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I don’t know if I’d even call it cross-shopping (because of availability), but I started making a list a few months ago in a pretty wide range - mostly sedans and hatchbacks, preferably with a MT and/or performance trim . Here’s what I narrowed it down to.

Under 30k: Civic HB MT and Civic Si MT.
30k-40k: Integra MT, VW GLI or GTI MT, Mazda 3 Turbo AT, Accord Sport 2.0T AT
Over 40k: Kia Stinger AT, VW Arteon AT, Audi A5 Sportback AT

I visited a local Honda dealer because their website showed inventory for a Civic Si and an Accord 2.0T. They told me they didn’t have anything I could test drive, that I’d have to put down a deposit and drive it when it came in. I went to the Audi across the street, where they had the A5. I drove that, and it was a very nice car, but I realized how much I really wanted an MT above all, and that was going to be a dealbreaker.

So my MT requirement also ruled out the Accord, Mazda, Arteon, Stinger. My next priority is cargo space, so that pretty much leaves the Civic HB and Integra at the top of the pile (I don’t think the GTI is big enough, but may come back to that if the Integra doesn’t impress me). I tentatively had the Civic Type-R on my list. I’m glad they’re making that car. But even if I wanted to wait 6-12 months and pay well over MSRP, I don’t think it’s for me.

The Integra, on paper is right there in the sweet spot. I prefer the style and specs over the Civic HB. So that’s my top pick for now.
 

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Integra A-Spec Tech Pkg 6M Liquid Carbon over Red
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I don’t know if I’d even call it cross-shopping (because of availability), but I started making a list a few months ago in a pretty wide range - mostly sedans and hatchbacks, preferably with a MT and/or performance trim . Here’s what I narrowed it down to.

Under 30k: Civic HB MT and Civic Si MT.
30k-40k: Integra MT, VW GLI or GTI MT, Mazda 3 Turbo AT, Accord Sport 2.0T AT
Over 40k: Kia Stinger AT, VW Arteon AT, Audi A5 Sportback AT

I visited a local Honda dealer because their website showed inventory for a Civic Si and an Accord 2.0T. They told me they didn’t have anything I could test drive, that I’d have to put down a deposit and drive it when it came in. I went to the Audi across the street, where they had the A5. I drove that, and it was a very nice car, but I realized how much I really wanted an MT above all, and that was going to be a dealbreaker.

So my MT requirement also ruled out the Accord, Mazda, Arteon, Stinger. My next priority is cargo space, so that pretty much leaves the Civic HB and Integra at the top of the pile (I don’t think the GTI is big enough, but may come back to that if the Integra doesn’t impress me). I tentatively had the Civic Type-R on my list. I’m glad they’re making that car. But even if I wanted to wait 6-12 months and pay well over MSRP, I don’t think it’s for me.

The Integra, on paper is right there in the sweet spot. I prefer the style and specs over the Civic HB. So that’s my top pick for now.
The GTI is my primary alt right now - I drove one a couple weeks back and it was a lot of fun.
 

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No concerns with no knobs for infotainment, A/C, etc.?
There are definitely concerns - on the test drive, even the sales guy couldn’t turn down the blasting heat initially. The touch controls on the steering wheel are a dumb idea too. But the car was so much fun and sounded so great - it’s tempting despite the infotouchment!
 

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I just picked up an S-trim GTI, and I don't think the infotainment is a problem at all. I can't speak for the higher trims. But, beyond the Harmon Kardon stereo, there wasn't much in the upper trims that was appealing except for DCC in the Autobahn trim. The haptic buttons are totally fine. The only extra step is pressing the climate button to bring up those controls on the infotainment, and I've been using auto climate control most of the time. I'm sure I would have loved the Integra, but I didn't want to wait while interest rates went up, and I saved $5k+ not having to buy the top trim. I did sacrifice some cargo space. I'm guessing ELS is a better stereo than the base VW version by a bit. But the car is certainly a lot of fun to drive. Test out an S trim before you let all the online reviewers scare you away.
 

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I just picked up an S-trim GTI, and I don't think the infotainment is a problem at all. I can't speak for the higher trims. But, beyond the Harmon Kardon stereo, there wasn't much in the upper trims that was appealing except for DCC in the Autobahn trim. The haptic buttons are totally fine. The only extra step is pressing the climate button to bring up those controls on the infotainment, and I've been using auto climate control most of the time. I'm sure I would have loved the Integra, but I didn't want to wait while interest rates went up, and I saved $5k+ not having to buy the top trim. I did sacrifice some cargo space. I'm guessing ELS is a better stereo than the base VW version by a bit. But the car is certainly a lot of fun to drive. Test out an S trim before you let all the online reviewers scare you away.
I wish the GLI had the newer bits from the GTI, but glad the audio system still has a volume knob. I might go drive a GLI today. Very hard to find a manual one around where I live. The dealer has a '21 used to try.
 

