2020 Honda Civic Si gets a shorter final drive ratio, new headlights—and demands a track test

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November 14, 2019 09:00 AM

2020 Honda Civic Si gets a shorter final drive ratio, new headlights—and demands a track test

Honda Sensing, adaptive cruise control, emergency braking and other e-nannies are now standard on the Civic Si, as are red interior accents.

Robin Warner

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Here is the 2020 Honda Civic Si on the move.

Usually new LED head- and fog lights do not merit a first drive. Then again, midcycle updates to cars usually do not involve the chance to watch the brand compete in a Formula 1 race and then drive the refreshed car on the same track that the race occurred on just the day before. And besides, it’s not just the lights. The 2020 Civic Si does receive a shorter final drive ratio from 4.105:1 to 4.350:1, a change of 5.6 percent, which livens up straight-line acceleration a tad. See? Totally worth it. Even with that change, however, the Si still woefully underperforms Honda’s F1 cars. To be fair, the Si offers much more space for passengers and a trunk.
The point of driving the updated Civic Si isn’t to try a bunch of new whiz-bang amazingness, but because Honda has enough confidence in its product to let me get in it and lap a track. And not just a small club track, but Circuit of the Americas, aka COTA: A 3.4-mile, 20-corner, F1-sanctioned monster with a 0.6-mile straight. Honda did swap out the standard brake pads for a set of Honda Performance Development, or HPD, pads. Otherwise the car was bone stock. But I am getting ahead of myself.
We first drove the 10th-generation sporty Honda Civic model in the middle of 2017; this 2020 model is built on the same platform, comes with the same turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-four-cylinder, producing the same 205 hp at 5,700 rpm and 192 lb-ft of torque between 2,100 and 5,000 rpm. Furthermore, it uses the same six-speed manual transmission, the only gearbox offered, hurray! Additionally, the suspension, brakes, interior and infotainment are all pretty much the same. 

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The 2020 Honda Civic Si’s new blacked out 18-inch wheels

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The 2020 Honda Civic Si’s new front bumper design

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The 2020 Honda Civic Si’s not new trunk

For 2020, the Honda Civic Si now has the aforementioned LED lights and final-drive ratio. Additionally, Honda restyled the front and rear bumpers on the Si sedan and just the front on the coupe. The wheels still measure 18 inches in diameter, but now have a black finish instead of silver. Inside, Honda added red accents to the interior and a physical volume knob, and other buttons, to the radio. Finally, Honda Sensing—the name used for safety systems like adaptive cruise control, automatic brakes to avoid collision, lane keep assist and the rest—is now standard.
In fact, most everything is standard on the Civic Si. Things like a 10-speaker, 450-watt stereo, normal and sport driving modes with adaptive dampers, push button start, heated front-seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and 40/60 split folding rear seats. For either the coupe or the sedan, it costs $25,930.
Other than dealer installed accessories, only two options are available: $200 for a set of Goodyear Eagle F1 summer tires, instead of same-sized all-seasons, and a $3,999 Honda Factory Performance, or HFP, package that adds more aggressive front spoiler, side skirts and a few badges. The HFP also gets 19-inch summer tires and a more aggressive tune of the adaptive sport suspension. Once a chance arises to try that package out, Autoweek will share what it’s like.

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Take a close look at the front three-quarters of the 2020 Honda Civic Si. This one is the coupe.

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Take a close look at the rear three-quarters of the 2020 Honda Civic Si. This one is the coupe.

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Take a close look at the profile of the 2020 Honda Civic Si. This one is the coupe.

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Take a close look at the profile of the 2020 Honda Civic Si and its prominent wing

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Take a close look at the front three-quarters of the 2020 Honda Civic Si against the setting sun.

The Execution
As you likely guessed, little changed in how the Si drives since 2017. The car still offers outstanding refinement and generally good road manners. It’s easy to find a comfortable spot in the manually adjustable seats. And, if the driving gets spirited, they also provide good support with larger than average lower and upper bolsters. 
Even when heaved into a corner, the Si’s suspension keeps the body reasonably flat and easy to control. Push too hard and the front end gives up first and the Si understeers. But balance is quite close to neutral. That allows a dab of left foot braking to tuck the front end right back in line. In fact, get artful with it and the rear end will dance around on corner entry.
Of course, it’s better if you’re in sport mode, which stiffens the dampers and reduces power steering assistance. The car sounds nicer, too—though, that’s ultimately false, as the stereo is used to help make the noise. Sport mode also speeds up throttle tip-in, which some people like, but I prefer the throttle to stay linear.
When cruising in standard mode, the Si behaves itself and offers plenty of creature comforts—I’m a sucker for heated seats—to keep a commute tolerable. The shorter final drive gear means the engine spins 3,000 rpm at 75 mph in top gear, which is a tad high. Thankfully, the sound quality is high and never drones.

