By on August 16, 2012

AutoGuide’s twin team of track terror, time-trialer Dave Pratte and editor Colum Wood, have returned to Toronto Motorsports Park to take the Subaru BR-Z and the Honda Civic Si to the extreme limit and beyond. What did they find?

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“Truth be told,” Pratte notes, “it takes an experienced FWD pilot to get the most out of the Honda, because techniques like trail braking and left foot braking aren’t taught during high school driver’s ed.” That’s true! So how does the Civic Si, in limited edition “HFP” trim, fare against the car that AutoGuide has already rated above the Genesis 2.0t?

Here’s where things get really interesting. Based on the lap times recorded with our Vbox data acquisition and timing system, there was just 1/10th of a second difference between these two pocket rockets, with the Civic Si HFP posting a 1-minute 26.5-second best lap and the BRZ coming in at 1-minute 26.6-seconds. That’s by far the closest battle we’ve ever had in one of these track-based comparos, a result made all the more intriguing by how differently these two machines went about their business.

That is definitely a close battle. Think about how quick a tenth of a second is!

You might be wondering which one of these cars won the comparison test. It’s not easy to choose between them.

So if there’s so little between them around a race track, which car would I plunk my $27k down on? That’s a tough call, because despite their similarities they couldn’t be more different in character and design…

With the lap times little help in determining the better performer, I honestly don’t know which one would end up in my driveway, but for most consumers out there I suspect the decision will be quite easy given just how different these two excellent and appealing sport compact offerings really are.

You could say that both of these sporty import coupes are the winners of this comparison test! In the meantime, BRZ intenders who live north of the border should be warned: there’s another great choice out there for you, and it comes chock-full of efficiency and passenger space! For the complete test, check it out!

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68 Comments on “Honda Civic Si Dominates Subaru BRZ In Track Test...”


  • avatar
    Spanish Inquisition

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but are all BRZ/FR-S’ equipped with the Michelin Primacy all-seasons? If so, wouldn’t it mean the BRZ has quite a lot of potential being hidden by those hideous tires, and would probably trounce the Civic if given equal rubber?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The Michelins on the BRZ/FR-S are summer tires, in spite of what Autoguide said. They’re just low rolling resistance grand touring summer tires. The BRZ is much faster on the sort of tires everyone is using on their track pack cars that are used in comparison tests. It would have been interesting to see what reviewers had said if Subaru or Scion had fitted Dunlop Star Specs and the ‘underpowered’ BRZ had beaten the track pack Genesis and Mustang in lap times. A real comparison would have been to see how the Genesis and Mustang had tracked with their rental car shoes instead of with expensive performance upgrades.

    • 0 avatar
      mattfarah

      I just read a piece on Motor Trend (say what you will about them, but this test seemed reasonable enough), where they compared the FR-S to a Mazdaspeed3 and WRX. Both the ‘Rex and MS3 were faster than the FR-S around the track on stock rubber, but switching out the Primacy tires for some stickier Dunlop Direzza tires (standard on the MS3) took 2.3 seconds off the lap time (from 1:28.3 to 1.26.0) which was enough for the FR-S to beat the two other cars’ lap times. Given that these lap times are similar to the lap times at Toronto Motorsports park, I’d conclude that yes, the FR-S would spank the Civic by 2 seconds or more with a simple tire swap.

      Also interesting to note that Motor Trend, after improving their lap with better rubber, tried upping the tire size to an 18″ lightweight rim with slightly wider tire, and lost half a second. Seems the fastest way around the track is stock size, better rubber.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        In this hypothetical scenario you should also swap track rubber onto the Civic.

        Smaller diameter wheels are significantly lighter. The best results will be with a stock-diameter lightweight wheel.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        While I haven’t seen the latest Motor Trend, the article you describe was in Road & Track this month.

      • 0 avatar
        mattfarah

        maybe it was Road and Track… I cant remember, but it was a buff book.

        And the Honda Civic in the test was the HFP package, which comes with 18″ wheels, but NOT tires. The buyer actually selects which tires they want installed when ordering the package, and the dealer will put on whatever rubber you want.