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I just picked up an S-trim GTI, and I don't think the infotainment is a problem at all. I can't speak for the higher trims. But, beyond the Harmon Kardon stereo, there wasn't much in the upper trims that was appealing except for DCC in the Autobahn trim. The haptic buttons are totally fine. The only extra step is pressing the climate button to bring up those controls on the infotainment, and I've been using auto climate control most of the time. I'm sure I would have loved the Integra, but I didn't want to wait while interest rates went up, and I saved $5k+ not having to buy the top trim. I did sacrifice some cargo space. I'm guessing ELS is a better stereo than the base VW version by a bit. But the car is certainly a lot of fun to drive. Test out an S trim before you let all the online reviewers scare you away.
I did drive the S, actually. Still hated the touch controls. One requirement for me is a sunroof - that necessitates the SE trim. Also means more touch controls. 🤷🏼‍♂️ Out of curiosity did you pay a markup for your GTI? I had a hard time finding a dealer that wouldn’t tack on an ADM.
 

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I did drive the S, actually. Still hated the touch controls. One requirement for me is a sunroof - that necessitates the SE trim. Also means more touch controls. 🤷🏼‍♂️ Out of curiosity did you pay a markup for your GTI? I had a hard time finding a dealer that wouldn’t tack on an ADM.
Nope, snagged it for MSRP in Wisconsin, but had to drive 3 hours across the state. It took me a while to find one that wasn't presold. Someone in Florida had spoken for it, but then let it go after the dealership wouldn't ship it down to him.
 

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I don’t know if I’d even call it cross-shopping (because of availability), but I started making a list a few months ago in a pretty wide range - mostly sedans and hatchbacks, preferably with a MT and/or performance trim . Here’s what I narrowed it down to.

Under 30k: Civic HB MT and Civic Si MT.
30k-40k: Integra MT, VW GLI or GTI MT, Mazda 3 Turbo AT, Accord Sport 2.0T AT
Over 40k: Kia Stinger AT, VW Arteon AT, Audi A5 Sportback AT

I visited a local Honda dealer because their website showed inventory for a Civic Si and an Accord 2.0T. They told me they didn’t have anything I could test drive, that I’d have to put down a deposit and drive it when it came in. I went to the Audi across the street, where they had the A5. I drove that, and it was a very nice car, but I realized how much I really wanted an MT above all, and that was going to be a dealbreaker.

So my MT requirement also ruled out the Accord, Mazda, Arteon, Stinger. My next priority is cargo space, so that pretty much leaves the Civic HB and Integra at the top of the pile (I don’t think the GTI is big enough, but may come back to that if the Integra doesn’t impress me). I tentatively had the Civic Type-R on my list. I’m glad they’re making that car. But even if I wanted to wait 6-12 months and pay well over MSRP, I don’t think it’s for me.

The Integra, on paper is right there in the sweet spot. I prefer the style and specs over the Civic HB. So that’s my top pick for now.
Aside from the Civic the Mazda3 would be another one I'd look at. Mazdas styling has been so good lately it's hard to ignore.
 

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Aside from the Civic the Mazda3 would be another one I'd look at. Mazdas styling has been so good lately it's hard to ignore.
I do like Mazda a lot. I had a 2010 Mazdaspeed 3 hatchback, which was manual-only like the Civic Si. I liked the style just fine, despite the big clown face. The torque steer was a bit much, but it was still a great drive. I'm agree the new 3 looks great from the front and overall very upscale (Though I think the rear windows are too small and it looks like the visibility is bad). The turbo AWD model sounds nice, but no MT on that. I also wish they'd bring back the 6. I test-drove a 6 with MT a few years ago, and really enjoyed that drive. I'm disappointed that model is gone and that Mazda gave up on MTs except for the MX-5 and the low-end 3.
 

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The new Mazda 3 interior is amazing. But the hatchback felt like a coffin to me. Tiny and poor visibility. So I ruled it out based on that when I started cross shopping that with the Civic. I thought it drove better than the new Civic Sedan (non-SI) I still haven't been able to sit in a Civic Hatchback.
 

