The new Honda Civic Si does its part to save the manuals, delivering engaging and accessible performance for three-pedal enthusiasts.

The 2022 Honda Civic Si arrives in dealerships this month, offering the sportiest take on the 11th-generation Civic yet — at least, until the new Type R arrives. I had my reservations about the Si when it debuted last month; the design and on-paper performance gains seemed too conservative. But a day testing the new Civic Si around the Santa Monica Mountains has mostly disabused me of those doubts. Mostly.

Honda's 1.5-liter turbocharged I4 returns to the Si's engine bay, down 5 horsepower versus its predecessor. It's now rated at 200 hp and an unchanged 192 pound-feet of torque. The 5-hp loss at the top end is basically imperceptible, even when driven back to back with the 2020 Si. There is, however, a substantial boost of low-to-midrange performance that isn't reflected in these numbers. Peak torque now comes on at 1,800 rpm and is more generously distributed across the tachometer's swing, making the new Si feel more awake, powerful and responsive in a wider range of conditions, from zipping around town to accelerating out of a switchback.

The engine's responsiveness is further augmented by a lighter flywheel and a standard six-speed manual transmission — no automatic is available — which is much more satisfying and engaging than before, kachunking nicely into place at the end of its shorter throws. The 2022 Si also inherits the rev-matching feature from the Civic Type R. The engine will automatically blip the throttle when downshifting for instant and perfectly matched gear changes. As a seasoned but lazy enthusiast, I enjoy how rev-matching improves the speed and accuracy of gear changes and emboldens me to drop down a gear and hammer it more frequently. The feature also makes the Si more approachable to novices interested in learning the dying art of driving with three pedals.

Of course, if you'd prefer to blip your own shifts, the system can be deactivated. Unfortunately, doing so requires pulling over, engaging the parking brake and digging a few levels deep into the touchscreen menu for the option. Honda really should have just made this a button — that's what Nissan did when it debuted the feature on the Z back in 2008 — or at least let drivers tie rev-matching to one of the three available drive modes. As it is, toggling back and forth is just annoying.

While I'm nitpicking, rev hang is still an issue in the Civic Si, despite the lighter flywheel. It's not as bad as before, but when contrasted with the computer-controlled quick-blip downshifts, it's even more annoying to wait for what feels like forever for the revs to drop for an upshift. This seems like a software issue. Automakers usually tune in a little bit of hang to make shifting easier, so it would be nice if Honda could figure a way to reduce or disable the rev float while using rev-matching — you don't need both.

With the manual transmission, the 2022 Civic Si should return 27 mpg city, 37 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined, a single tick better than the previous car across the board.

The new Si's dual exhaust looks fantastic. It's almost a shame to hide its coiled design behind the rear bumper. It sounds pretty good, too, though its song is 'enhanced' with additional sound generated from the audio system. Overall, the tone is fairly natural, unobtrusive and inoffensive.

The previous Si wasn't a slouch in the handling department, but the new model sharpens and simplifies its cornering capabilities. The 2022 Civic Si ditches the previous generation's two-mode active dampers, which is a bit of a bummer for folks who enjoy fiddling with settings, but the new static setup works well for both sporty and daily driving. The Si's chassis reaps all of the benefits of the 11th-generation Civic's longer wheelbase and stiffer structure, and improves over the normal sedan with stiffer springs and stabilizer bars, reinforced suspension mounting points and a few bushings and components handed down from the Type R. Honda really dialed in the Civic Si's steering for this new generation, too, with great weight and feedback for sporty driving without being too fatiguing around town.

The Civic Si rolls on standard 18-inch matte black wheels shod with all-season rubber. Summer tires are one of the only options available to Civic Si shoppers, and a fairly affordable upgrade at that, adding just $200 to the bottom line. Also standard are bigger brakes with 12.3-inch rotors up front and 11.1-inch discs at the rear. And while you may not think of seats as a handling upgrade, the Si-specific seats' improved bolstering and grippy cloth surface certainly help keep me planted through chicanes, sweepers and switchbacks.

The cabin is also where you'll find all of the same great tech as the rest of the 11th-gen Civic lineup, including a 7-inch partially digital instrument cluster combo paired with a standard 9-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard with wireless connectivity. Also included is the full Honda Sensing suite of driver aid technologies, rolling in adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist and collision mitigation braking. Blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and traffic sign recognition also join the Si's suite of standard features this year.

The new Civic Si is better than before, but it's also more expensive. Starting at $28,315 (including the $1,015 destination charge), the new Si costs $2,320 more than the 2020 model. But while the Si isn't quite as good a bargain as before, the improvements to performance, equipment and features still make this little Honda a solid deal.

Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.

©2021 Roadshow. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.