    • 0 avatar
      Toucan

      CJinSD

      > It would have been interesting to see what reviewers had said if
      > Subaru or Scion had fitted Dunlop Star Specs and the
      > ‘underpowered’ BRZ had beaten the track pack Genesis and Mustang
      > in lap times.

      I cannot fathom why Autoguide guy WASTE so much time, doing the comparo without a simple tire swap, something every owner would likely do in a first place. Or, even better, using SAME tires on both cars. Or as equal as it gets.

      They borrow the cars, bring down some presenters to the track, bring down a racing driver and a filming crew, film, edit and publish just to produce an absolutely meaningless result.

      It is so ruthlessly dumb.

      mattfarah

      > where they compared the FR-S to a Mazdaspeed3 and WRX. Both the
      > ‘Rex and MS3 were faster than the FR-S around the track on stock
      > rubber, but switching out the Primacy tires for some stickier
      > Dunlop Direzza tires (standard on the MS3) took 2.3 seconds off
      > the lap time (from 1:28.3 to 1.26.0) which was enough for the
      > FR-S to beat the two other cars’ lap times.

      That’s ~260 turboed HP, so likely some 50% more at 3k revs, beaten.

      I want (BADLY) the TTAC crew, DK especially, to comment on that.

      > Also interesting to note that Motor Trend, after improving their
      > lap with better rubber, tried upping the tire size to an 18″
      > lightweight rim with slightly wider tire, and lost half a
      > second. Seems the fastest way around the track is stock size,
      > better rubber.

      Seems like someone fine-calculated everything when engineering the car.

      • 0 avatar
        mattfarah

        Assuming every owner is going to swap tires (or worse yet, assuming the owner is going to swap tires to whatever tires Autoguide decides to fit), is not an equal playing field. Testing the cars AS SOLD NEW BY THE OEM is as level as the playing field gets. Fitting all the cars with the same tires is a meaningless result, because the cars do not come that way from the factory. There’s a reason that Toyota chooses to sell the FR-S with those tires, and now we know that if you choose to change the tires, you will go faster around a track. That’s true for most cars, save for maybe a GT3RS or something that comes with Michelin PS Cup’s as standard.

        I was not pointing out that TTAC, Autoguide, or anyone else should be swapping tires for a review, that would be ridiculous. I was simply responding to a comment on “how the FR-S would do with better rubber,” because I know the answer to that question.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Matt,

        Most people do not track their cars. FR-S drivers may be more inclined to than most, but they probably care more about how many miles of sideways sliding they can get out of their tires, than exactly how fast they go when they slide.

        For those who do care about tack times, if 2+ seconds around a <1:30 track can be had simply by swapping rubber (meaning more if realigining for stickier rubber) is pretty much a done deal. Heck, part of the design spec for the FR-S, was specifically to size and engineer the trunk to fit 4 race tires, something every self respecting Scion sales guy will tell you that the Miata will not do.

        If that darned little Toyobaru (aligned and suspended for Prius tires) is as fast around a wide-ass track as an MS3 on equal rubber, it sure ain't the slowpoke I've been led to believe it is in these pages. Instead, it looks more like a case of Toyota flunking by overestimating the intelligence of the American car buying public, by betting a sufficient number of them actually look beyond headline track times.

      • 0 avatar
        Toucan

        mattfarah
        August 16th, 2012 at 4:32 pm

        > and now we know that if you choose to change the tires, you
        > will go faster around a track.

        And how do we know that? Cause someone actually did what he was supposed to do.

        > Assuming every owner is going to swap tires

        Poor factory tires + tires being the faster wear item so swap opportunity will come quickly + owners interested in cars and their performance = “I will leave this Prius rubber on my enthusiast’s choice”

        Really?

        > Fitting all the cars with the same tires is a meaningless
        > result, because the cars do not come that way from the
        > factory.

        Why are Corvettes, 911s and Priuses driven according to the same pattern while doing fuel certification?

