May 30, 2011

VW GTI

2011 VW GTI
The GTI has been a staple of the hatchback market in Europe for decades.  It has been in the States for some time now and not all that many people are familiar with it.  The small, sporty hatchback was really a great drive, even on a notoriously slick, wet day.  It hadn’t rained in a couple of weeks, causing the dirt and oil that had collected on the roads to have the friction value of an Olympic bobsled course.  It was “sketchy” to say the least.  The all wheel drive that Subaru is renowned for would have been a much better car on this type of day, but they were short on WRX models (Subaru’s version of a sports car).  We settled for the front wheel drive bliss that is the GTI.


The plaid has been in GTI's for a long time...  Maybe too long...

                The interior had a distinctly German feel.  The plaid seats were the first thing that caught our eye, and after choking back the vomit, we climbed in.  Well, we had to wedge me into the car, being that 6’4” doesn’t always translate to small hatchbacks.  Once the seat was moved back, we took a look around.  The GTI did not present too many blind spots, other than the standard ones.  The sight lines along the side of the vehicle were easier to clear, since the car itself is not that long.  The steering wheel has the chopped off corners of a very sporty wheel, reminiscent of the steering wheel of the Mercedes-Benz SLS (That’s right; we touched the SLS’ steering wheel!).   The gauges on the instrument panel were easy to read and had none of the confusion that we had with other quick car’s multiple speedometers (digital or analog).  The one quirk that we became slightly irritated with was the shift indicator on the information center in the middle of the tach and speedo.  We like to drive the car based on “feel.”  The problem is that the “feel” isn’t always the best thing for improving the fuel economy, which the shift indicator was trying to improve. 
                The multimedia center will take a little getting used to.  We didn’t really take the time to figure it out, assuming that the Germans would already have done that for us.  We were far more concerned about the actual drive and feel of the car.  The plastics in the car also were of higher quality than other models of small sport cars that we have driven recently.
                During our test drive, we also noticed the road noise every time we were on a stretch of road that wasn’t perfectly smooth.  The low profile tires didn’t help the ride of the GTI, but all of this was within acceptable limits.  Neither the ride nor the road noise were deficiencies that would keep us from owning a GTI.   Overall, we give the inside a passing grade, but only if you have a person in each seat.  The plaid is nauseating, so make sure you buy the rubber floor mats if you don’t have enough friends to fill the GTI.

                The exterior of the GTI feels very much like a Fast and the Furious movie wanna-be.  The wheels automatically make us think of some modern Euro-Art, that caused us to giggle every time we looked at them a little too long.  The jet-black grill on the front of the car is mean looking considering it only contains a 2.0L turbo-charged 4 cylinder engine.  The radio antenna on the roof feels like more could be done with it.  Maybe something like the shark fin on the Honda CR-Z that we reviewed a couple of weeks ago.  The quirky part that we really liked is that the VW badge on the back hatch is actually the trunk release.  Just push the top in and lift the bottom up and the trunk pops right open.  Seriously, it means absolutely little to the overall car, but we loved it!

                The GTI handled itself very well on our wet test day.  The front wheel drive never slipped once and we always try to achieve a little wheel spin on a test drive.  We tested the six speed manual transmission that was surprisingly smooth.  It felt extremely similar to the Audi S4 clutch and gear box.  Aren’t Audi and Volkswagen owned by the same people?  The answer is yes.  If you didn’t know that, it’s okay, the salesperson from Volkswagen didn’t know that either. 
                At 200hp the GTI isn’t leading any category for performance cars, but the drive told us an entirely different story.  We got the GTI onto a small, curvy, wet road and had an absolute blast.  It was brilliant and so much fun that we completely forgot about the annoying shift indicator on the dash.  The 0-60 time is not an eye opener at 7.3 seconds, but we didn’t care.  The GTI wouldn’t be the drag race champion, for that we’d have the Camaro SS.  The curvy hills of the Ozarks or any road that has a lot of corners would be the perfect habitat for the GTI. 
                The six speed manual achieves mpgs of 21 city, 31 highway, and 25 combined.  This shatters the 14 that we can average in the company’s Denali, but isn’t earth shattering either for a four cylinder.

