Euro looks at the right price
THE cane toad, the Brendan Fevola deal to Brisbane and the national home insulation scheme.
All three had good intentions and seemed like good ideas at the time, but ultimately failed to deliver the desired result.
Honda’s Civic Si can probably join the list.
British-built with luxurious finishes, the groovy-looking hatchback was launched here a couple of years back with lofty ideals.
The Japanese brand had its eye on the premium prize with the likes of BMW (Mini), Fiat, Alfa and Audi in its sights. With a starting price of about 40 grand that included leather trim and a swag of technology goodies, the Si was a good package, but apparently not good enough for the punters.
Of the 10,000-plus Civics sold in 2010, about 330 were the Si. This year, the Civic is struggling even more in a tough market. But Honda has given its underrated hatchback a much-needed boost, courtesy of a rapid reduction in price and the introduction of a cloth trim option that now starts from less than $30,000.
That brings it back into more competitive territory among the Japanese hatches, so we tested the entry-level Si with a manual box to see whether the changes are a deal clincher.
Passengers will be impressed with the contemporary interior design.
The driver stares down the barrel of a semi-circle cockpit. There are two binnacles; the top displays your speed digitally while the second has a 3-D styling featuring revs, fuel and temperature (there is also an economy indicator which lights up to show thrifty driving).
There is a fair amount of hard plastics across the dash, doors and console. It’s not offensive, but just isn’t up to the quality you would see in the European marques.
Faux aluminium-look inserts on the doors and around the gear shifter improve the ambience.
Completing the chic look is the unique gearshift covering with the manual, which conjures thoughts of the old sit-down video game joysticks.
Seating is supportive in the right places despite no lumbar adjustment, while the steering wheel has only vertical movement.
Leg, elbow and head room are reasonable in the back, although probably most comfortable for two adults no taller than 180cm.
On the road
Unfortunately, the Si doesn’t live up to its sporting exterior.
The 1.8-litre four-cylinder is an honest performer but the lively chassis makes you wish for more punch.
With peak power of 103kW at a high 6300rpm, you have to get things spinning to make the most of your momentum. When armed with the manual shifter you can have fun with swift cog changes to keep the power coming.
It loves to rev, much like its potent Type R sibling that we still rate as one of the most rewarding drives around, and it is amazing the performance Honda has delivered from a relatively simple suspension set-up.
Steering is direct and sharp, and combined with its ability to handle bends makes you yearn for some turbo oomph.
What do you get?
Standard equipment on the Si has been good since launch. You get six airbags, stability control, traction control, dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning, rear parking sensors, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, and 17-inch alloy wheels with a temporary spare wheel.
There are colour-coded bumpers and rear-view mirrors, leather steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, a climate-controlled glovebox, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth (which is
mounted just above the driver and not integrated into the central menu operation), auto lights, CD stereo with MP3 compatibility, two 12-volt accessory power outlets, aluminium pedals and foot rest.
There is a fair range of competitors, from the Japanese marques like Mitsubishi Lancer VR Sportback ($25,890), Subaru Impreza Hatch RS ($28,490), Hyundai i30 SR ($28,540), Mazda3 Hatch Maxx Sport ($28,360), through to the European Mini Cooper ($31,650), Audi A3 Sportback 1.4 ($41,000) and Alfa Romeo MiTo ($29,990).
Four adults can be carried in comfort, and three children across the back seat would not be an issue.
The boot space is deep, and the foldable rear pews with integrated child seat anchorage points have a similar “magic” system as the Jazz which is brilliant for hauling gear.
It’s a relatively thrifty four-potter, and we achieved close to the official figure of less than seven litres for every 100km.
The Civic VTi sedan is among the best for retaining its value for money, so with this price realignment you could safely assume the Si will be reason-able too – as will be insurance premiums.
With sharp swooping lines, twin chrome exhausts, rear door handles integrated into the back pillars, full body kit ... it’s an impressive hatch and a stand-out in this genre.
This price is probably where the Si should have started when launched in 2009.
It lacked the panache to compete with the Europeans, but this realignment makes it a much more alluring option.
There are still cheaper options available from other Japanese marques, but none has the good looks of the Si. If only it had that turbo punch, it would sell itself.
Model: Honda Civic Si.
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive five-door hatchback.
Engine: 1.8-litre i-VTEC in-line four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 103kW @ 6300rpm and peak torque of 174Nm @ 4300rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed manual or five-speed automatic.
Consumption: 6.9 litres/100km (combined average, manual).
Performance: 0-100kmh in 8.6 seconds.
Emissions: 163g/km (manual).
Bottom line: $29,990 (manual).