The Truth About Cars » Honda Civic SI The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 20:36:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Honda Civic SI Review: 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 (With Video) Sat, 26 Oct 2013 13:00:29 +0000 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The Acura ILX has been derided as being nothing more than a gussied-up Honda Civic, an analogy that I too applied to the compact Acura when it first arrived. But then our own Brendan McAleer caused me to question my dismissal of the ILX. How many shoppers out there are willing to option-up a base model by 50% and don’t think twice about the fact their “limited” model looks just like the base model? All of a sudden the ILX, especially the 2.4L model we tested made sense to me. What was the revelation? Click through the jump to find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.


I know that we have a segment of readers that believe all modern cars look-alike, but I’m going to say it any way. The best thing about the ILX is that it doesn’t look like a Civic. Don’t believe me? Park a Civic and an ILX next to one another and you might even think the two cars are totally unrelated. How is this possible?  First off, no sheetmetal or glass are shared between the two and Acura decided to tweak just about every hard point other than the wheelbase for Acura duty. If you look at the picture below (which highlights how poor my Photoshop skills are) I have overlayed the ILX on the Civic for reference.

In addition to a blunter nose, lower roof and a more aggressive character line, Acura modified the structure of the car by moving the pillars around. The A pillar moves 8 inches rearward vs the Civic giving the ILX a hood that is several inches longer and a windshield that is more deeply curved. The C pillar has also been tweaked giving the ILX a more graceful silhouette and a smaller trunk lid. While they were at it they swapped in an aluminum hood for some moderate weight savings.

2013 Honda Civic EX-L SedanThe result of Acura’s nip/tuck is an attractive, albeit sedate, premium look. I think that Buick’s Verano is more exciting and the not-yet-on-sale 2015 Audi A3 looks more luxurious, but the ILX plays right to the conservative heart of the target Acura shopper. In keeping with the premium image, 17-inch wheels are standard on all ILX models except the hybrid where things drop to eco-minded 16-inch rims. The most demure Acura “beak” integrated into the front grille and hidden exhaust tips complete the design of the smallest Acura.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The ILX’s interior represents more of an upgrade over the Civic than I had expected. Soft injection molded plastics span the dashboard and very few parts are shared with the Honda . By my estimation. the interior parts sharing is limited to a traction control button, air vent open/close dials and the door handles. Anyone worried that the Civic’s funky two-tier dash is along for the ride will be pleased, the interior style of the ILX is very mainstream from the double-bump dashboard to the four-dial gauge cluster.

In typical Acura fashion the ILX comes well equipped in base form and options are bundled into packages helping to keep dealer inventory manageable. All ILX models get zone climate control, keyless ignition, push button start and a steering wheel wrapped in soft leather. Base hybrid models get manual cloth seats but all other ILX models get heated leather thrones coated in perforated leather with a driver’s side only 8-way power mechanism.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-012Front seat comfort is substantially similar to the Honda Civic thanks to shared seat frames and adjustment mechanisms. The ILX’s front seats get more generous seat back bolstering in keeping with its more premium and sporting image while the seat bottoms remain as flat as Kansas. Thanks to the platform changes that make the ILX more attractive on the outside, interior room is compromised slightly with headroom and legroom figures falling when you compare it to the Civic.  Compared to the Buick Verano the numbers are right in line.

The ILX’s rear seats are slightly less comfortable than the Verano, but a step above the mainstream compact segment with more thigh support for adults. Opting for the hybrid ILX forces the removal of the folding rear seat backs (the batteries have to go somewhere), while the ILX 2.0 and 2.4 sport the same 100% folding mechanism as the Civic. This means it’s not possible to carry long cargo and three or four passengers like you can in the Verano. This deficiency is made more of a problem by the ILX’s small 12.3 cubic foot trunk, notably smaller than the Verano, Lexus CT, or even the Mazda3.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Nestled in the “double bump” instrument cluster is a standard 5-inch color LCD that does double-duty as a trip computer and infotainment display. This base system runs the same software as the Honda Civic but places the screen in a more “normal” location and uses a button bank that should be familiar to current Acura owners. The base system features standard iDevice/USB integration, Bluetooth speakerphone/streaming and Pandora smartphone app integration. The 200-watt amplifier and 7 speaker sound system are well-balanced but volume isn’t this system’s forte.

