Eighth Place – 2014 Honda Civic Si Coupe
Oh how the mighty have fallen. An iconic compact coupe that came to define affordable fun in the 1990s and early 2000s now languishes in last place. What happened?
Many point to the engine. 205 HP from a naturally aspirated four-cylinder was very impressive ten years ago, but nowadays, in the land of the turbocharger, 205 HP doesn’t cut it. Even with VTEC and the largest in-test displacement of 2.4-liters, the four cylinder’s 174 lb-ft of torque is nearly 100 lb-ft off of the Focus ST’s number.
Eager to rev, the engine is capable of propelling the Si faster down the quarter mile than either the MX-5 or the FR-S. The problem is, the Civic never feels all that fast. And, with the largest engine of the group, during our relaxed driving loops it returned an unimpressive 26.4 MPG average – easily the worst in the test.
Soft and Lacking Space
But power has never been the Civic’s forte; handling has. Sadly, the Civic has lost that magic feeling. Unanimously voted as the softest car of the bunch, the Si is least willing to change directions and when it does so, there is pronounced body roll as the car leans from side to side. Steering feel too, a long time Honda hallmark, has gotten soft and no longer rivals the best racks in this shootout.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Honda Civic Si Coupe Review
With two strikes against it, the final third strike pitch is delivered inside. The Si may be the largest coupe of the group, but is still lacks the practicality of the four-door cars. Worst though is front seat space. Anyone near six-feet tall will find a distinct lack of headroom. Our taller testers had to drive the car with the heads slightly tilted. Driving this car with a helmet on the track? Forget about it.
Once a pillar of the sport compact revolution, the Civic Si has now fallen behind against some incredibly fun new competition.
Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder, 205 HP, 174 lb-ft Transmission: Six-speed manual Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive, Torsen (gear-type) LSD Fuel Economy Ratings: 22 MPG City, 31 MPG Highway Fuel Economy Observed: 26.4 MPG Price: $23,580 after destination charges
Seventh Place – 2014 Mazda MX-5 Club PRHT
What is the MX-5 doing in 7th-place? How can this universally praised “car of fun” be relegated to such a shameful placing? Well, simply put, the MX-5 is a toy whereas every other vehicle on this list is a car, except for the pseudo crossover Juke thing.
Even after nearly a decade on the market, the third generation MX-5 is still a blast to drive. Some testers scored it #1 in the fun to drive section while others dropped it a few points due to a lack of power and soft suspension. With only 167 HP and 140 lb-ft of torque, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in the MX-5 is easily the weakest in the test. But, at only 2,593 lbs., the little Mazda is the lightest car as well. The MX-5 feels twice as fast as it really is on the road thanks to its small size, short gearing and quick revving engine.
Handling and Comfort
Handling is spot on despite the MX-5 being one of the softest sprung vehicles in the shootout. Many don’t realise how compliant the suspension of the MX-5 is over rough roads. It’s easily one of the most comfortable vehicles to drive, yet still has razor sharp reflexes.
SEE ALSO: 2014 Mazda MX-5 Review
So why so far back in the standings? Price and practicality are the MX-5’s Achilles heels. To acquire a six-speed manual, LSD, sport suspension and convertible hard top roof, the MX-5 becomes the most expensive vehicle in the test. It’s the only two-seater here as well and the trunk is not going to carry much more than a week’s worth of groceries for a bachelor.
As fun as the MX-5 is, it comes with a lot of drawbacks. For some, they’re easily tolerable for one of the most fun cars to drive under $30,000. For many others, the MX-5 remains too compromised to be their primary car, no matter how many smiles per mile it produces.
Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 167 HP, 140 lb-ft Transmission: Six-speed manual Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive, torque-sensing (gear-type) LSD Fuel Economy Ratings: 21 MPG City, 28 MPG highway Fuel Economy Observed: 31.4 MPG Price: $29,460 after destination charges