        They do not come from the factory to be driven in the same way.

      • 0 avatar
        mattfarah

        @ Stuki

        Aaah, assuming the public isn’t stupid… Toyota fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is: never start a land war in Asia.

      • 0 avatar
        jaje

        We all know the serious track addict who uses their daily driver for such purposes has another set of wheels with Star Specs or RA1s / R888s on their car. The smarter track addicts understand that plus sizing almost always leads to slower lap times all at a higher expense (yes you can buy rims of unobtainium that are a size larger and likely negate the following effect). They understand that rotational inertia and unsprung weight counteract the wheel / tire upgrade.

        I don’t really pay heed to head-to-head reviews of cars that are shod with OEM rubber as tires can make quite a difference in lap times (easily 2-3 seconds a lap). See Focus SVT versus Civic Si comparos (Honda was whupped 6 ways to Sunday on oem rubber versus Ford having summer only performance tires).

      • 0 avatar
        daiheadjai

        Wait, Mattfarah, did you just chalk up the Japanese aggression in Asia from at least 1931 (note: the Japanese were aggressive at least a full decade before they bombed Pearl Harbour – just ask the people of “Manchukuo”) to a car company?

        And I have to say – as much as I like Americans, between the sensationalist media and aggressive UAW/CAW lobbying, it isn’t hard to see why the judgment of the public is viewed with skepticism.
        Toyota’s stakeburning for SUA anyone?

  • avatar
    Dukeboy01

    It would be nice if someone would just come out a say that the Toyobaru is not the awesome RWD giant killer that the Tokyo- drift fan boys wish that it was. A more honest headline would be “Most Over- hyped RWD Coupe of 2012 loses track comparison to a three year- old FWD design.”

    • 0 avatar

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/boomerang-basement-bolides-third-place-scion-fr-s/

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      How is the Civic a three year old car? It was introduced as a 2012 too.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      The Civic just got a refresh, not the overhaul 3 years ago. Anyways the new Civic is a chick’s car, right jimmy?

      But it looks like a Civic win, fwd econobox and all, over the Twins.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        I’m an ninja I’m a hoodie ninja! I’m a ninja, I’m a hoodie ninja!

        Hey, Tania Gunadi, is a hottie.

      • 0 avatar
        daiheadjai

        Did you just read the headline only?
        I mean, even Jack (who takes a sadistic pleasure in riling up FR-S/BRZ owners/”fanboys”) quotes the part about a 0.1 second difference, with lousier rubber, 0.4L less displacement, less torque and power (20lb/ft tq, 1hp deficit for the twins).
        The reviewer also notes that it will take a very skilled FWD driver to extract the performance from the Civic – and we know from observing real world drivers that YMMV in that regard.

        Although technically, with a 0.1sec advantage, you’d be correct – the Civic wins – despite comments about understeer and bodyroll being much more pronounced.
        But by that logic, the BRZ/FR-S would be better than the Miata, right?

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    I love how 0.1s equates to ‘dominate’ on the track! You can’t really slice and dice too much, since so much comes down to choice of tires, but I had a feeling that the Si would come close to the BR-Z. Personal preference largely comes into play if you’re spending your own money.

    Maybe on a twistier track the BR-Z would be faster? Jack, would you say Toronto Motorsports is a balanced track, or is it a little bit more on the ‘power’ side?

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Tires probably made some difference. In addition, despite the hype, RWD isn’t that much faster than FWD around most tacks in 200hp, 3000lbs cars. And the Si is a fairly well sorted FWD car. No reason it should be spanked by pretty much anything with a similar power to weight rating.

