The new-car smell has been replaced with fast-food aromatherapy from over 13,000 miles of road trips and commutes, but the staff continues to admire our long-term Honda Civic Si enough to want more from it. While it continues to gobble up miles without any major misadventure, lurgy, or katzenjammer (put down the thesaurus before someone gets knackered), there are a few areas we feel the 11th-gen Civic could use some extra ketchup.
We've been scouring the web for aftermarket hardware that will take the Civic Si to the next level. During our new braking test from 100 mph its brakes went full quasar. High temperatures triggered a brake-system warning light, and we experienced significant brake fade. Although not a likely scenario in normal driving conditions—unless you normally drive 100 mph—it was an obvious area for improvement before attending upcoming track days.
Until recently, no one provided upgraded brake pads for the brand-new 2022 Si. Although it shares the same calipers and pads as the current Accord, track-grade hardware in the family-sedan segment is about as common as baby formula right now at a Piggly Wiggly. So, we're addressing the situation the way most Honda Civic owners fix things, DIY-style.
Brake Last, Finish First
We called Mike Puskar, owner of Carbotech Performance Brakes, for help. He assured us his track pads would upgrade the Si's brake performance from stepping in something stinky to stepping on something strong. Mike invited us to Carbotech's production facility in Concord, North Carolina, to build our own set.
Since 1996, Carbotech has helped race cars brake later with its high-temp ceramic Kevlar friction material. Most pads sold today are either semi-metallic or ceramic compounds, and they aren't built for track use. Carbotech's pads range in capability from 800 degrees Fahrenheit in the everyday street compound all the way to race pads good for up to 2000 degrees. Each pad is hand-built by one of Carbotech's seasoned brake-ologists.
Pads weren't yet available for our Civic Si, but Carbotech said it could create them, using the OE hardware to craft the backplate templates. (We wish all future 11th-gen Civic Si owners a very pleasant track day.)
How to Build Brake Pads
I holstered the keyboard for a day to build our set of Carbotech pads with an air chisel. The first step of the brake pad process is removing the original pad material from the backplate. It blasts away easily, even if you're holding the air chisel wrong. Once most of the material is off, a belt sander clears the remaining debris from the plate.
Working inside the Carbotech factory harkens back to my own high school automotive shop class. It's a warehouse teeming with enormous World War II-era lathes and drill presses. Massive tubes of air ducting hang from the ceiling like chandeliers. Amid the dust and pad powder, every tool has its place, and goofing around is a good way to lose a finger. The machinery here isn't robotic, with the nearest thing to automation being a sandblast cabinet with a conveyor belt and a baking oven you don't have to light with a match.
The raw chunks of pad material are called pucks, and they're shaped to match the backplate using an enormous carbide drum. Once the puck is ready, two holes are drilled into the backplate and then used as a pilot to guide the drill into the brake-pad material. While a single drill bit can cut through the street-compound material numerous times, the stronger pads' higher levels of heat resistance diminish the lifecycle of the tools. In building our set of XP12 pads, which can handle temperatures of up to 1850 degrees Fahrenheit, the high-strength steel bit was thrown to the scrap pile after drilling just two holes.
A chamfer is added to one side of the puck and then affixed to the backplate with high-temperature adhesive. The steel and brass rivets that hold this assembly together are pressed using a foot press. The nearly finished pad is then moved to an oven to cook, which is the most time-consuming process. It's also why the craftsmen at Carbotech start their work at 2 a.m., well before the oven's heat can double down on the fiery Carolina sunlight shining in.
After hours of oven-curing, the pads are cooled and then painted in different colors that correlate with their level of seriousness. While Carbotech maintains an inventory of more than 40,000 brake pads, the process from which each is built is spectacularly bespoke. We'll be putting our handmade Carbotech XP12s to good use at various track days later this summer and fall. Expect a full report on that at the 20,000-mile update.
Scheduled Pit Stop
The Si's Maintenance Minder light, which is first triggered when the ECU determines remaining oil life to be 15 percent, came on at roughly 12,000 miles. We then took the Civic to the dealer for scheduled maintenance, which included an oil and oil-filter change, tire rotation, and equipment inspection for $69. The equipment inspection indicated our optional Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 high-performance summer tires are mostly surviving. The front tire tread was measured at 5/32 inch while the rears remain at a healthier 8/32 inch. When new, these tires have a tread of 10/32 inch, according to Tire Rack.
We plan to install stickier track-only tires along with our Carbotech brake pads, fresh OE rotors, and upgraded high-temp fluid for upcoming track events in August and October. The best is yet to come for this fun and affordable sports sedan.
Months in Fleet: 4 months Current Mileage: 13,301 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 31 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 12.4 gal Observed Fuel Range: 380 miles
Service: $69 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
When our Honda Civic Si arrived at Car and Driver HQ to begin its 40,000-mile stay, we were pretty damn excited. For the next 52 weekends or more, we plan to squeeze as much entertainment out of this affordable sports sedan as possible. So far, that's meant driving to Florida for an IMSA Endurance Cup race at Sebring and brushing against cones at an SCCA autocross event. It's a kickoff to what we're planning to be an exciting long-term test.