                We loved this car.  For a base price of around $24,000, you get quite a bit including navigation, blue tooth, and much more.  We have tested the GTI a couple of times over the past three years.  The GTI is quick with low end torque and really sticks in the corners.   Hopefully next week our writing skills will improve.         Not likely…

May 25, 2011

Sharing is Caring

We had to share this picture with all of our readers.  The best part of this picture is that the first couple of people we showed it to assumed that the motorcycle in the picture was a pocket bike (miniature motorcycle).  We assure you that it is in fact a full-sized sport bike.  Enjoy!
The second best part was our reaction.  Tears were involved and in fact we sped up to keep pace until he (we're making another assumption here, but we feel pretty secure) shot through a gap in traffic.  He's almost as wide as the Ford Ranger in front of him!  We hope it brings you as much joy as we took from this.  Good luck trying to get that image out of your mind today...

If this is you, YOU ARE AWESOME!!!

May 23, 2011

BMW M3

The M3 is a sports car icon that will only set you back $70,000.


Definitely a predator

                The interior of the M3 is filled with plush leather.  The stitching has red and blue flares that can be seen if you really look hard.  The first thing we noticed though is that the M3 doesn’t have a parking brake, just the hand brake.  We drove the automatic with its modern gear shift in the middle of the center console.  The gear shift has LED lighting that lets you choose neutral to park the car, and the two drive options.  There is an automatic mode that will do all of the shifting for you (if you want to go slow) and a semi-manual mode that lets you use the paddle shifters.  The button to turn the traction control off is located down on the center console as well.
                Time to get to it!  The M3 has a push button start/stop just behind the steering wheel on the right.  We noticed quickly on the tachometer as we fired the M3 up that the red line was only at 5,000 rpm’s.  As the engine warmed up, the red line moved on the tachometer to 8,300rpms.  It doesn’t improve the overall drive-ability of the car, but we thought it was really cool.  Definitely something that a stereotypical Beemer owner would want to see!  Remember stereotypes are there for a reason, doesn’t make them right, just makes them true most of the time…
Refined, simple, German.
                The legroom of the backseat was pretty much non-existent.  Just about the only people to sit comfortably behind me would be “little” people.  How awesome would it be to chauffeur “little” people around?!?!?
                The sight lines of the M3 were not an issue.  Even in stop and go traffic, we always felt like we could see everything around us.  The side mirrors threw us for a bit of a loop as we tried to reposition them and instead they folded in.  Wrong button; the switch that folds in the mirrors is right next to the repositioning switch and the only reason we saw that would cause you to utilize the fold-in feature is if you’re pompous.  Seriously, folded mirrors on an M3 just look silly…
                The gear shift was interesting.  Tap it to the right to put it in drive, tap it again to take it out of automatic and into paddle shift mode.  The lever always came back to rest in the middle, similar to the electronic shifter of the Prius.  There is no parking brake on this car, so you have to use the hand brake to keep it in place.

                The outside of the M3 is gorgeous.  The BMW lines that have been with us for a while now are modern and yet still remind us of BMW’s heritage.  The side vents with the M3 badges look great along with the side indicator lights and hood panels.  The wheels are BMW classic and still look fantastic.  There are six exterior colors that require you to chip in $550, while if you get an M3 in black or white there is no charge.  “You can have it in any color you want, as long as you want a black one.”  The salesperson (politically correct for once here) was a little sarcastic and I think he was talking about Ladas during the Cold War, but we like its application here.  Seriously, you have to pay for any color other than black & white.  There are ten, I repeat, ten different colors of leather for the interior that you can match to the paint.  The leather is only an extra $1,250.
                The M3 sounds great, the way German engineering should sound.  Not a lot of excess, just functional.  We prefer the look of the simple Audi to the M3, but both are good-looking cars that will turn heads.