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The red accents on the seats are new, the rest carries over from the 2017 Honda Civic Si

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This view of the 2020 Honda Civic Si interior is quite close to 2017

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The one and only transmission in the Honda Civic Si is a glorious six-speed manual.

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And here’s our beloved clutch pedal to go with the stick shift. Metal pedals, all good.

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In case you forget, yes, it is a Honda Civic Si

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Here’s a close look at the insrument panel of the Honda Civic Si

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Check it out, an actual volume knob. 

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Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are standard on the Honda Civic Si

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two deep cupholders come standard as well in the Honda Civic Si

When you’re cruising, hopefully it’s toward a track. If that’s the case, the Si remains steadfastly competent, with all the traits I noticed on the road carrying over in predictable, confidence-boosting fashion. Enough so, I found myself sliding around the fast esses that make up COTA’s sector one and not sweating it. With the track’s multiple big brake zones, you could definitely smell the HPD pads, but I didn’t experience any fade. And that’s after multiple 20-minute sessions.
If the occasional track day isn’t enough for you, Honda does sell a more potent Civic Si, the TCA class race car. Built by HPD, it gets racing brakes, slick tires, safety equipment and a beefy roll cage, but is otherwise the same stock Si sold at dealers. OK, that’s not entirely true. The suspension tune is different, as is fourth gear in the transmission. Same ratio, but stronger gear. Honda allowed me a few laps in it, and I came away impressed how similar it was to the stock Si in feel. Then HPD offered to sell me one for $52,500.

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Here is the Honda Civic Si TCA race car lapping Circuit of the Americas 

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Here is the profile of the Honda Civic Si TCA race car lapping Circuit of the Americas

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The wheels are not black on the Honda Civic Si TCA race car

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Here is the Honda Civic Si TCA race car going past the 250 foot tall tower at the Circuit of the Americas

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Red white and blue paint and beautiful stars adorn COTA in the run off areas. America!

The Takeaway 
Not much is new about the 2020 Honda Civic Si. As car updates go, this is a mild one. But the volume knob is certainly welcome, LED lights are also fine and dandy, and I appreciate the peppier pickup thanks to the adjusted final drive ratio, though the latter does hurt fuel economy slightly. 2019 Sis achieve 28/38/32 city, highway, combined fuel economy. The 2020 drops by two in every metric, now 26/36/30. 
But, honestly, that’s not an issue. If you seek fuel economy, you tend to not seek sporty. Here, you get a peppy, manual transmission-equipped car that offers good driver engagement and behavior across a wide spectrum of activities. Whether you’re getting groceries or track time, the Si is a worthy companion. 

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Other than a brake pad change, you’re looking at a bone stock 2020 Honda Civic Si lapping Circuit of the Americas. This is the Si sedan.

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Other than a brake pad change, you’re looking at a bone stock 2020 Honda Civic Si lapping Circuit of the Americas. This is the Si sedan in profile.

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Other than a brake pad change, you’re looking at a bone stock 2020 Honda Civic Si lapping Circuit of the Americas. Corners impressively flat for a $25,930 road car.

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Other than a brake pad change, you’re looking at a bone stock 2020 Honda Civic Si lapping Circuit of the Americas. See the 250-foot tower in the background.

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Other than a brake pad change, you’re looking at a bone stock 2020 Honda Civic Si lapping Circuit of the Americas. Now a view from that 250-foot tower.

2020 Honda Civic Si Specifications

On Sale: Now
Base Price: $25,930
Powertrain: Turbocharged 1.5-liter I4, six-speed manual, FWD
Output: 205 hp @ 5,700 rpm; 192 lb-ft of torque between 2,100-5,000 rpm
Curb weight: 2,889 lb (coupe); 2,906 lb (sedan)
Pros: Checks a lot of boxes for car enthusiast transportation. Thank you for the volume knob!
Cons: Could do without the rear wing

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Source:https://autoweek.com/article/car-reviews/2020-honda-civic-si-gets-shorter-final-drive-ratio-new-headlights-and-demands

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