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Volkswagen GTI: ~33K: better performance, but probably not as fun to drive or as practical as the Integra will be. Long warranty - but will likely need it. Too small. I decided the Jetta GLI 32K might be a good second choice instead. More power than the integra, yet similar fuel economy as the Civic SI. They tweaked the look a bit for 2022, and I don't dislike it as much as I used to. They added a blue color too which looks nice. Always wanted cooled seats. Not crazy about the black only interior.
Just came back from the GLI test drive (the only Manual in stock was a used 2021 with 20K on it). Local dealer says no incoming GLI's and cannot order. Would look into swapping at other dealers. Cars.com shows some around if I were to decide. Here are my impressions and my rating on a scale of 1-10 for each:

  • Engine (8): Smooth and the noises it makes are refined. It did not feel as powerful as I had hoped. Unlike the turbocharged cars I'm used to, you had to rev this one a bit more to get to the power. I'm concerned how the Integra is going to feel knowing this.
  • Transmission (9) : I haven't daily driven a manual in 7 years. It did not take me 30 seconds to feel at home. The shifts were smooth and enjoyable. I know the Acura transmission will be better than this according to the reviewers, but in my opinion, this was good enough.
  • Steering (6): Somehow, I was disappointed in the steering feel. There was a small amount of vagueness that Hondas don't have. I checked the tires, and they were a good brand (Continental) with plenty of tread, so I can't attribute my disliking of it to the tires. In my wife's TLX, the steering feel is what I enjoy the most - very direct. I sure hope the Integra is similar.
  • Technology (N/A) I can't rate the technology, because I didn't try any of it. The one I drove was the base trim, and it wouldn't be fair to make a judgement, as the '22's are all Autobahn trim which previously was their highest of the 3 trim levels they used to offer in prior model years.
  • Overall Refinement (7). This is mostly because I didn't like the feel of the steering.
I tried to get a feel for what this dealer will charge - his comment was "we've been selling most of our cars at $1,500 over MSRP". The '21 GLI was a bit behind what I expect of the Integra in refinement. Could I live with this car as a daily driver? Probably no, but it's close. I am biased though, because I don't like a dark interior, and black is the only available interior color in the GLI. I was hoping to be able to get passed that, as there are black interiors that I find acceptable (One of them is the current TLX, which I sat in on the showroom floor of the Acura dealer last time I was there)
 

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For me, it’s:
Civic Si - out for now, mainly because the stripped down features + dealer markup make it a questionable value. I’d rather have a hatch anyway, so the Integra at MSRP+$750 makes more sense.
MX-5 RF - I love this car, but I get nervous about its lack of space. I’d have to take the family car when I need more space or seats, but my wife doesn’t drive stick so this might be difficult once she gets rid of her car. And my 8-yr-old is confounded why I’d get a car that doesn’t fit all of us. I worry that these issues would force me to give up the car sooner than I’d like; I’d rather have 10+ yrs with the Integra 6MT than <3 yrs with the Miata. I had a Miata before and it’s time was also cut short.
BRZ/GR86 - this is a great compromise between sports car and having enough room, but I am turned off by the gas mileage. It’s worse than my old Volvo, despite being lighter and having fewer cylinders and more gears. Given our other car is an EV, I might be able to rationalize the mpg, but not the current dealer markups.
 

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BRZ/GR86 - this is a great compromise between sports car and having enough room, but I am turned off by the gas mileage. It’s worse than my old Volvo, despite being lighter and having fewer cylinders and more gears. Given our other car is an EV, I might be able to rationalize the mpg, but not the current dealer markups.
I’m very tempted by the Toyobaru as well. GR86 looks a bit better to me but BRZ is a bit smoother ride. But only just a little. Getting in and out is the old man challenge for me, plus the harsher ride and road noise is notable. But very fun to drive. And the price is great. If the Integra doesn’t work out for whatever reason this is likely what I’ll get.
 

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I’m very tempted by the Toyobaru as well. GR86 looks a bit better to me but BRZ is a bit smoother ride. But only just a little. Getting in and out is the old man challenge for me, plus the harsher ride and road noise is notable. But very fun to drive. And the price is great. If the Integra doesn’t work out for whatever reason this is likely what I’ll get.
Probably the same for me. I like the GR86’s front end more, but I understand only Subaru will let you place an order, so it seems easier to acquire (for 2023; 2022 sold out in January). MSRP is great if you can find one like that. I just saw a base 2022, used, listed for $37K and KBB said it’s a great price. :oops:
 

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Probably the same for me. I like the GR86’s front end more, but I understand only Subaru will let you place an order, so it seems easier to acquire (for 2023; 2022 sold out in January). MSRP is great if you can find one like that. I just saw a base 2022, used, listed for $37K and KBB said it’s a great price. :oops:
That is crazy! The local Subaru dealership reached out to me a few weeks back and said that orders are open for the 2023 BRZs and expect them to start rolling in in October.
 

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That is crazy! The local Subaru dealership reached out to me a few weeks back and said that orders are open for the 2023 BRZs and expect them to start rolling in in October.
I didn’t realize they were taking orders so I’m looking into it. If the deposits are refundable I should put one down just in case. My local dealer has a $4K markup, which normally I’d balk at, but the world is crazy now, and it is still less than the Integra 6MT.
 

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No markup for the Subaru dealership here and no annoying add-ons. But the deposit is nonrefundable. Crazy how different dealerships are. $4K markup?! Man...
 
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