                We had to drive the flappy paddle shifters on this model.  Could some of you please stop buying all the manuals long enough for us to at least take a test drive?  The low end torque wasn’t the best and for an automatic transmission felt very much like a manual.  A lot of head jerks as power was applied and taken away in stop/go traffic. 
                Once we got out of the traffic (4:30pm is a horrible time to take a test drive), the M3 rushed to meet our every want.  The jerking at low speed gave way to smooth gear changes and squee’s (Internet nerd term, too old if you don’t register, then again, how’d you find us…) of glee!  The paddle shifters were not nearly as bad, which we blamed on our race enthused sales person.  The best was coming to a light and down shifting as fast as possible (think video game buttons being struck quickly and ferociously).  The computer helped out and didn’t allow us to destroy the transmission.  Once you come to a stop the computer reads all those inputs and selects second gear for you.  Don’t forget to tap the down shift paddle one more time or you’ll be laboring away from the line in second gear.  Overall the paddle shifters with the seven gear automatic transmission were enjoyable.  Other than the low end, the power always felt like it was there.  The lag time on shifts was not as long as the 2011 S4 we drove a couple weeks ago.  
There was a particularly entertaining section of interstate entrance ramp with a quick left and a sweeping right where the M3 excelled.  For a rear wheel drive car, never once did the back end try to get out on us and we were trying (within the legal limits).  70mph in this car felt like a crawl.  Using this car as a daily driver is like using Secretariat as your cart horse, trudging along to market.  If we went forward with the M3, there would also be an immediate order for a speed laser diffuser. 

                The dealer we visited had a coupe and sedan version of the M3 on the lot.  There doesn’t seem to be a ton of interest right now in these cars as gas prices hover around $4.  You might be able to talk a salesperson down a little, but they won’t give too much, since this is such an amazing machine.

Thank you, Baron BMW.  Hopefully we’ll be up to ten readers by our next test drive…

May 18, 2011

Prince William's New Secret

Who's hotter, the Aston or Kate?
It's no longer a secret.  Prince William doesn't have his driver's license.  If he had, their Royal Wedding Get-away car would have looked just a little better.  It is pretty hard to make that car look much better though.  The car is an Aston Martin DB6 Volante.  The car was a gift from the Queen to Prince Charles on his 21st birthday and was included in Charles' latest round of green initiatives and has been converted to run on bio-diesel.  Not just any bio-diesel, but fuel made from the grape left-overs from making Royal Wine.  The Aston only gets about 8 mpgs.

The giant "L" is not there to represent the love of William and Kate, but to indicate that the driver only holds a learner's permit.  The guy has piloted expensive helicopters for the RAF, but can't get a license in time for his Royal Wedding.  How long is the line at the DMV when even a prince can't make it to the front of it?  Oh, well...  The car still looked amazing and the good news was that the bride looked even better (not always the case)!


P.S. We get that Prince Harry is the most likely culprit and that William does in fact have his driver's license, but we kind of wish it was the other way around though...

May 16, 2011

Toyota Prius

                This is our most requested review.  We consider ourselves to be the auto reviewers of the people, by the people, & for the people, so don’t be afraid to drop us note in any of the comment sections and we’ll give your car/truck a shot. 
                Toyota advertises this car as the world’s most popular hybrid.  We can definitely tell you that the damn things are everywhere around our headquarters and we have been considering Prius specific push bars.  Just give them a little tap and watch ‘em spin!

The ad-wrap adds something to it!

                The interior of the Prius offered more head room than we expected.  We did have to ratchet the seat down quite a bit, but didn’t go all the way to the bottom.  If you’re over 6’4” there’s hope that you will fit in this car comfortably.
The Prius has a centered instrument display.  Both the driver and the front passenger can read the display easily.  We actually liked this display.  The graphic showing where the power was going was really cool to look at for the first mile, but then it became irritating and useless after three minutes.  When you brake, the power goes to the battery.  I don’t know any sane person who would need to be informed of that every time they stopped the vehicle.  The display also included mpg graph based on the last five, ten, fifteen, and twenty minute intervals.  Some of this explains the slowness of Prius drivers since they are spending more time reading useless information displays than actually driving.
Speedometer and power distribution graphic

Electronic Gear shift and push-button parking brake
           The gear shift knob in the middle of the console was irritating.  In reverse there is literally a beeping inside of the car.  Not outside to alert pedestrians that you can't see behind you and will be hitting them shortly...  We also had difficulty shifting quickly from drive to reverse.  Everything about this car says that you have loads of time to get where you're going.  We don't have that much time and we got frustrated. 

