Honda Civic Si video preview

It’s hard to believe that the Honda Civic Si has been with us now for more than 30 years. In the three decades it’s been on sale, the sporty Civic has stood for affordable performance.

Now, the automaker turns the page for the Civic Si for this year in a big way. Whether it retains the same enthusiastic attitude for entry-performance buyers is yet to be seen.

First, there are two big changes for the Si under the hood this year. It’s the first time an Si has been turbocharged and the first time since the early 1990s that an Si hasn’t had a VTEC engine. Those two aren’t mutually exclusive, but they aren’t found together in the Si.

Instead, the 1.5-liter turbo-4 makes 205 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque lower in the rev range this year, which means no more screaming Si running toward redline—for now. The only transmission for the Si this time around is a short-throw 6-speed manual, which we like in the Civic.

To handle the horsepower bump and sporty mission, the Si gets bigger brakes, adaptive dampers, a helical limited-slip differential, and variable electric power steering. The whole suspension setup has been stiffened and strengthened with bigger stabilizer bars and bigger bushings—perfect for weekend track duty.

The Si sports interior upgrades over the Civic to look a little sportier too. Sport buckets up front and red stitching throughout, help separate the Si from normal models—but in case that’s not enough center-mounted exhausts and a big wing on the deck on the Coupe will announce to the world that you’ve opted for the quicker model.

About that wing: Honda’s big wing out back is better for the racer-boy look than it is for aerodynamics, so it’s a matter of personal preference. We like the sedan for its more sedate look, but to each his or her own.

Regardless of your take on the tall wing, the Civic will start in the mid-$20,000 range when it goes on sale next month. That puts it in direct competition with the Subaru WRX, Ford Fiesta ST, and Volkswagen GTI—all of which make more power. The Civic Si only has 4 more horsepower than the Elantra Sport, which starts at $21,650.

Whether Honda nails the little things enough to make a difference over those more powerful competitors remains to be seen. Considering its pedigree, we’ll be watching.

For more N.Y. auto show coverage, head to our dedicated hub.

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