This time around, the Si has a 2.4-liter engine that, while it brings only four more horses to the party, raises the torque ante an ample 22 percent. The boost in torque, or pulling power, gets the new Si from 0 to 60 in 6.3 seconds, shaving about half a second off the old car's time.
What you get, then, with that additional torque, and the fact the 2,954-pound Si sedan I tested is 600 pounds lighter than its Accord counterpart, is a car with virtually the same acceleration numbers as its midsize stablemate.
Given that performance similarity, the tie-breaker, for me, is the smaller Si's handling edge. It feels more nimble than the Accord, and is more tossable in the corners.
Interestingly enough, the fact that I had to choose between an Accord and a Civic for Honda funster of the year says something about the company's shift away from performance cars. The delightful S2000 roadster has gone the way of the dodo, as has the techy Prelude. On Honda's premium side, we no longer have an Acura NSX, do we?
The Si, which has a sportier suspension than the regular Civic as well as a larger engine, is, indeed, a faster pocket rocket than it was, although still not as rapid as turbocharged brethren like the Mazdaspeed3 Grand Touring or the Subaru Impreza WRX. But it is still fun to drive - and a lot more fun to gas up than its thirstier turbocharged buds. (It has EPA mileage ratings of 22 city and 31 highway.)
This engine, which also resides in the Acura TSX, is quieter than its higher-revving predecessor. The same can be said of the slick, six-speed manual gearbox, which was also borrowed from the TSX.
I liked the engine's guts and civility, although I could have done without the noticeable overrun when the throttle was suddenly closed.
This ninth-generation Si well serves the car's athletic tradition. The guy is beautifully balanced, and incredibly neutral in the corners for a front-driver. I really had to push it into a turn to get even an intimation of understeer. Good tire adhesion added to the cornering kicks, as did the sport-tuned suspension's poise and ability to control body lean.
The Si's independent suspension is firm, and bumps are felt, but there's nothing punishing about the ride. In fact, this new Si rides better than the old one, in keeping with its higher level of civility and sophistication.
Braking is also a plus in the new Si. The steering is responsive and precise, and the car tracks well on the highway.
Exterior and interior styling are also pleasing. The test car's skin was handsome business, endowed with Honda's usual high level of fit and finish. I found the interior design fresh and clean, and equipped with readily accessible instruments and controls. The seats were comfortable and reasonably supportive.
I liked the interior décor, which was black with silver accents, except for the headliner and dashboard surround for the speedometer and audio controls, which were gray. The black leather wheel and cloth upholstery featured red saddle stitching. The only sour note was the plethora of hard plastic interior surfaces.
The Si sedan I tested was nicely equipped for a car starting at $22,405. The goodies included all the usual comfort and safety suspects plus nifty touches like aluminum pedal covers and a better-than-expected 360-watt sound system.
2012 Honda Civic Si Sedan
Base price: $22,405.
As tested: $23,175 (including shipping).
Standard equipment: Front-drive, 2.4-liter engine, six-speed manual transmission, and a generous equipment list for a car at this price point.
Fuel economy: 22 city and 31 highway.
Styling: Clean, pleasing.
Engine performance: Lively.
Handling: A big plus.
Ride quality: Firm but comfy.
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper.
The Ben Key: Four Bens, excellent; three Bens, good; two Bens, fair; one Ben, poor.
Contact columnist Al Haas at email@example.com.