ILX 2.0 and Hybrid models with the “technology package” link the climate control system to a sun sensor and the GPS system for improved comfort and bumps the sound system up to a 10-speaker surround sound system with a 410-watt amp. Also along for the ride is the same 8-inch navigation system found in the Acura TSX and TL. The system doesn’t sport the improved high res interface in the MDX and RLX but is among the easier to use on the market as long as you don’t try to use Acura’s voice commands for browsing your iPod. Seriously, just don’t even try. Sadly 2014 hasn’t brought any major changes to the options lineup meaning that the more powerful engine and the more powerful sound system are mutually exclusive. The choice to saddle the 2.4L model we tested with the same 5-inch display and software as the Civic is the biggest flaw with the ILX so far.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Under the ILX’s long hood you’ll find an “interesting” assortment of engines. Why interesting? Let’s start at the beginning. First off, Acura uses three different engines in the various ILX models. Rumors that Acura planned to kill off the base 2.0L four-cylinder appear to be unfounded as the 2014 ILX can still be had with the 150 horsepower mill. This is the same engine found in European market Accords and other world Honda models but appears to be exclusive to the ILX in America.  Honda’s old 5-speed automatic was tapped to send the 140 lb-ft to the ground. The ILX Hybrid gets the Civic’s 111 horsepower, 127 lb-ft hybrid system without modification. While the 1.5L engine seemed adequate in the Civic, I found the small engine and traditional belt/pulley CVT vexing in a near-luxury sedan.

On to what we’re here to talk about: the 2.4L Civic Si engine. Yes, Acura decided ILX shoppers should get a little sport-love and snatched the Si’s 201 horsepower engine for premium duty. In typical Honda fashion, the 2.4L engine screams like a banshee on its way to its 7,000 RPM redline and matching 7,000 RPM power peak. 170 lb-ft come into play at 4,400 RPM and the engine is mated exclusively to a 6-speed manual. Yes, you heard that right, Acura is trying to get a larger share of the premium compact market with a high-revving engine four-cylinder and a slick shifting stick. Although the manual-only policy is an obvious impediment to sales success, if you have outgrown your Civic Si, or if you think the Honda looks a little too “boy racer”, you can get a classier, leather coated version at the Acura dealer.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes


Once out on the road the ILX’s powertrain deficiencies become obvious. The base 2.0L engine may be smoother and more refined than the 1.8 in the Civic, but compared to Buick’s modern 2.4L direct injection mill, it is rough around the edges and anemic. How about the 111 horsepower ILX hybrid? It is quite possibly the only car that can make Lexus’s underpowered CT 200h seem quick. But we’re not here to talk about those ILX models, this is TTAC and we’re interested in MOAR POWARR.

The 2.4L four-cylinder is an entirely different animal. With 33% more power than the base model our 0-60 run clocked in at a respectable 7.29 seconds. That slots the ILX between the regular Verano and the Verano Turbo that accomplished the same task in 6.5 (Verano Turbo with the 6-speed manual). The time was closer than I thought it would be considering the 90 lb-ft of torque that separate the two but the driving experience couldn’t be more different. The Verano’s turbo engine provides an extremely broad torque curve which negates the need for frequent downshifting on winging mountain roads while the ILX’s engine needs to scream like a leaf blower to deliver the maximum thrust. While I found the Verano’s power delivery more liveable, the ILX at 7,000 RPM made me giggle. (Yes, I said that out loud.) As you would expect from the “luxury Civic Si,” the ILX’s shifter action is precise, clutch engagement is nearly perfect and the shifts are short. In contrast, the Verano’s clutch is rubbery, vague and the shift throw is lengthy.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-006