      • 0 avatar
        stuntmonkey

        That’s the key. There have been plenty of series with mixed formulas… what was that one that they ran at Mosport with BMW’s and Integras mixed together? Once you equalize the power to weight ratio, the mechanical grip (sans tires) makes some difference, but it also comes down to the track type. Throw in a few more chicanes and I think the Toyobaru eeks out ahead. If it were the more flowing Topgear track, I think the Si would actually be faster, with the big uncertainty about how much it would lose in the Hammerhead.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        stuntmonkey,

        Mixed series still go on, and Acura’s TSX V6 has clinched the manufacturer’s championship with one, two-race round to go in SCCA World Challenge GTS, where the FWD V6 sedan has seen off teams of Mustang Boss 302s, Camaros, Porsche Cayman Ss, and BMW M3s. The others are faster down the straights, but they can’t keep up with the TSX in the corners.

        http://www.world-challenge.com/files/points/WC1217%20Driver%20Championship%20Points-GTS_1.PDF

      • 0 avatar
        jaje

        Racing series is difficult as they make “competition” adjustments to cars by adding weight / where you put that weight / adjusting power or delivery of such / changing out transmissions (TSX’s run sequential shift transmissions now and the Honda v6). My point is the TSX is heavily warmed over that it has been “adjusted” much more than the Mustangs or Caymans or Camaros it competes in class against – simply to make it competitive.

        Then many teams don’t race the entire season in World Challenge and lose points to those who race the entire season like Realtime.

  • avatar
    racebeer

    I keep reading all this hype about the BRZ/FRS compared to the “others” in the group. Taking out the Mustang for now, to me it’s like a choice between Roseanne Barr and Rosie O’Donnell. Nothing but loudmouth twits that are absolutely unsatisfying in most respects……

  • avatar
    cackalacka

    But but but… gay Elvis

  • avatar
    vaujot

    Jack, as a fellow 993-owner I wonder how it would have fared in your Boomerang Basement Bolides comparison.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    It’s like the special olympics… everyone can be a winner!

  • avatar

    I get the feeling that the real loser here is anyone who cares about what Autoguide thinks…

  • avatar
    rodface

    AutoGuide also did a comparison of the Civic and the Mazdaspeed3, it would be great if they rounded it out with MS3 vs Toyobaru:

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’d go with the Honda.

    The Honda engine won’t blow a head gasket at 100k miles, and the Civic name will be around for another 40 years. The boy racer BRZ won’t.

    Also, the Civic will have much greater resale value and will be cheaper to run and insure.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      I hope for Toyobaru’s sake, that the BRZ’s insurance won’t be much higher than the already ‘priced out of contention for anyone not on daddy’s plan” Si. And I can’t imagine Toyota putting it’s name(s) on head gasket blowers. They’ve got as much to lose from a bad quality car as Honda does.

      • 0 avatar
        gslippy

        I couldn’t imagine it, either, which is why I think these cars should have been fitted with a solid Toyota engine instead.

        Subaru boxer engines have notoriously weak head gaskets, and expensive.

      • 0 avatar
        afflo

        Anyone not on daddy’s plan? Hah! Daddy’s plan only got me sound and sensible!

        Of course, waiting until you’re 25 and rates drop is smartest; plenty of time to save money, and buy what you want. (or, as I found, decide that the expensive hi-po car is less exciting than you originally thought, ad go for something fairly reasonable… And buy a motorcycle for kicks!

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      glsippy…

      I can’t believe your saying that either (^_^)…

      ———-

  • avatar

    I understand you are trying to be the anti-hype website in regards to the new 86, but should refrain from such obviously biased article titles. “Dominates” = .1 second? I agree that the car isn’t the second coming of a 4-wheeled christ, but this is just too far the other direction in an attempt to get a bunch of knee-jerk reactions.

  • avatar
    scrappy17

    Everybody is talking like the one-tenth of a second was purely because of the car and nothing to do with the driver.

    In reality, the nut behind the wheel plays a huge role in the lap times. Especially, factoring in the different skill set required to pilot a fwd car as alluded to in the beginning of the article.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Wow sarcasm is lost on people…

  • avatar
    JCraig

    Well that’s telling. Stock tires is the only way to compare new cars. I personally am not interested in buying a new car and immediately having to turn around and spend money on it, for tires or anything else.

    Just to be clear, an econo car with a bigger engine is equal to the FR-S on the track when driven off the lot. Wow. I wonder if the Si sedan would’ve fared much worse?