Also the information that we gave out recently to turn off your Prius as it races away from you mis-applying the accelerator instead of the brake is also not correct.  There is no ignition to turn off, just a "power" button.  The gear shift is electronic and wouldn't let us select neutral and then turn off the car.  The good news here is that NASA proved that the throttle control and engine management computers on the Prius weren't the reason for the sudden accelerations.  We get back to work on finding a way to get it turned off at speed, but it's going to take awhile.  No dealer really wants to give us another Prius right now...
The armrest in the middle was a letdown.  It wasn’t high enough to be in a comfortable driving position and it had to be slid back in an awkward procedure to get it open.  One option that intrigued us was the solar powered fan to help keep the interior at a cooler temperature while the car is in a parking lot on a hot summer’s day.  This option comes with the moon roof, but if you want all the fancy electronics like navigation and what not, then you can’t have the moon roof.  The electronics cause the overall weight to be too high and so the moon roof is the easiest way to save the extra weight. 
The dealer decided to wrap this car with an advertising body graphic.  The angle of the rear glass made it virtually impossible to see anything out the top glass portion.  The holes in the wrap were at such an angle that there was no opening to look through, only solid sticker.  We hate the split rear windows anyway, and this only aggravated us further.  Seriously, if you got cut off by an Olathe Toyota Prius lately, now you know why.  The drivers can’t see anything!


The mutated offspring of David Bowie and Optimus Prime.

                We have never really liked the look of the Prius, even the redesigned 2011 model.  The advertising wrap did nothing to aid in our opinion of the aesthetic suckiness.  We feel that you could have designed a retro-modern look (yes, we know those are different ends of the spectrum, but Fiat did it with the 500) and been more appealing.  The outside of a Prius feels like the engineers at Toyota took a square and tried to figure out how to take the least amount of material off the square and still make a car.  We are not fans of this style for the Prius. We are always willing to change our opinions, but Toyota will have to change the look of this car first. 
                One feature that started us down the road of swaying opinions was the keyless entry.  Not only is it keyless entry, it’s key fob-less entry.  As long as you have the key fob in your pocket, the car will recognize you and unlock as you pull on the door handle.  The truly cool part was when you touched the front end of the door handle with two fingers after exiting, the car locks itself.  This is a feature that we only played with once as we exited the vehicle and the salesperson couldn’t help but show off as we got in, but we still liked it.  It doesn’t solve the problem of how to get into your car with your hands full of groceries or Chihuahuas. 

Even the trees are embarassed for it!
                The performance of the Prius was unique.  Off the line at traffic lights, the car would roll silently for the first few feet until the demands on the electric motor became too much.  There would be a little lag and then the 1.8L four-cylinder engine, literally, kicks in.  In economy mode, the Prius is like trying to coax a two year old into a doctor’s office (Had to do that last week, the real life scenario was only slightly harder than getting the Prius to “go”).  In power mode, the car handled a little better.  Not much better than say a Honda Fit or a Toyota Yaris, both much cheaper.  Does the fuel economy outweigh the overall disappointment in the handling of the Prius?  Our answer is no.  The gas tank is 11.9 gallons and the mpg split is 51 city/48 hwy. 

                For the money that the Prius costs, we’re just not feeling it.  The one we drove was a little over $25,000 and we could have had quite a few more enjoyable cars for not much more at the pump.  Yes, the Prius’ range is 606 miles, according to Toyota, but we felt that we would never see that kind of mileage because of how hard we had to drive it to keep up in traffic.  We could have chosen eco mode and effectively shut down one lane of the highway, but we figured it would cause others to waste more gas as they accelerated around us.  See, we are friends to the environment… just not in a Prius.  We aren’t even going to get into the argument about how much fuel and carbon are emitted just to make the Prius because we really don’t know the actual numbers.  Our attention spans don’t have the patience for real scientific research.  We just like driving cars! 

                Because of the damage from the recent tsunami, it will be increasingly more difficult to find a Prius here in the States.  Most Honda, Toyota, and Nissan models are put together here, but a lot of the essential electronics and other components are manufactured in Japan.  Most imported brands will see some cutbacks in the amount of models available.  If you really want a Prius, go get it now, but don’t expect the dealer to come down any on the price.  Our opinion is that you can definitely wait (like forever) but then again what do we know.

Thank you, Olathe Toyota.  Enjoy the free marketing to all nine of our readers...