Instead of lifting the Civic Si’s suspension as is, Acura decided to tweak the design with dual-valve damper technology lifted from the RLX and MDX. The two valves allow the damping to be firm and body roll to be well controlled under most conditions while soaking up large road imperfections like a sedan with a softer suspension. The system retains most of the Civic Si’s road holding ability while delivering a ride that more composed than the Verano. Similarly the lightly revised steering setup is a little less direct than the Si but yields better feel than the baby Buick. Despite incorporating laminated glass and an active noise cancellation system, the ILX manages to be several decibels louder than the eerily quiet cabin of the Verano.

At $29,200, our ILX was about $6,500 more than a Civic Si. When you factor in the additional equipment you find in the ILX and the expanded warranty coverage, the difference between the Honda and the Acura drops to about $2,000. When you look at the ILX in this light, the sales proposition makes perfect sense. While the Civic Si is a great compact car, it looks just like a regular Civic. The ILX on the other hand nets you a better brand name, longer warranty, an improved ride and car that won’t make your boss question your maturity. Like the Integra of yesteryear, this is the sort of “gateway” product Acura needs.

2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-009

There are just a few problems however. The ILX’s option list and spec sheet is a mess. Despite getting better fuel economy than the Verano in every trim, Acura needs to drop their 6-speed tranny into their base model for spec-sheet-shoppers to give it a second look. Likewise the 2.4L engine needs a 6-speed auto and some infotainment love, the 2.0L engine needs more grunt and the hybrid needs to be euthanized. Without changes like these the Acura ILX will remain a sensible Civic upgrade but as a competitor to Buick’s new-found mojo, Acura has some catching up to do. The ILX’s driving dynamics may be superior, but taken as a package the only reason to avoid buying the Verano is if you still associate Buicks with the blue-haired set.


Acura provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.55 Seconds

0-60: 7.29 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.6 Seconds @ 89.9 MPG

Interior sound level: 74db @ 50 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 26 MPG over 345 miles


2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-010 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-009 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-011 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-010 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Engine-001 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-009 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-008 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Engine 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-005 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-008 . 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-004 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-015 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-014 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-003 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-006 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-005 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-002 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-012 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior-002 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-001 2014 Acura ILX 2.4 Interior-011 ]]> 128
Honda Civic Si Dominates Subaru BRZ In Track Test Thu, 16 Aug 2012 19:03:14 +0000

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?

Click here to view the embedded video.

“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!

]]> 68
Comparison Review: Volkswagen Jetta GLI vs. Honda Civic Si Mon, 30 Jul 2012 13:37:12 +0000

Remember 1985? If you were paying attention to cars, then the then-new Civic Si and Mk2 Jetta GLI were on your radar. Which did you prefer? For the 2012 model year both cars are again new. One of them has changed surprisingly little. The other, though it retains some choice bits, has perhaps lost the plot.

“Neither the Golf nor the Jetta is likely to win any styling awards…”

So reads Consumer Guide’s evaluation…of the Mk2 Volkswagens. The same has been said of the new Jetta. Yet there’s plain, and then there’s downright generic (especially in refrigerator white). The Mk2 Jetta wasn’t a beauty, but its square lines were clearly derived from Giugiaro’s iconic original Golf, and so were clearly those of a VW. The Mk6′s side view could just as well be that of a Toyota.

Yet the 2012 GLI retains more of its predecessor’s essence of than does the latest Civic Si. For one thing, the GLI’s body style remains the same, a four-door sedan, while the Si has morphed from a two-door hatch to a coupe, then back to a hatch, and then in the last two generations to a coupe and a sedan. Beyond this the third-generation Civic hatch was nearly as iconic as the original Golf, with a boxy tail that managed to both catch the eye (as a coherent element within the car’s sharp-edged, oh-so-Japanese styling) and maximize utility. The 2012 car’s exterior seems an unskilled knock-off of its predecessor, with a poorly executed side window outline, less elegant surfacing, and little in the way of identity.

