We have three vehicles (well, four counting the motorcycle), all gently aging, a bit silly for two (also gently aging) drivers. We’ve always had sedans with a bit of a sporting bias. I’m thinking of swapping two of those cars for one, more sporting sedan. Any thoughts on a car for us in the $30,000 to $35,000 area? – Larry
Gentile: Hi Larry! One of my favourites is the Honda Civic Type R.
Richardson: You’re kidding, right? First off, it’s around $41,000 before taxes – way over his budget.
Gentile: Don’t be a penny pincher. It’s only a few thousand more.
Richardson: But that awful design with the massive, rear-wing spoiler – it’s ugly and way over the top. A friend of mine owns a Civic Type R and he says the only people he impresses are teenage boys.
Gentile: Maybe it’s just too young and hip for you. At least the design is different from anything else on the road. And I like the ride and handling. It’s fun to drive, and it’s the fastest Civic money can buy.
Richardson: Sure, it’s got a great engine, with a 306 horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-litre and a six-speed manual transmission, but my buddy couldn’t even buy replacement tires for it at his local Honda store. More trouble than it’s worth for Larry.
Gentile: Okay already! What do you think Larry should consider?
Richardson: For my money, you can’t beat a VW GTI. Not too flash but plenty quick, and only driveable with a stick. Hey – I’m a poet!
Gentile: Nothing beats a stick.
Richardson: Drive it fast or drive it slow – shift it smooth, or heel-and-toe. I’m on a roll here …
Gentile: Enough already! Don’t quit your day job.
Richardson: Harrumph. What do you think of the GTI?
Gentile: I hate to agree with you. But I like it, too. That would be my second pick – it’s sporty, quick, nimble and fun to drive.
Richardson: You also get a lot of sport for not so much money, at just less than $31,000 before taxes.
Gentile: Like I said, I hate to agree with you, but the GTI is well priced for the package.
Richardson: Larry says he has a motorcycle, so it’s safe to assume he’s happy driving a manual transmission because just about every bike has a manual clutch. But he might not want a stick. What do you think for something sporty with an automatic transmission?
Gentile: There’s the Subaru WRX – it has a great, turbocharged Subaru Boxer engine with 268 hp and all wheel drive. It comes with a six-speed stick or an optional CVT. But I’m not a big fan of the CVT. I prefer the six-speed manual. You?
Richardson: A sporty car like this is usually best with a manual; it’s only when they get to be really quick that you value the electronic fast-shifting of an automatic or dual-clutch transmission. The stick shift just helps the driver feel more in tune with the vehicle.
Gentile: Well, if we forget about silly automatics, there’s also the Ford Focus ST – that’s in Larry’s budget. It’s a sporty little hatch with a 2.0-litre EcoBoost four-cylinder with 252 hp. It only comes with a six-speed manual. But it’s a nice shifter, with quick, short throws.
Richardson: If he’s interested, he’d better get it while he still can.
Gentile: Yes – the Focus ST could become a collector’s model one day. It’s being phased out with Ford’s massive restructuring plan that shifts from building cars to SUVs and trucks.
Richardson: Well, if he can buy only one, my safe money would be for the VW GTI. Very satisfying, reliable, and sturdy. There’s a reason Europeans love it so much.
Gentile: I disagree. I think Larry should bite the bullet and pay a little more for the Honda Civic Type R. Never stop being a boy racer!
What car should you buy? Write to Mark and Petrina at email@example.com
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