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      You can meaningfully compare cars on stock tires, or based on lap times. Just not both at the same time.

      Personally I couldn’t care less about lap times in some slowpoke 3000lb 4-banger, so I tend to agree that stock tires is how the two should be compared. But reviewers should then talk about ease of drifting at “legal” commuting speeds, number of 360 donuts per set of rears, and general smiles per mile on public roads; not lap times.

      For those who take these things to the track; please, for the love of all that smells burnt gas and rubber, get some more track oriented rubber for them, and use those on the track. And use streetier, higher mileage tires on the street.

      • 0 avatar
        JCraig

        The point here to me was not track times. It was that such a specially developed sports car should be much better than a Civic Si out of the box around a track. That tells me that if I really liked the idea of the FR-S but space for 4 is important to me then I’m not really sacrificing to go with the Civic.

        My point is that there’s no point in buying this car unless you’re one of the few out there that are actually going to spend money on improvements and tracking it. Most of these cars will never see a track.

    • 0 avatar
      outback_ute

      Don’t forget that the HFP pack is at least partly a track setup vs the standard BRZ – it was mentioned in the article that the stock Civic Si was 2sec slower. Also looking at the sector times, the first sector with the straights is where the Honda made its time.

      I’m not sure why they bothered to mention peak G readings in the 1.3-1.4 range – I expect these numbers are a spike for a fraction of a second only, and most likely just before the tyres start sliding. The point is they are not ‘real’ or sustainable numbers, and I think they should have been filtering out such peaks.

      I imagine the Si sedan would be virtually identical to that assuming the coupe doesn’t get any additional special gear, the curb weight would have to be very close?

  • avatar
    JMII

    Now I am even less impressed with FR-S. Either that or I under estimated the Civic Si. Once again this goes to show the FR-S (BRZ… whatever) is about 40 HP (and TQ!) short of what it really needs.

  • avatar

    I enjoyed the sarcasm… I feel like Subaru and Scion are preparing to offer either dealer-installed or a higher trim spec (the likely option for Subaru, less so Scion) for the 86. It would explain part of the reasoning behind the tires, and the not-so-powerful motor. Plus, let’s be real, who usually buys RWD sport coupes? The HPDE junkie, or your boss’ secretary?

  • avatar
    probert

    The BRZ is not a “sporty coupe” it’s a sports car. It also not “sporty” it’s a sports car. LOve it or leave it it’s still a sports car.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Sometimes, I wonder whether this has become “The Contrary Opinion About Cars.” It’s as if you feel obliged to heap endless criticisms upon the 86 just because the mainstream car (porn) media has embraced it.

    The Toyota folks have pointed out that this wasn’t designed to be a hot rod. You criticize it for not being the hot rod that it wasn’t supposed to be.

    There should be a point at which you separate your personal (rather engrained) preferences from the car’s stated mission. You don’t have to like the car — personally, I don’t see ever wanting one of these things for myself — but you should try judging it based upon what it’s supposed to do, instead of faulting it for it not being a pony car, even though the designers never had that in mind.

    To me, this sounds like a JDM car that was meant to appeal to boy racers at a relatively modest price point. More power would have not only raised the cost of producing the car, but a larger engine would have put it into a different taxation class in Japan that would boost the annual ownership fee. (Anything above 2.0 liters gets hit with a higher road tax.)

    Combine all that with $7/gallon gas, and it becomes more obvious why Toyota doesn’t peddle small block V8′s with live rear axles to the youth of Japan or to the Scion buyers who ends up with the American leftovers. When Toyota pushed the Supra upmarket, we all know what happened to sales. (Hint: they weren’t good.)

    • 0 avatar
      Trebisov

      The pleasure of contrarianism should never be underestimated. Still it seems that in comparison to the other available JDM competition the car is not a stand out. Toyota didn’t promise a pony car, but they did promise something special.That seems to be the only point TTAC is making. Fanbois baiting aside.