The Mk6 Jetta is 10.5 inches longer than the old one (on a wheelbase that has grown by seven inches). The Civic has grown much more over the years, with nearly a foot increase in wheelbase and (postulating a 1986 Si sedan that wasn’t) a 14-inch increase in length. Even so, it remains nearly five inches shorter than the Jetta thanks to briefer overhangs.

“…interior furnishings are austere…”

Inside the GLI the flavor also remains the same, Mk2 to Mk6. Unlike in the regular 2012 Jetta, the instrument panel upper is squishy, but the interior’s appearance is no fancier aside from red stitching and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. The Autobahn Package’s seat upholstery is clearly derived from petroleum, with a rubbery texture. Ostensibly the front seats are “sport buckets,” but they don’t provide much lateral support.

Honda interiors used to be studies in minimalism, aesthetically, functionally, and dimensionally. For the last two generations, though, the Civic’s cabin has been dominated by a massive instrument panel. The bi-level gauge layout is the most obvious sign that Honda continues to innovate, and the series of lights as you approach the redline is very helpful. Still, the costs of this layout outweigh its benefits. The massive IP colors the entire driving experience.

Classic Civics were never paragons of interior quality, but the 2012 sunk the line to a new low relative to the competitors. Thankfully, the Si’s heavily textured black fabric, on the doors as well as the seats, improves the ambiance considerably. Between it and red stitching that matches the GLI’s inch for inch, the interior no longer seems terribly cheap. Unlike those in the GLI, the Si’s “sport buckets” are truly worthy of the term.

“…quite roomy for the exterior dimensions…”

The Mk2 Jetta had perhaps the most livable rear seat among mid-80s compact sedans. The Mk6 rear seat has legroom easily worthy of a midsize sedan. Perhaps it should, as its 182.2-inch length is nearly that of a midsize sedan. Though the Civic’s exterior is more compact, its rear seat is still easily roomy enough for adults, a big change from the 1986 hatchback. And the 1986 Accord sedan, for that matter.

“…a surprisingly large trunk…”

The Mk6 Jetta’s trunk is actually a little smaller than the Mk2’s, but at 15.5 cubic feet it’s still easily the largest in the segment. The Civic checks in at 12.5.

“…potent 4-cylinder gas engines provide brisk acceleration…”

Back in 1985, a 102-horsepower 1.8-liter engine qualified as “potent.” Over the years, the GLI’s engine has gained 200 cubic centimeters, eight valves, and a turbo, but its 200 horsepower risks being classified as weak compared to the 250-plus-horsepower fours that currently rule the segment. Word is that VW underrates this engine, and it certainly feels stronger than the official specs suggest. A plump midrange (thanks to the turbo), grumbly, somewhat boxerish engine note, and the automated dual-clutch “DSG” transmission’s firm, lightning quick shifts make the 2.0T mill seem plenty energetic in everyday driving.

The Civic Si is among the few other performance-oriented compacts that continue to get by with a mere 200 horsepower (the all-but-forgotten Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V being the third). The 1,944-pound original Si scooted along with a 1.5-liter four that, thanks to the rocket science of port fuel injection, kicked out 91 horsepower (vs. the carbureted Civic’s 76). With the 2012, the Honda’s engine has grown from 2.0 to 2.4 liters. Peak output is up by only four horsepower, but at 201 remains far above the regular Civic’s 140. Torque receives a healthier bump, from 139 at a stratospheric 6,200 rpm to a much more robust 170 at a more readily achieved 4,400. The engine still undergoes a major personality change when the “VTEC” cam lobes come into play around 4,000 rpm.

Grunt south of that mark remains far below that of the Jetta. If you don’t enjoy winding an engine out, the Civic Si isn’t your car. If you do, then you’ll find a more thrilling engine note and surge of power. You’ll also love one thing that Honda continues to do better than everyone else: the Si’s mandatory six-cog shifter feels tight yet slick, engaging as positively as a rifle bolt as you snick from gear to gear.