May 13, 2011

BMW 550i GT

Insert "Junk in Trunk" joke here!
BMW, like Honda, has made a bad decision.  The 550i GT was developed for the Chinese market and BMW saw fit to send the same models here to the States.  The 550i GT is adequate at its designed use.  The primary function is to take four full-sized adults or a family on lengthy car trips with a trunk load of suitcases.  This car and others like it (Honda Accord Crosstour) are not designed to win any fashion awards.  We get the purpose; we still don't like them.  If it saves us from a mini-van, then the 550i GT would be a welcome addition to our car family.  We would only drive it under protest, be the alternative mini-van is way worse. 
The roof line is a solid 7 inches tall than a 6-series!
The good news is that most Americans feel the same way, with very few 550i GT's being sold in the States.  The bad news is that they are compromising in the mini-vans instead...  Have a back-bone fellas!  If you are interested though, BMW would probably listen to any haggling over the price of a 550i GT.  In fact there were two on the lot where these pictures were taken and both had "Sale" tags hanging from the rear view mirrors.  One was listed already for $5,000 off. 
Cruising in a 550i GT is not on our Bucket List...

If you really start looking for a mini-van, just don't tell us.  We will mock you.

May 10, 2011

Honda CR-Z

On the way off the Honda lot, we spotted what they advertise as a Sport Hybrid.  The CR-Z is listed by Honda as having a 1.4L (actually only 3cc from being 1.5L) 122hp I-4 engine.   Awkward looking on the outside, it has three settings for drive mode to change fuel-sipping eco mode to battery draining sport.

Check out the predator fin on the roof!

Stereo without Navigation Package

The interior is lit with blue night club looking gauges.  When you open the door on the lower door frame the letters CR-Z shine up at you in blue light.  The dash was better to look at than the Civic.  Instead of a two-tiered instrument panel, everything is included in one.  The digital speedometer sits inside of the analog tachometer, space saving and attractive.

Automatic transmission shown

Being of unusually long wing-span we noticed that the radio is pretty far away.  Luckily, most of the functions that are needed to control the radio could be done from the steering wheel.  For a small car, the interior was roomy and didn’t feel cramped.  Mostly this feeling comes from the fact that there isn’t a backseat.  It is a hatchback and the rear glass is divided into two pieces.  The top portion distorts the image making normal cars appear insect-like.  Even Beetles look worse…  The bottom portion of the window is only really helpful in figuring out when someone is right up on your bumper.  The view out the back is a bother, but luckily we spent most of the time looking forward.   The blind spot windows are helpful even if we had to dip our heads a little to see out them.    Short people will not have this issue.


Those aren't seats!
                The fin antenna on top gives the CR-Z a shark-like feel.  The car itself is very sleek.  It doesn’t have the same feel of most hybrids that tend to basically be boxes with four wheels.  Aluminum wheels help lend to the weight reduction.  We like the look of it, but don’t suggest it to anyone in their 50’s.  The exterior of the CR-Z feels like it makes tributes to the Impreza WRX and the Mitsubishi Evo.  There are only five colors available., and we drove the red one and felt very ostentatious.  There is only one type of wheel available unless you want to pay extra for 17” alloys.

                The CR-Z surprised us here in multiple ways.  We didn’t expect its three drive modes to really show us that much of a difference.  Eco mode was downright appalling when trying to drive in rush hour traffic.  The acceleration switched to a fuel sipping rate that was about as fast as a senior citizen with a PowerChair, actually the senior citizen may have been faster.  We get why Eco mode is there, but for commuters at rush hour it’s worthless if you actually want to get home and not drive everyone in your lane insane with slowness.  The best part was the on-dash shift indicators.  When it reach certain rpm’s in Eco mode there would be a green arrow indicating up or down shifts.  It will save gas, but if you don’t want to hate the car, just buy the auto transmission.  The Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) uses a pulley system to help get the gear ratio with the most power and the best fuel economy.  The manual gets 31 city/37 hwy, while the CVT gets 32 city/39 hwy according to Honda.  Eco mode helps charge the battery the best of all three modes.  We would only use this mode if there was no time table on when we needed to arrive at our destination.
                Normal mode was okay.  It didn’t really get us anywhere fast, but we also weren’t screaming at the car to go!  This was a pretty boring mode that we would use for our daily commute if time is an issue.  The acceleration was more rapid than Eco and the car didn’t tell us when to shift.  Normal mode charges the battery and uses the same amount of energy from it.  More often than not this is the mode most used, but still not the best.  This isn’t the most boring mode, but at least you won’t hate yourself for using it.
                Sport mode was by far the most fun.  It makes the CR-Z feel like a sports car, almost.  It was entertaining to watch the charge on the battery drain as we accelerated in this mode.  We spent most of our time in this mode, but wouldn’t recommend it since it is only a 10.6 gallon tank.  The manual transmission helped with the sporty feel, but didn’t help with the mpgs at all. 

