LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Inching along in traffic on the glitter-gulch venue of Las Vegas Boulevard, Honda's recast Civic Si -- a slick hatchback coupe with rakish lines, sporty manners and a high-tech aluminum engine stuffed below the stubby bonnet -- prompts heads to turn and necks to crane as eyes of sidewalk spectators follow this striking car down the broad strip.
The 2012 Civic Si, completely redesigned for a new generation, looks serious in an aero-sleek package with ultra-fast windshield rake, curt and sporty overhangs front and rear, minimal gaps between tires and fenders, and the trailing ripple of a deck-lid spoiler.
It rides on a platform that also supports Honda's compact-class Civic series of coupes and sedans and shares suspension elements.
Yet the powertrain is unique to this new car, and so too is the sheetmetal styling and cabin content.
Honda labels it as the Si, namesake of a former Civic hatchback that was souped and slammed and sometimes even sparked with nitrous-oxide elixirs among street-racing daredevils who crafted fabled pocket rockets.
The name traces back to 1984 in Honda lore with the introduction of the Civic S hatchback. When fuel injection was added in 1986, the badge became Si, with the lower-case "i" indicating the injection. Other Honda innovations followed, including the first North American application of Honda's VTEC wizardry of valve control.
Last generation of Civic issues ran from 2006 through 2011, but for 2012 there's a new treatment for the entire line, which amounts to the ninth generation of designs for the Civic series.
This new version of the Si in three-door format inspired by European hatchbacks looks too cool in a smooth one-motion profile flowing from the front lip up the sloped hood and canted windshield, over the arching roof, then sliding down to the trailing edge of the trunk.
Honda stylists added thinner front windshield pillars which stretch further toward the front of the car to improve outward visibility for the driver. Also, they planted the rear roof pillars further toward the back of the car to enhance the flowing one-motion silhouette.
Apply a tape measure to the new 2012 Civic Si and its 2006 predecessor, and the numbers reveal a package of similar length and width although the wheelbase length is snipped by 1.2 inches.
The Si wheelbase runs to 103.1 inches, with the overall body length extending to 176.1 inches and the body width reaching 69.0 inches.
These structural parameters set up a vehicle with active and agile manners -- thanks to the curt wheelbase and a powertrain directed to front wheels -- and an expansive passenger compartment that contains seats for five plus a flat-floor cargo bay comprising about 12 cubic feet.
Civic's unit-body frame measures 10 percent more rigid to support a sport-tuned suspension with control-link MacPherson struts mounted in front and a compact multi-link double wishbone design at the back tailored for high-performance handling and stability when cornering.
The rack and pinion steering system gets electric power assistance, which eliminates hydraulic equipment and contributes to powertrain efficiency.
Strong brakes stem from a big disc posted at each wheel and electronic ties to Honda's vehicle stability assist (VSA) equipment operating with an anti-lock brake system (ABS) and electronic brake distribution (EBD).
A new powertrain is another unique asset to the Si.
The dual-cam four-in-line engine displaces 2.4 liters and employs a drive-by-wire throttle plus Honda's special i-VTEC (variable value timing and lift electronic control) valvetrain to precisely manage engine breathing and combustion in order to maximize horsepower and disperse torque across a broad band. The plant generates 201 hp at 7000 rpm plus torque of 170 lb-ft at 4400 rpm.
Sole transmission is a close-ratio six-speed manual shifter tied to the helical-type limited slip differential.
Civic Si earns ULEV-2 certification as an ultra low emission vehicle and runs up to 31 miles for every gallon of gasoline burned.
The expansive passenger compartment features a new design in nicely bolstered seats with more comfort for riders and a heap of standard on-board safety systems to protect them.
Also, there's colored backlighting applied to the bi-level instrument display and a new electronic I-MID (Intelligent Multi-Information Display) linked to a toggle on the steering wheel which lets a driver sort through vehicle data plus the optional satellite navigation system.
Civic Si scores two additional instruments exclusively. There's a Power Monitor aboard that reveals the percentage of total horsepower generated by the engine, while the Sequential Rev-limit Indicator graphically depicts when the engine high-lift camshaft profile is engaged and when the engine redline is reached.
Si standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels and 215/45R17 tires, foglamps, spoilers front and rear, air conditioning, bolstered sport seats with suede-like trim and red stitching, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power controls for windows and door locks, cruise control, textured aluminum pedals and a 7-speaker premium audio with AM/FM/CD/MP3/USB.
MSRP for Honda's 2012 Civic Si Coupe begins at $22,205.