The Jetta might be larger, heavier, and torquier, but the EPA gives it a slight edge in fuel economy. The official numbers are low 20s in the city, low 30s on the highway with either car. I wasn’t able to observe fuel economy in the Civic. In suburban driving the GLI’s trip computer generally reported averages all the way from 22 to 32. As tends to be the case with turbos, the heft of your right foot makes a big difference.

“…well-tuned chassis components produce impressive road manners…”

The 2012 Jetta GLI doesn’t deserve this evaluation quite as much as the 2005 did. The harder you drive it, the better it feels, with commendable composure and precision. But it doesn’t feel especially agile or sharp. The curb weight difference between the VW and Honda is half what it was back when the latter weighed under a ton, but the Civic remains the lighter—and lighter-feeling—car, 2,906 vs. 3,124 pounds. The VW also feels larger, partly because it is.

The VW’s steering is numb. The Honda’s is number. The GLI’s wheel at least weights up as it’s turned. The Si’s has so little feel or even sense of direction that it requires constant corrections mid-curve. The standard limited-slip differential promises aggressive corner carving, but there’s no sense of carving anything through the Honda’s tiller. If the Si’s steering was half as good as its shifter, it’d be a deal maker. Instead, it’s the most likely deal killer. The 1986 didn’t have over-boosted power steering. Then again, it didn’t have power steering.

“The ride is firm, as you would expect in cars with German origins, but the suspensions are still compliant, even over broken pavement.”

The problem with the 2012 Jetta GLI is that, conversely, the more casually you drive it, the worse it feels. The suspension remains firm, but now to a fault. It’s not compliant over broken pavement. Also, the DSG transmission bumps about when creeping along in traffic and downshifts aggressively when slowing to a stop. Overall, the GLI feels disjointed in typical driving, as if it was initially designed for one purpose then quickly re-tuned for another. In contrast, when driven casually the Si feels as pleasant as—and almost as boring as—a regular Civic, if one with much improved damping. Until you take the engine over 4,000 there’s little sign of the car’s performance potential.

Back in 1985, the Jetta GLI started at $10,510, the Civic Si at $8,188. Cruise, power windows, and power locks weren’t standard on the VW, and weren’t available on the Honda. A pop-out sunroof (remember those?) was standard on the Honda. A conventional one added $350 to the VW. Over the years the cars have gained much standard equipment, including safety features available on few if any cars back in the mid-80s, and inflation has taken its toll. The 2012 Jetta GLI starts at $24,515, the Civic Si at $23,345. Adjust for remaining feature differences (such as the Honda’s still standard sunroof) using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool and the Japanese car ends up over $2,000 lower. Add a sunroof (and the other contents of the attractively-priced $2,050 “Autobahn Package”) to the GLI and nav to both, and the price tags rise to $27,465 and $24,845 while the feature adjustment shrinks to only a couple hundred dollars, now in the VW’s favor. For the DSG transmission, which has no Honda counterpart, add another $1,100 to the VW.

The GLI and Si were two very different cars back in 1985. Over the years the GLI has gotten larger and much more powerful, but as we’ve seen its basic character has changed surprisingly little. The Si has also grown and gained horsepower, but unlike the VW has retained only traces of much-loved past Si’s (in the engine, shifter, and seats). Some changes have made the two cars more alike, but overall they remain very different. Which do you now prefer?

Volkswagen provided the Jetta GLI with insurance and a tank of gas.

Mike Ulrey at Honda Bloomfield (MI) provided the Civic Si. Mike can be reached at 248-333-3200.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Jetta GLI front, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Civic Si front, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Jetta GLI front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Civic Si front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Jetta GLI side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Civic Si side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Jetta GLI rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Civic Si rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Jetta GLI interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Civic Si interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Jetta GLI instrument panel, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Civic Si instrument panel, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Jetta GLI view forward, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Civic Si view forward, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Jetta GLI back seat, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Civic Si rear seat, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Jetta GLI trunk, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Civic Si trunk, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Jetta GLI engine, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Civic Si engine, photo courtesy Michael Karesh ]]> 107
New or Used: Drive First…Then Wait Tue, 28 Jun 2011 14:20:43 +0000

Chris writes:

Hi, love the site. I want a play car, but my wife and I have to agree on the purchase.

