If you can have only one car and have a regular-guy amount of money to spend, it’s hard to beat the tenth-generation Honda Civic performance models. These three Civics cover the $22,000-to-$35,000 zone right at the heart of the affordable new-car market, and each comes equipped with a crisp-shifting six-speed manual transaxle. It’s the only gearbox available in the Si and Type R. Each of these Civics is endowed with precise steering and a supple, lively chassis. Each is roomy and practical. Each is motivated by a turbocharged four-cylinder that doles out equal measures of low- and high-rpm power. Each returns excellent-for-its-class fuel economy. And each is styled . . . well, they are awfully fun to drive.
Only Volkswagen can truly match Honda’s C-segment three-rung performance ladder. Mazda’s pretty 2.5-liter manual hatchback 3 does a fine job battling the Civic Sport hatch, but the company from Hiroshima has nothing to go up against the Si or the Type R. Subaru’s WRX and STI are formidable competitors in the upper end of the segment, but the regular Impreza is no performance car. Ford is in the same boat: The ST and RS are no joke, but the standard Focus gives up 20 horsepower to the Civic Sport hatch and is roughly 20 percent less fun to drive. Honda’s trio represents a comeback for small-car performance from the brand, and, given the above, it’s no wonder we welcomed them onto our 10Best Cars roster for 2018.