Buy/Drive/Burn: Three Flaming Hot Compacts; One Will Actually Burn

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
buy drive burn three flaming hot compacts one will actually burn

With his last Ace of Base segment, Matthew Guy got everyone talking about the base Volkswagen GTI S. It went so far as to cause certain members of the TTAC staff to build GTIs over at the Volkswagen website. I didn’t do that, because I was busy ruminating on the difficult choices a Buy/Drive/Burn entry on hot hatches might offer. It’s difficult to write said entry the way I want, because the STI isn’t available as a hatchback anymore. So we’ve got hot compacts today.

Three hot hatches grr, compacts, from different manufacturers. One gets purchased, one you borrow, and one burns to the ground. Last time, it became apparent that some of you don’t know the rules, so here are the rules and you should read them before you scroll further. Let’s get speedy.

Proceeding from most racy to most serious, three distinct flavors of hot are on the table. All of these have manual transmissions in the specification discussed.

Honda Civic Type R

Last year, Honda decided it would sell this fifth-generation Type R in the United States, marking the first time the Type R had ever been available in this market. Available in one trim and four-door hatchback configuration only, Honda has tuned the 1996 cc inline-four engine, strapped a turbocharger to it, and piled up 306 horsepower. Those horses go galloping through the front wheels, and a manual transmission is required. Navigation and the shouty styling are included in the $34,100 base price.

Subaru WRX STI

A perennial enthusiast favorite, the WRX STI is a bit more subdued on the styling front. It’s got more power than the Civic – 305 horsepower. And the all-wheel-drive system means the power gets to the road a lot easier, and through twice as many tires. Subaru also mandates a manual transmission for the STI version of the WRX, and it will come home with you for $36,095. The interior is trimmed in Ultrasuede and leather; navigation is not available.

Volkswagen GTI

Serious and grown-up, the GTI continues the long tradition of simplistic styling and special cues that say GTI — like that red trim at the front (love). For the Honda and Subaru type money we’re talking today, you can’t get the Golf R, but you do get a top trim GTI Autobahn. Six-speed manual, leather, Fender audio system, navigation, and a panoramic sunroof are all standard. The only optional extras are wheels and dealer-installed accessories. Believe it or not, at 3,062 pounds the GTI is the featherweight of the group, besting the Honda by a bit less than 100 pounds, and the STI by nearly 400. It’s also the least powerful, with its 2.0-liter engine producing just 220 horsepower. Heavy on standard equipment but in the middle on price, it’s $35,070.

Well-equipped and wearing different tracksuits, which athlete wins a garage space, and which one ends up in the burned-out warehouse?

[Images: Honda, Subaru, Volkswagen]

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  • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Mar 03, 2018

    None of the above? I would drive the GTI and Sri but would be too embarrassed to be caught dead in that Civic. I realized after my short stint daily driving a Focus ST that my driving style leaves any of these cars wasted because there is too much muchness to be used on a daily basis; I recognize that I'm not interested in track driving; there are no twisty roads in metro Minnesota. Buying any of these would be pointless to me.

  • ToddAtlasF1 ToddAtlasF1 on Mar 03, 2018

    Buy the GTi. It's cheap. Drive the Honda. The others aren't even close from the driver's seat and I wouldn't have to look at it. Burn the STI. The waiting list for the engine that blew up after the dealer talked you into a reflash so Subaru wouldn't be on the hook for its replacement is so long you'd have only remembered you had it at monthly payment time anyway.

  • ToolGuy Here is an interesting graphic, if you're into that sort of thing.
  • ToolGuy Nice website you got there (even the glitches have glitches)
  • Namesakeone Actually, per the IIHS ratings, "Acceptable" is second best, not second worst. The ratings are "Good," "Acceptable," "Marginal" and "Poor."
  • Inside Looking Out "And safety was enhanced generally via new reversing lamps and turn signals fitted as standard equipment."Did not get it, turn signals were optional in 1954?
  • Lorenzo As long as Grenadier is just a name, and it doesn't actually grenade like Chrysler UltraDrive transmissions. Still, how big is the market for grossly overpriced vehicles? A name like INEOS doesn't have the snobbobile cachet yet. The bulk of the auto market is people who need a reliable, economical car to get to work, and they're not going to pay these prices.