First, the details on our current situation. My wife drives a 2001 Suburban with 120,000 miles on it. I’m driving a 96 Cherokee 4wd with a 5-speed and 90k on the meter. We’re both happy with our daily drivers.

What I’d like to have is a car with, say, 50-75k miles on it, maybe built in the mid-2000′s, that we could take on trips. Perhaps something less thirsty for $4/gallon gas than the other two vehicles. And I’d like to stay in the $7,000 to $12,000 range, with a preference for the lower end.

I’ve got it narrowed down to a few contenders:

Lincoln LS V8 – wish I could get it in a manual.
Honda Civic SI sedan – might be too pricey.
Mazda Miata – I’ve had one, loved it, miss it terribly. But wife would prefer a car that seats 4.

I don’t do my own work on cars, so reliability and cost of maintenance is a big issue. I prefer a manual, wife prefers auto, but that might not be a deal-breaker either way. The main thing is that I want a car that’s fun to drive. She likes ’05 Mustangs too, by the way.

I’m not saying I’ll get what you guys recommend…but I just might. Thanks!

Steve Answers:

All of those cars you mentioned should be perfectly fine. The LS is a great touring car and the powertrain with the V8 is definitely one of the nicer ones of the past decade. The Mazda’s are perfectly fine as is the Honda. Though that may ride a bit rougher than you may appreciate.

Are you ready for my advice? Wait it out. Used car prices are through the proverbial roof right now thanks to a confluence of factors. Low levels of retail sales over the last few years have been paired with fewer trade-in’s. Dealer consolidations have severely limited competition for late model vehicles. Buy here-pay-here lots are now dominant forces at the dealer auctions along with the price premiums they seek for the common ‘credit’ challenged customer.

All of this means that your money won’t go very far at the moment.

Let me show you a brief example of what I’m talking about.

Make/Model/April 2007/April 2011/Net Change

Toyota 4Runner $13,000 $20,500 $7,500
Ford Explorer $ 7,100 $14,200 $7,100
Toyota Prius $ 11,600 $ 17,300 $5,700
Honda Civic $ 8,700 $12,200 $4,500

* Data courtesy of Kelly Blue Book. Chart compares three year old vehicles from each period.

What this data doesn’t tell you is that prices of used cars are up nearly 20% since January. This is also the first time in history where values of cars have not gone down after tax season. In over a decade in this business I have never seen supply as dry and expensive as it is right now.

If it were me, I would wait until October and the first half of November and revisit the car buying decision. By then you will have dealers and individuals who will be off-loading their vehicles for far cheaper prices since there are no ‘spending’ holidays. No bonuses, and no tax money to inflate the price of your next ride. The quality of the offerings should be far better as well.

Anything you listed for your next ride should be fine. Make sure both of you drive it first… and then wait. Let the current bubble deflate a bit.

Sajeev Answers:

Your wife likes 2005+ Mustangs? I think you just found your answer. While I am far from a late model, overweight Mustang cheerleader (Fox Body ‘fo life, SON!) they certainly have the right hardware. It only needs a few cheap tweaks to hit the sweet spot. A Mustang GT with more aggressive rubber, uprated dampers + sway bars and an SCT tune is stupid fun. On the cheap. And they are fairly reliable, even if I see many with anywhere from 1-4 shorted out taillights. They are in your budget, just try to find one with the premium package and the stitched dash top: it makes Ford’s interior bean counting far less revolting.

Keep the wife happy this time, you won’t regret it. And if you do, getting a Miata and a divorce isn’t the worst thing to happen to a dude. Probably.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

]]> 25