Weidel on Wheels: Honda pulls out fun card with Civic SI

Sporty coupe has plenty of power, corners well and has an impressive-looking interior
By: Jeffrey Weidel, Special to Gold Country Motoring
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I thought I knew the Honda Civic quite well. After all, I owned one for 12 years and put more than 200,000 miles on my wonderfully crafted 1982 compact vehicle. I drove that model for a dozen years and over the past decade have test driven at least half a dozen other Civics, so I was familiar with the old and the new. Yet Honda fooled me with the 2009 Civic SI. This little sporty coupe was ready for some serious road action and was equipped to compete against plenty of other more notable vehicles. Who would begin to think a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine would have this much power? But the Civic SI did, utilizing 197 horsepower, which is quite a bit for a light-weight coupe that can go from 0 to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds. With an “exclusive” six-speed manual transmission, the Civic SI was particularly fun to drive. Of course, the downside to having all that power is reflected in the price, which runs high for a Civic. This SI with a navigational system was going for $24,105. Strip away the navi feature and it’s down to $22,105. For the very cost conscious, a DX trim with manual transmission starts at $15,305. The DX and three of the other trims are more Civic-like with 140 horsepower or less. So take your pick, be cost conscious and purchase a more practical Civic that is better on gas, or be daring and buy the SI, which gets between 21 to 29 miles per gallon. Either way one is getting a good deal because the Civic continues to be a smartly designed small car that’s at or near the top in its class, and continues to provide a nimble ride, interior refinement, good gas mileage and affordability. It’s actually hard to find major flaws with the Civic, so why bother nit-picking. New this year are some cool exterior design touches on the front and tail that make the vehicle sleeker looking and add to the visual appeal that competitors such as the Nissan Versa, Scion xB, Chevrolet HHR and Hyundai Elantra don’t possess. The Civic’s interior design is very well laid out and makes sense, a quality that more manufacturers should strive to produce. Honda doesn’t go cheap like some other compact competitors — the material is high quality in the Civic. We mentioned the SI provides the fun factor, but so do lesser models. The Civic has historically handled well and is very stable at higher freeway speeds. It also maintains a firm grip on the road, isn’t susceptible to wind problems and has strong braking power. ---------- Honda Civic SI Price: Starting at $22,105 Mileage estimate: From 21miles per gallon city to 29 mpg highway Power: 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine with 197 horsepower Standard features include: Anti-lock brakes; vehicle stability assist; daytime running lights; leather-wrapped steering wheel; tilt steering; power windows, doors, mirrors; keyless entry