AutoGuide Under $30,000 Performance Car Shootout – Part Two: Track Test Elimination Round

AutoGuide Under $30,000 Performance Car Shootout – Part Two: Track Test Elimination Round

Yesterday we took eight fun-to-drive performance vehicles under $30,000 and put them through their paces on the street.

After much deliberation, we chose the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST as the king of the street. Despite a somewhat harsh ride, nothing else matches the raw, hilariously fun driving experience behind the wheel.

But now it’s time to get serious. We have come to the test track to complete the second half of our under $30,000 shootout. Every car will be taken around the track and scored on two criteria only; how fast it completes a lap and how fun it is when driven at the limit. That score, combined with yesterday’s street score is used to determine the final finishing order.

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

To keep things interesting, this is an elimination round, as we compile the data the track and the street to determine which cars are headed home, and which will move on to the top three.

Tomorrow we’ll unveil the overall winner of the Under $30,000 Performance Car Shootout.

Eighth Place – 2014 Honda Civic Si Coupe


Having track tested a different 2014 Civic Si Coupe just a few weeks prior, I knew within half a lap that something wasn’t right with this car. It just wasn’t accelerating with the same urgency once revs climbed past 5,000 RPM, and that’s normally the sweet spot in the powerband for these 2.4L iVTEC engines.

I was told this car had been used a few days prior at a Honda event where IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe, and some other folks, were thrashing about in it. Did Hinchcliffe damage our car?

It’s hard to say for sure, but whatever the reason, this Civic Si was almost 3-seconds off my best lap time in the healthy one I had a few weeks earlier. 2014-Honda-Civic-Si-Coupe-interior.jpgTo be fair, all the cars were 1 to 2 seconds slower than previous test results thanks to an unusually greasy track surface (someone oiled it down with a blown engine prior to our arrival). But with the lowest top speed of any car in this competition, clearly something wasn’t right.

SEE ALSO: 2014 Honda Civic Si Coupe Review

Still, it wasn’t just the immediate issues holding back the Civic Si compared to the other seven cars in this shootout. Despite the changes Honda has made to it for 2014, it still has more body roll and more understeer than the other cars here, and ultimately that is reflected in in the fact that it had the second lowest cornering g-forces and lowest ‘fun to drive on the track’ score in the group.

Fast Facts

Lap time: 1:31.232 (8th) Top Speed: 93.3 MPH (8th) Max Cornering G-Force: 1.05 (7th) Max Braking G-Force: 0.69 (8th) Fun To Drive On The Track (out of 25): 16 (8th) Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder, 205 HP, 174 lb-ft Transmission: Six-speed manual Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive, Helical LSD Fuel Economy Ratings: 22 MPG City, 31 MPG Highway Fuel Economy Observed: 26.4 MPG Price: $23,580 after destination charges

GALLERY: 2014 Honda Civic Si Coupe


  • Soyntgo4it

    Umm The Si has helical LSD (Limited Slip Differential)

  • Rickers

    WTH! You eliminated the GTI? I thought FOR SURE it would be in the Top 3.

  • Sarah H

    The Veloster Turbo should be here…. just reminding you. It would definitely be faster than that Nissan Joke.

  • Teckler

    Sure, let’s bring it along as well as the Kia Forte Koup and Scion TC. We’ll call it the “meh cars under $30,000”

  • shaun walsh

    Beat by the st. In surprised they eliminated the st though. Best Score there and I don’t see the FRS or the fiesta beating it. I do admit it needs better brake fluid and pads though

  • Mark

    To be fair to the GTI, it is the “base” model, the performance pack gives it some more hp, bigger brakes and some handling tech. This adds though the $.

  • Felix James

    Looks pretty damn nice for a base model to me.

  • Nick

    Given the fact that Pratte is so heavily biased towards the FR-S (it sounds like he owns more than one personally), how can this be an objective and fair review? In the video you can see him steering the viewer towards the FR-S no matter what car he is driving, and it is no chance luck he was the one doing the driving review of the FR-S. By nature anybody who reviews their own car is going to put it higher and skew the results. So much for journalistic integrity I guess… pretty sure I know what the top performance car will be already given Pratte’s history.

  • ColumWood

    If you read Dave’s stuff regularly you’ll know he’s a huge FR-S lover. Likewise, Mike is a BIG Miata fan. Having both guys favor these cars is kind of the a schtick in the video. You’ll have to hold on to find out who wins today then. You may be surprised.

  • ColumWood

    You’re right. That’s been corrected.

  • Rusty

    The Miata should have won. The results are now irrelevant.

  • Shiratori90

    Let it go. The veloster is not a serious player in the sub-30k performance segment. Ultimately, it’s not about them testing the car for the sake of prospective buyers, it’s about them testing the car in order to satisfy your ego…….

  • Eric

    What a JOKE! Anybody who driving these cars knows the Mazda MX-5 Miata is easily the most fun and rewarding to drive car of that bunch. Also, these people can’t drive with a sh#t.

  • Nick

    You were right, I guess I should have more faith, haha. Shame about the Civic Si, even though it is at a disadvantage I’ve always felt they were a great track car. On a side note, I was very interested in this review because I just finished my own version of them while looking for a cheap track car that is also fun to drive… I test drove nearly all of these, and I ended up with the Fiesta ST. Never thought I would go FWD, but it is really that good.

  • Mark

    For sure, not even sure the performance pack has any visual changes other than the brakes. From what I have read though, handling especially at speed is changed, it might have helped with the understeer.

    It is worth pointing out that a rare event occurred with the GTI vs the WRX in Car & Driver and MT, the GTI won in both cases! Again though C&D had the GTI with performance pack when they took it down to the Dragon in Ohio.

  • Mark

    I think David Pratte was fair and you could tell he really liked the Fiesta ST. The issue of the gear shifter being set too low was about the only real driver knock and he is not the first to say that. I hope that the Nismo IDx becomes a reality, because a sub 3000lb RWD 1.6l turbo will really give the FR-S a run for its money… Fiesta ST but RWD.

    Looking forward to seeing what the Miata ND will be like next week. I have tested the FR-S and the Miata and will admit I found the FR-S more fun to drive. The Miata was fun and very easy to drive, but just not as tight in the corners. I found that the driving position was a compromise as well since the NC Miata lack telescoping steering. The Club trim though is cool looking and if the FR-S did not exist, the go to for 3500lbs….physics is physics.

  • ColumWood

    We’re all excited for the IDx. Nissan really knows how to make great performance cars. Even that Juke was a hoot to drive… despite being a silly crossover.
    And I agree about the MX-5 Club model, it’s much more masculine looking.

  • aamaster

    Well, aside from your opinion(s), one thing is pretty evident. The reviewers are correct in that the Miata has a LOT of body roll compared to the other cars (pause it at about 4:00 in). You can definitely tune the car after you buy it and get a much better Miata (which is what most people do anyways), but this a comparison of different cars in stock form.

  • ColumWood

    Nick you should also check out Dave’s review of a not-broken Civic Si from earlier this year.

  • ColumWood

    Looks like we won’t be able to get our hands on a GTI with the performance pack until the Spring… but when we do we’ll definitely look to put together a rematch with the WRX.