Not a concept car, these are on Honda lots right now!
               The CR-Z came in at $20,905 as tested.  Some weird news is that the car measures a 10 on the Global Warming Scale (10 being cleanest).  The scale is set based on California’s emission standards since theirs are the strictest in the U.S.  The Civic Si was only a 7.  This car was fun as long as you didn’t have to take any one with you.  One passenger is the only legal option, but who only has one friend.  Maybe we should like this car less. 

               Now we will also point out that most manufactures that have production from Japan are going to have reductions in delivery to the U.S.  This is not the best time to try to cut a deal with any of the Japanese manufactures.  Demand will soon outweigh supply.  There will be fewer deliveries for even the imported European models, since most of the electronic components are manufactured in Japan.  Even if the models are put together in the states, the little pieces are all made in the Land of the Rising Sun.  We recently drove a Toyota Prius and the only model on the lot was the demonstrator that the dealership has ruined…  Stay tuned for some gaudy and nauseating pictures.

May 5, 2011

Hope for Us!

This car gives us hope! We tend to have lower self-esteem, since the objects of our affection and this blog don't always return the same amount of love.  The fact that someone went out and purposely bought this hideous Honda Accord, brings us hope.  If anyone can love this car, hopefully you can love our reviews.  Seriously, there's no way we look worse than this...                Even bald, we still look better.
Honda Accord Crosstour starting at an appalling $29,790

May 4, 2011

User Error

          In the June 2011 Car and Driver, they address the Toyota recall that started in October 2009.  Basically, people were having difficulty with “pedal misapplication,” Department of Transportation’s term.  There were a few incidents of the wrong floor mats causing accelerators to become stuck (which the media reported non-stop, along with every little fault that Toyota might have), but the study found user error to be the case for most sudden accelerations.  Thanks again main stream media…
         The DOT even had NASA scientists bombard Toyota’s electronic throttle to find any reason to cause acceleration.  Every time NASA did something that would interfere with the throttle, the engine would stall or cause the engine to go into “limp” home mode.  NASA went to such extremes as to completely fry one of the engine-management computers. 
          My wife and I have a ’05 Toyota Tacoma, which while Toyota is doing its due diligence and continues to send us request after request to get the modified accelerator.  We don’t have Toyota floor mats.  We have Husky Liners, since we knew children would be in the vehicle.  The service to fix the recalled accelerator is half a day long…  Needless to say, we will be keeping our accelerator the way it is and making sure we both remember what to do if the engine suddenly accelerates, which is always good to “recall” no matter what type of vehicle you drive. 

Be sure to remember these simple steps to ensure your safety following a sudden acceleration:

1. Remove foot from accelerator, if car doesn’t slow proceed to step 2.
2.  Apply firm, steady pressure to the brake, if still no change, step 3.
3. Slide the gear shift to Neutral and turn off the ignition.
4. If you have to proceed to Step 4, skip it and execute Emergency Procedure 5.
5. Bend over, head between legs, kiss butt goodbye, your car is possessed, enjoy life on Mars.

