Honda Civic Si North Tonawanda NY

So when Honda redesigned the Civic for 2006, which it claims "represents the most significant change to the Civic lineup in its 30-plus year history," the engineers were given the task of making the Si version a performance car of the first order. Did they succeed?

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Honda's Civic Si has stirred our emotions since it first hit the U.S. market in 1986. Although never a full-on sports car, the Si badge meant this was a special Civic, one worth driving simply for the sake of driving.

But the last generation (2002-2005) was a bit of a letdown, both in performance and looks (leave the dorkiness to the Toyota Prius, please). So when Honda redesigned the Civic for 2006, which it claims "represents the most significant change to the Civic lineup in its 30-plus year history," the engineers were given the task of making the Si version a performance car of the first order. Did they succeed?

Before we hop inside the car to determine whether it's a warrior or a poseur, there's no mistaking the Civic's all-new coupe body; it's quite a turnaround from the previous Si's upright, hatchback (electric-car-looking) body style. The huge, steeply raked windshield, slit-like headlights and futuristic body define the car's aerodynamic shape. But...while the old car was best described as "frumpy," the new car could be called "stumpy." Its incredibly short hood and tiny rear deck mean the Si is one of the few cars that looks better in photos than it does in person. It's not ugly by any stretch, but is it "manly" enough to attract the predominantly male buyer of the Si?

Enough with the styling analysis, let's get into it — the car and the performance. The Si now uses the top version of the K-Series engine (the K20Z3), which is a 1998-cc dohc 16-valve inline-4 with Honda's iVTEC (intelligent valve timing/lift mechanism). Its 197 bhp gives it an impressive 99 bhp per liter, though that power comes at a much higher rpm (7800) than the old car's 160 bhp, which peaked at 6500. Torque is affected similarly, the new Si's 139 lb.-ft. coming at 6200 rpm (about the time iVTEC kicks in) vs. the old car's 132 at 5000.

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