It’s no secret that Consumer Reports wasn’t too impressed with the redesigned-for-2011 Jetta and the redesigned-for-2012 Civic. The Jetta SE and Civic LX both failed to score high enough to meet our threshold for recommendation. But what happens when you buy the top-level sports version of each? To find out, we bought a Jetta GLI and a Civic Si.
The GLI brings quite a few enhancements over the cooking-grade Jetta SE, including an independent rear suspension, rear disc brakes, bigger wheels and tires, and an improved interior. The GLI has VW’s entertaining and ever-tractable 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, mated in our car to a six-speed manual transmission. Most GLIs, including our test car, have the Autobahn options package; it adds a moonroof, heated seats, automatic climate control, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Thus equipped, ours stickered at $26,835.
Just like the GLI, the Civic Si brings performance upgrades over the Civic LX and EX, including a retuned suspension and 17-inch wheels and tires. But the highlight of the car is its drivetrain. The Si now shares its 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with the Acura TSX. While this engine doesn’t quite rev to the nosebleed-level limits of previous Civic Si’s, it is very eager, willing, and smooth. Honda also sets a benchmark for manual shifters, and the six-speed here is no exception. Our four-door Si with all-season performance tires cost us $23,175.
It’s no surprise that, so far, both cars are proving far more entertaining to drive than their mainstream counterparts. First impressions are that the GLI is considerably more refined than the Si. Even though these are top-level versions of each car, there are surprising omissions and cost-cutting. The Civic doesn’t have satellite radio; you only get that with the optional navigation system. You might expect a nearly-$27,000 car to have power seats, but the Jetta doesn’t even offer them. Both cars have nicer interiors than their lower-trim versions, but some cheapness remains, like the lack of a fully-lined trunk lid in both cars.
We’ll see how these sporty sedans balance fun and livability as we fully test them here at our track.