They’re both high-performance versions of the 10th-generation Civic. But that’s where the similarities end.
Notice the red Honda coupe above. It’s the all-new Civic Si. The hot version of Honda’s 10th-generation economy car is headed to U.S. dealers in early 2017. But lurking behind it, both in this photo and in the Honda family tree, is something far more sinister: The all-new 2017 Honda Civic Type-R. Never before available in North America, Honda’s uber-Civic is coming here in mid-2017.
Which begs the question: Why build two performance variants of the new Civic? And with the gonzo Type-R incoming, why bother with the middle-child Si?
Honda split the development of the 10th-generation Civic into two separate streams. The coupe and sedan currently on sale were designed and engineered here in the U.S. They’re built to meet the needs of North American customers, and as of right now, they aren’t even sold in Japan.
The Civic Si that’s coming in 2017 is also a product of Honda’s U.S. operation. Available next year as a coupe or sedan, it was engineered by the same teams that developed the base model car. It will be, in many ways, a sort of Civic-plus. The Si will use an upgraded version of the base Civic’s 1.5-liter turbo four-cylinder, making something more than the 180 horses available in the regular model (Honda won’t yet say how much more). The Si also adds upgraded brakes, an adaptive suspension, limited-slip differential, and a snickier, more precise shifter for the six-speed manual.
It’s a sharper, more performance-oriented Civic, but still something you’d be willing to daily drive. It’s the sensible, efficient commuter car that injects some fun into your morning slog. It’s got all of the convenience and usability of the Civic that Honda buyers love, with a dose of zing, as has been the case with every previous Civic to wear the Si badge.
The Type-R, on the other hand, will be a beast. In Europe and Japan, and in Honda fan circles worldwide, the Type-R badge connotes ultimate performance. Take a look at the last generation, built in England and sold almost everywhere that isn’t North America: A 306-horsepower, exorbitantly turbocharged little ball of energy, with looks like a comic-book starfighter and the chops to set a front-wheel drive lap record at the Nurburgring and five other European tracks.
The 10th-generation Type-R will continue in that tradition. Unlike the Si, the Type-R will only be available as a hatchback. That’s significant—the hatchback variant of the 10th-generation Civic is the only one that was designed and engineered in Japan, and Honda entrusted Type-R development to its home team as well. As with the ninth-generation super-Civic, the 10th-gen Type-R, and the base hatchback on which it’s built, will be assembled in Swindon, England.
As a Honda employee told me during the L.A. Auto Show, the Type-R won’t be a friendly, low-key driver. The suspension, the chassis, and the drivetrain will all be tuned for maximum ass-kicking. “You won’t want to drive it down a cobblestone road,” the employee intoned.
As for power? Honda’s still being coy about it, but the Honda employee told me that the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder will enjoy a significant power boost over the 306 horses and 295 lb.-ft. of torque currently on offer. We’ve heard rumor of up to 340 horses, all going to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission.
So the Civic Type-R that U.S. buyers will get in 2017 will be precisely the type of fire-breathing monster-hatch that European markets have enjoyed for years—engineered by the same team, and built in the same facility, that’s supplied the previous generations of R-rated madness, and available only in the most extreme of the Civic’s three body styles. Likewise, the Civic Si will present exactly the same kind of performance boost that the Si badge has represented for U.S. customers in the past: A sharpened, spiced-up economy car that still offers all the convenience and practicality of a base-model Civic sedan or coupe.
These are good times to be a Civic fan.