The options list for the Civic Si is as short as its throw from first to second gear. The Blazing Orange Pearl ($395) color is exclusive to the Si and is the same shade as our favorite Buffalo Wild Wings sauce (Spicy Garlic). We also opted for the High-Performance Tire package ($200), which wraps the 18-by-8.0-inch wheels with stickier Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2 rubber. Our preference for the black standard wheels over the optional blade-style wheels saved us $1708 on an item we plan on replacing with an aftermarket set later. The Car and Driver mailbox is open to your best (or comically bad) suggestions.
For a year, Honda put our favorite sport compact on ice and snuffed out the coupe entirely. Thankfully, the Si is back as a longer, lower, wider, and more serious-appearing sedan. Visually, the Civic Si has gone from Gundam Wing to grownup, inching closer to the maturity and size of the Accord. The interior is an especially welcome improvement, with a bigger 9.0-inch touchscreen, climate control knobs with digital readouts, and a comfy thick grip area. Every Si gets the same red-and-black cloth interior, but its equipment largely matches that of the less powerful Civic Touring, sans the leather. The new Si's improvements have resulted in a $2120 price increase, and for that much, we wish it retained the old car's heated seats.
Unfortunately, the new Civic Si hasn't evolved into a more powerful unit. Horsepower from its turbocharged 1.5-liter inline-four has dropped from 205 to 200 horsepower, but its 192 pound-feet of torque arrives 300 rpm sooner. Our long-term car's initial test numbers show that despite losing five horsepower, it matched the 6.6-second run to 60 mph of the previous-generation Civic Si sedan and even mirrored its 14.9-second quarter-mile at 95 mph. However, in our passing-time metrics, which are done in top gear, the new Si shows off that lower torque peak with a 2.2-second-quicker time from 30 to 50 mph and a 0.1-second-quicker run from 50 to 70 mph. All in all, most won't notice a difference by the seat of their pants, but the car's excellent handling and superb steering make us wish the Si had a few extra ponies.
In our initial testing, we experienced some significant brake fade during the 100-mph stop, which triggered a brake-system warning light. The 100-mph stop took 316 feet, and although that's a reasonable performance and similar to the result on the 2020 Civic Si sedan we tested on identical tires, we didn't encounter as much fade or a brake-system warning light on the previous-gen car.
Our most exciting trip so far was a weekend drive to Slalom City for an SCCA autocross event held on a Cummins test track in Columbus, Indiana. Over six runs, the Civic Si proved to be a fantastic autocross machine, and its helical limited-slip differential made slicing between cones a grippy endeavor. The Civic Si also proved pleasant on the eight-hour round trip, and the trunk easily held our tools, air compressor, luggage, cooler, floor jack, jack stands, and helmet. It's a good sign when the most challenging part of the race weekend is neatly taping the letters and numbers on the front doors. We look forward to giving it a more challenging weekend at an actual track day soon, as we did with our long-term 2019 Honda Civic Type R.
With less than 6000 miles on the odometer, the logbook has already started to fill with comments on what's shaping up to be a love/hate relationship with the sporty suspension. The Si's stiffer suspension, chassis, and performance tires can sometimes make for a bouncy romp over Michigan's abundance of expansion joints and uneven (and sometimes missing) pavement. "Not the most relaxing commuter," commented one editor. Senior features editor Greg Fink noted, "Stiff suspension + morning coffee = stained shirt."
The adaptive dampers that were standard on the previous Si aren't offered on this car. That equipment is instead reserved for the new Integra A-Spec, which is essentially an Acura-badged Civic Si with leather seats. Here, there's no comfort mode for our aging backs and growing bums.
The three drive modes—Normal, Sport, and Individual—don't really transform the Si. Sport mode adjusts the steering weight and throttle response while deactivating the stop-start function. It's a shame this mode doesn't add more character to the Si's mostly quiet dual mufflers. Individual mode allows the combination of Sport steering with Normal throttle response. The stop-start function can also be switched off at any time with a button that's separate from the drive modes. Honda has given the Civic Si a rev-matching system, previously only available on the Civic Type R, as well. This can be a little annoying to enable or disable, as it's done within the infotainment touchscreen under vehicle options, which can only be accessed if the parking brake is on.
The Civic Si has many increasingly rare qualities: It's a sedan that's sold with a six-speed manual transmission exclusively, and its little rumble is fueled by forbidden apple juice. That it remains available is cause for celebration. We're thankful it's back, marking the beginning of an 11th generation since the first Civic debuted in the 1970s. So, before the Civic Si becomes another fun car replaced by a crossover, we've got 40,000 miles to reach and more cones to kill.
Months in Fleet: 2 months Current Mileage: 5977 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 29 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 12.4 gal Observed Fuel Range: 350 miles
Service: $0 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0