    • 0 avatar
      TonyJZX

      i’d echo that

      its gotten to a point where some media will bash a popular product for the sake of it

      my initial question would be… Civic Si? who gives a crap? it’s an FWD hatch and not a very hot one

      of course you can engineer any FWD car to be faster on the track but at the end of the day, you’re still in an FWD car

      overseas media has long established that times don’t particular matter with this car… its the road travelled

      this is a good review that would tend to indicate that European/UK media is VASTLY more mature than most US media outlets, paper or online

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUhLXvxlQR4

      This is Chris Harris. One thing I don’t like is that he is “King Supercar”… he owns a 997 GT3… but this review is worth a million lame reviews originating from the US who plain “DONT GET IT”

      I agree with Chris. I like the 86. I have LONG disliked the 350z/370z which has been around for a good ten years even though on any track, any road and strip, ANY 350z will kill an 86 anywhere, anytime, any condition.

      So times means everything?

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      Derek, that is something that really puzzles me too. He goes on and on about the virtues of the Toyobaru, but he has an avowed dislike of the MX-5. I wonder how much of that is due to the image of the MX-5 as a hairdresser’s car, while the Toyobaru doesn’t have that yet.

      I’d rather take the BRZ myself, just because the back seat means I could bring my 3-year old daughter along, but I still love MX-5′s and have done for a very long time.

      • 0 avatar

        I can see the difference on a track, where the rolly-polly MX-5 makes itself known more than on the road, but even so, they’re not THAT different.
        I stand by my original argument that it’s simply a case of nobody wanting to say that the Emperor is naked (or at least, wearing shabby threads) and we’ll see opinions change in a year’s time. Or it could be his own contrarian position. Whatever. If the MX-5 is not exciting, or whatever Harris says, then the FR-S is a snooze all the same.

  • avatar
    Littlecarrot

    Are Subies STILL blowing head gaskets? My 2000 Legacy has gone through two sets so far…

    • 0 avatar

      It’s mostly an EJ25 issue, the other motors tend to be less prone to head gasket blowouts. My 2.5GT was one of the earliest EJ25 motors, and it was a matter of when instead of if with the head gasket going. But I haven’t heard too many people with the later model cars having that issue without heavy boost being involved.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      The head gasket issue was fixed years ago, but I forget what color was used for the replacement unit – I think it was blue. It allowed for an easy visual inspection to determine if the problem had been addressed, and should be one of the first things checked on when shopping Subarus of that period.

  • avatar
    slow kills

    Puma shirts tag. Lulz!

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    TEST: Can’t seem to get comment posted!

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    This test reminds me of an old R&T comparison test from the mid-1990s in which the Miata went head-to-head with the Civic del Sol. The Miata was proclaimed the better sports car. The Civic del Sol was much more practical and unlike this time, significantly quicker.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    Again, as suggested previously, the BRZ/FR-S really needs:
    1) More horsepower, say about 230 (would not even require a turbo);
    2) Much closer to a 50/50 weight distribution (currently it’s 53/47);
    3) Removal of the 20%-reduction “torque valley” between 3500 and 4500 rpm.

    The Honda Civic Si HFP has 170 lb-ft at a lower 4300 rpm from its larger 2.4-liter engine; but the BRZ has only 151 lb-ft, which can be achieved only by revving its smaller 2-liter engine up to 6000 rpm! And to make this comparison even more absurd, the BRZ has that -20% torque valley which onsets at 3500 rpm.

    At 4000 rpm, the BRZ has about 151*.8 =~ 120 lb-ft of thrust. But at 4000 rpm, the Civic si, with the HFP-tuned package has about 160 lb-ft available! That’s 100*(160-120)/120 = 33%! That means that the Honda has 1/3 MORE thrust in the midrange, where most cornering driving will occur.

    Considering the BRZ’s “Prius” tires, it is amazing that the Civic si did not do much better. The Civic was no doubt limited by its FWD, greater height, and poorer suspension, all of which produced understeer and larger body roll. If the mid-range torque advantage were reversed, AND the BRZ had Michelin Pilot Sport tires, the Civic would have been a distant memory.

    ———–


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