2023 Honda Civic Si Road Test: We hit the backroads in Honda's $30,000 do-it-all performance car

2023 Honda Civic Si Road Test: We hit the backroads in Honda's $30,000 do-it-all performance car

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The Honda Civic Type R and Acura Integra Type S might be Honda’s performance crown wearers this year, but don’t forget about the 2023 Honda Civic Si. As a little reminder to both ourselves and you, the good folks at home, I decided it was time for a road trip in a Blazing Orange Pearl Si down to the Indy 500 with a return trip detour to the Indiana Nürburgring.

I’ll fully admit to being somewhat skeptical about some of Honda’s decisions in engineering the new Si. Removing the adaptive dampers, subtracting 5 horsepower and, to a lesser extent, nixing the previously-standard heated seats were all steps backwards. Of course, all of that ensures the Si doesn’t step on the Acura Integra A-Spec’s toes. My goal is to see if these losses, and if the car as a whole, is still the do-it-all performance bargain you expect out of a Civic Si.


Cruising down from Detroit to Indy gives me time to get acquainted with the cabin. The orange/red and black seats instantly project a performance vibe with their supportive bolstering and comfortable cushions, and since they’re cloth, they won’t freeze you out in the winter, making that lack of heat hurt less. They feel just as good as they look, and the rest of the interior follows suit. The new Civic has an upscale feel to its insides in general, and the Si’s red accents enhance some of its best points, most notably the honeycomb air vents with the red outline.

Visibility is tremendous forward and to the sides, which eases the stress of a long trip like this one. Honda’s full driver assistance suite is standard, and I spend the whole highway portion of the drive with adaptive cruise and lane-centering turned on. With the surprisingly powerful and crisp Bose audio system pumping out the tunes, I spend the long drive in a rather happy and peaceful mindset for being in a budget performance car.

After stepping out of the saddle four hours later, however, I remain convinced that dropping the Si’s adaptive dampers is a notable loss. The Integra benefits greatly from the enhanced ride quality available from slotting it into a “Comfort” damper mode. Meanwhile, the Si hangs out in a middle ground that is great on your favorite set of backroads, but not as calm as the Integra is at long highway slogs. If you’re tolerant of a stiffer suspension, then you’ll likely be fine with this, but knowing that Honda has the parts in its bin to make it the best of both worlds is a tough pill to swallow (and may send you to the Acura dealer instead).

With the Indy 500 wrapped up, I’m feeling properly invigorated for a little enthusiastic motoring of my own. It’s time to stop treating the Si like a daily driver and more like a sports sedan. The Indiana Nürburgring, in case you missed it last time, is a route of winding and technical backroads through southern Indiana that takes you in a big circle roughly resembling the Nordschleife. It’s a perfect place to put a car like the Si through its paces, and you might even find some tasty pork along the way.

Countless sports cars these days have so much power that sustained full-throttle sessions mean you’re asking for trouble from law enforcement or that you’re simply going way too fast for the road. Honda’s little 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 200 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque has no such issue. And sure, maybe that sounds like a roundabout way of saying it’s slow, but on up-and-down, tight roads like these, the Si’s 200 horses are all I need to have a joyous time. Plus, it allows me to exercise 100% of what the car can do over and over, and who doesn’t love more time with the right pedal all the way down? The engine itself doesn’t sing a sonorous high-rpm Honda sound, but it’s still satisfying to listen to and to rev all the way to its 6,500 rpm redline. The last 1,000 rpm come in a rush as power builds as revs rise, keeping you engaged all the way through the rev range.