2012 Honda Civic Si Coupe
Power: 201 hp, 170 lb-ft
Engine: 2.4-liter 4 cylinder
Fuel consumption: 22 city, 31 hwy
Price as tested: $23,705

Strengths: My first car was a white 1989 Honda Civic Si that I bought with my own hard-earned money. It was great on gas, super reliable and a blast to drive—despite being slow as hell. The all-new Honda Civic Si is still great on gas and should be super reliable, but it’s no longer slow as hell. Rev up its four-banger, which is considerably more powerful than the regular Civic’s engine, and the car really goes. Compared to the stripped down budget-mobile I owned back in the day, the new Civic Si is practically a limousine—way larger and much better appointed. Yet it retains the essence of its predecessors: It has one of the best manual transmissions and clutches of any car at any price, and with its taut suspension and high-revving engine, it feels more exciting and enjoyable to drive than some pricier sports cars.

Weaknesses: The Civic Si has ballooned into a much bigger car than it was when it first came out in the 1980s—and that’s a real shame. Although the all-new 2012 model is close in size to the previous version, it somehow has lost its edge and feels disproportionately bigger. The steering and suspension aren’t as sharp as before—like they’ve been given Ritalin. But none of that would keep me from buying one. The lack of headroom on the two-door model I tested would, though. Fortunately, there’s a four-door model that better suits tall folks. I want to hate the huge dashboard with its split-level digital display, but I can’t because it works well, even if it’s ugly. I do, however, hate the small buttons on the optional navigation system.

Final take: The Honda Civic Si remains one of the most fun cars to drive in its price range. Reliability, practicality and resale value remain huge selling points, but also ensure that you’ll pay top dollar for one. I’d want to test drive a pre-owned 2011 model back-to-back with a 2012 before buying one. Because I might like the older one better.