                But seriously, taking your foot off the accelerator is a great first step.  Applying the brake should follow; if it still is revving hard after the brake application, slip it into neutral and let it blow itself up or you could turn it off.  A very knowledgeable engineer once told us that it is more cost effective to replace an engine than to replace your life.  I used to turn off my ’04 Jeep Wrangler while driving to unlock the center console and then restart it to keep driving.  If no one’s around, it’s not a bad idea to try, so at least you’re comfortable controlling your vehicle without power steering and brake pressure.  Be safe.  Seriously, be safe, we don’t have a lot of readers and can’t afford to lose any of you…

May 2, 2011

Honda Civic Si

           Some would argue that none of this is sensible...  We don’t care what they think.  After our S4 test we decided on a more economical test.  The Honda Civic for years has been known as a reliable and sensible investment.  Every Man’s, like most men (not always sensible), tested the 2011 Civic Si sedan. It could hold two child/infant cars seats in back if it needed to!  When testing cars, we always look for the manual transmissions to really understand how a car handles, even though they are starting to become a thing of the past.  Manuals main selling point was improved gas mileage, but some automatics are beginning to get better mileage.  No matter what, if you really want to know how it drives, you need a stick!    That didn’t sound right…

Interior:
Two-tiered instrument panel and steering wheel controls

The interior of the Si was comfortable for a small car.  The first thing we noticed was the suede accents all over the seats and doors.  The suede was unnecessary.  Just go with some regular leather or vinyl and let’s move on.  The dash is huge.  Seriously, I think I could almost lay out a sleeping bag and curl up it’s so large and mostly flat.  This didn’t inhibit the driving, but it did bother our eyes when we first got in.  The gauges are red-backed (not really a fan) and the instrument panel is two-tiered with a digital speedo up top with the fuel indicator and engine temp to the sides, and the tachometer plus all other indicator lights down below.  The digital speedo was nice, but I found my eye staying there too often to make sure I was going exactly as fast as allowed.  The new 2012 models also have an information center to the right of the digital speedo for radio, power usage, and other info.  Overall the interior didn’t thrill us, but at the same time like most Honda’s it wasn’t anything that detracted from the appeal of the car.

Exterior:
With the newly introduced Elantra’s and Sonata’s, the Civic now shares a number of external styling features.  If you look at the Si too long, you really will start to see the new Hyundai’s coming out.  The style lines down the side of the Civic are also apparent on the Elantra.  Nothing that really takes away from the Si, but if you’re looking for that original looking ride, this isn’t it…  The exhaust doesn’t sound very different from the standard version of the Civic.  Nothing to take note of; just sounds like an angry rodent.  The spoiler is still unique looking with its knife edge design.  Again, nothing here that causes us to run away and vomit, but nothing that makes us fight to drive this car.
Knife-edge spoiler

Performance:
The Si has a 1.998L I-4 engine that Honda advertises as a 2.0L producing 197 horsepower.  The 2012 model has a 2.354 L engine that produces 4 more horsepower.  The gear shift was functional and felt firm.  Reverse is all the way to the right, but without the depression and beep to let you know you’re in reverse; you have to check twice to be sure.  Maybe it’s 6th gear or maybe reverse.  The gas tank is 13.2 gallons which won’t kill you at the pump, but Honda states that premium is required, which will suck your wallet dry with gas close to $4 a gallon for unleaded.  The 2011 averages 21 city/29 hwy/ 24 combined with the 2012 getting 22 city/31 hwy/ 25 combined with the slightly bigger engine. 
                We don’t think the Si we drove liked us very much.  The car didn’t seem up to the task.  Every acceleration felt like I was forcing the Si through chores that it didn’t want to do.  It was quick, but won’t break any land speed records or even make any take notice.  If anything, they might take notice of the angry little car that the middle-aged guy was torturing.   Each shift felt like we were rapping too many rpm’s, even if the red line is 7,000.  In 6th at 70mph the tach was reading 3,000 rpm’s with very little left to accelerate to pass at highway speeds.  The 0-60 test was measured at 7.1 seconds (Edmunds.com) and felt that fast.  We weren’t shocked by its time, but weren’t impressed either, just content.  In the corners the Si handled itself well.  We even flipped a hard U-turn and felt the front wheels haul us through the turn with ease.  It was fun with a short wheel base to crank it over hard and accelerate out of it.  There wasn’t very much torque-steering, where the power applied to the front tires pulls the steering wheel a specific way.

Summary:
                We liked the Si for the price ($23,155).  The Si we drove was pretty standard.  The 6-speed transmission was fair, but not great.  Buying premium gas might cause us to avoid the Si for now, but at least the base price is far lower than any other cars that might require premium.  We weren’t overjoyed with the Si, but if we’re on a tight budget (Who isn’t?!?!) then we would give this car a lot of our consideration.