be responded to with BUT DAT PRICE THO.

Including destination, the sticker price on the Si is $26,155. It’s the cheapest brand new car you can buy with an LSD and adaptive shocks, not to mention sunroof and active cruise.

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Nothing else in the hot hatch/sport compact segment really grabbed me like the Si. Other cars like the WRX or GLI may have similar starting prices, but no active cruise on the GLI, and the WRX only gets it with the CVT. The next-cheapest car of any type with a stick shift and active cruise is the GTI Autobahn which stickers at an eye-watering $37,415. That’s as much as the much-faster Civic Type-R, but going that route over the Si means losing the sunroof, heated seats & Honda Sensing.

The various HyunKia 1.6T cars can be had in this price range with loads of features including active cruise—the Kia Forte GT being the best bang for the buck—but with their open differentials and much less capable chassis I never seriously considered them. That platform even in Veloster N form is, in my opinion, not as good to drive as the Si, and I disliked the Veloster form factor just about as much as I expected to dislike it.

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The only thing is, don’t expect to get much of a discount on a 2020 Si if you rush out to buy one while they’re still available. I shopped around multiple dealers and all gave me the same story about the Si being a hot seller, the 2020 being a one-and-done, and they’re not going to knock much money off the last few examples. At the very least, I paid below sticker, and got 2.42% for 60 months financing on the small-ish loan I took out after using my paid off 335xi as a down payment. But I’m not mad because even at sticker price the Si is a crazy value.

Anyway...

As you can see from my rantings above, the Si is far from the move only because of its price. There’s a ton I love about it, including the price. The only other cars I got excited about during this whole process were a Kia Stinger GT2 RWD, or Camaro 2SS 1LE. They’re both wildly different cars from the Si and each other. The only thing those two have in common is they’re rwd, with sticker prices 2x the Si, although they can be had at deep discounts that still would’ve been a lot more than I paid for the Si. Which is one of the reasons the Si is the most rational stupid car in my history of only ever buying stupid cars.

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Most importantly, thanks to covid, I managed to get just as much for my trade as dealers were offering me a year ago. After all the hassle from that 335xi, which I still loved anyway, I’m glad to have managed to enjoy it for the time I owned it, but still get out of it with a clean break and into something I know will be much less frustrating.

Buying this 2020 Si now, without going into every specific detail, works much better financially than if I had traded the 335xi in on a 2019 Si a year ago. Plus the 2020 Si is much better than the 2019, to me at least.

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The only slight doubt in my mind is what the next Si might end up being. Sure, it could suck, but it could be even better. All I know is, I was ready to get out of my 335xi now, this 2020 Si really does rock, and that’s good enough for me. Besides, if the new one turns out to be less good, I’d be kicking myself for not snagging a 2020 when I could get a brand new blue one with an unmolested front bumper and a warranty, from a local dealer.

I’m picking it up tomorrow, because I insisted on getting a blue Si sedan with no front plate bracket screwed into the front bumper. The dealer I bought from had one in stock with a front plate bracket, and what became my car was in transit. They let me drive the one in stock and put a deposit on the in-transit one to make sure it stayed free of the front plate bracket and any other dealer tacked-on bullshit like edge guards. The car arrived yesterday, was PDI’d today, and they’re putting the auto-dimming mirror in tomorrow once the parts arrive.

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As soon as I take it home, I’m popping on these smoked sidemarkers and amber LED bulbs to ditch the orange ones, and I have an appointment at a tint shop for 50% crystalline film on all the windows minus the windshield (don’t tint windshields on cars with active safety nannies, not even clear film for heat rejection!), plus wrapping the chrome trim along the top of the windows in flat black. I hate that chrome.

Illustration for article titled I did a fanfuckingtastic thing
Photo: Textured Soy Protein
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For me, this Si is coming full circle in my history of cars. I was a broke college kid when I bought my ’92 Integra GSR way back in 2001, and thanks to being a broke college kid I didn’t get to keep it nearly as long as I would’ve liked. I ended up selling it to keep financially afloat, then went car-less for a while before I bought my ’99 10th Anniversary Edition Miata. So it’s not like I suffered, but I still feel a lot of what-ifs about that GSR. The Si is like that old GSR, but in an immensely more modern, practical, fast, grippy, comfy, safe, and tech’ed-out-enough package. Now I’m in a financial position where I can keep it, maintain it, and hook it up just right. Looking at hop up parts for Hondas is so reassuringly affordable compared to BMWs and other higher-end cars I’ve owned or considered buying.

Kinda feels good to be home. Yippy skippy.

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