• Dec 4th 2006 at 7:15PM
  • 51

To be a contender in the sport compact category, there are a few things you must bring to the table. There at least three or four that immediately come to mind; small, sporty, inexpensive and relatively practical. They should also clearly stand out from their more pedestrian versions.

Our friends at Edmunds gathered a group of six of the hottest sport compacts available in the US today and put them through their paces to determine the best of the best. The six contenders for the title are (in no specific order) the 2006 Honda Civic Si, 2006 MINI Cooper S, 2007 Mazdaspeed3, 2006 Volkswagen GTI, 2006 Chevy Cobalt SS and the 2006 Subaru WRX TR.

Who won? Check out the finishing order after the jump and follow this link to read the entire article.

[Source: Inside Line]

Some quick facts on the field; all of the vehicles are powered by four-cylinder engines with displacements ranging from 1.6 to 2.5 liters, and all of them featured forced induction except for the Civic Si. The MINI Cooper S and the Cobalt SS readied for battle packing superchargers and the GTI, WRX TR, MAZDASPEED3 are all boosted by turbochargers. The Civic Si, MINI and MAZDASPEED3 are the only vehicles equipped with both a six-speed transmission and limited slip differential, and the WRX TR is the only all-wheel-drive of the bunch.

The barrage of tests began with some everyday driving in each that included kids, trips to the grocery store, etc to get a feel for the practicality of "living" with each vehicle. Then they each went for an all-out assault on the 1.8-mile carousel ride called The Streets of Willow Springs for track evaluation. Finally they returned back to the test facility for the statistical stuff: 0-60, braking distances, skidpad, etc.

Testing finished up with some good old fashioned subjective driving consisting of 400 miles of California's finest between LA and Monterey, followed by a return trip on the highway to give the arms and legs a rest.

Sixth Place: 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt SS

Fifth Place: 2006 Volkswagen GTI

Fourth Place: 2006 MINI Cooper S

Third Place: 2006 Honda Civic Si

Second Place: 2006 Subaru WRX TR

...and the winner is: 2007 MAZDASPEED3

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago

      I'm sick of hearing WRX owners whining about how it's the RE92s that are the problem. Subaru chose those tires for a reason, they go through thousands of miles of testing before settling on a tire, as does every manufacturer. I'm sure a WRX Wagon with R-compounds would do better than the Mazdaspeed3...but is that fair?

      The bottom line is stock vs. stock (which is how the majority of people in the world keep their cars), the Mazdaspeed3 is the better car overall in this comparison.

      Oh, and may I remind you, Motor Trend ALSO chose the 3 over the WRX. And yes, they said if it were a competition on the Autocross, the TR with better tires would be the choice. But they cited refinement and value as the downfall of the WRX overall.


      • 8 Years Ago
      Laughing too hard

      Did you actually read the article?

      1. As someone already mentioned its Edmunds not car and driver.
      2. In your "end of story" rankings the STi wins. That's certainly a surprise.
      3. "a hopped up Cobalt beat a hopped up Skyline into the dirt on the track" This is a rediculous argument. The ENTIRE point of a CUSTOMIZED car is that it's unique, and therefore not indicitive of the performance of the car it's based on.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Poster #4 is dead-on: AWD grip and ultimate winter usability versus FWD all-around wimpiness, torque-steer and understeer? And for the same price? That's a no-brainer.

      ["The Chevrolet not only had a much faster lap time than the Civic Si and GTI, but it even beat the Mustang GT, which has a 95-horsepower advantage."]
      Uh...and, not to mention, about a half-a-ton DISadvantage...
      • 8 Years Ago
      The Cobalt SS? Just look at it next to that shiny new civic, looks ten years older!
      • 8 Years Ago
      A WRX wagon would be a good bet but talk abot ugly. Also just a tad out of the 25k price range even if you get it stripped.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The quaife isn't standard in the 2006 cobalt, it is an option, and there maybe one for the front differential of the Subaru WRX-it already has a speed sensitive center & rear.
      The Mini Cooper S doesn't have a torque sensitive differential standard, same option package deal as the cobalt.

      Limited-slip is a marketing term, it is completely meaningless. There are traction aiding differentials [very banal] implemented as: torque sensistive-ala TorSen, or speed sensisitive-e-gerotor, BMW M-differential
      • 8 Years Ago
      Who did they have driving the MINI? That or the all-season tires really suck. It's a nearly 70MPH slalom car, not 65...

      Overall, a cool article though. Nice group of cars!
      • 8 Years Ago
      If you're looking at anything in your interior besides the gauges and feeling anything besides the steering wheel and the shifter, you're not paying enough attention.

      Yeah yeah yeah, you touch the knobs and buttons, too. Personally, I don't need a certain feel from a button to discern whether or not the engine and transmission will last me a while. I can appreciate a nice interior just as much as anyone, but when it comes to performance vehicles, an interior is just something to be removed at the earliest convenience.
      • 8 Years Ago
      #2, you should try taking a Cobalt SS Supercharged for a drive, as it's vastly underrated. Subjectively, it's my favorite car in its class to drive--power delivery, steering feel, and chassis composure are all top-notch. I hesitate to quote performance stats as a measure of driving fun, but it's notable that in C&D's recent "Lightning Lap" issue, an SS Supercharged lapped VIR faster than the MX-5 (by 9 seconds), the Civic Si (6 seconds), the GTI (5 seconds), and a 5-speed Mustang GT (0.3 sec).

      I can only guess that its cheap interior is what's causing it to bring up the tail end in these comparison tests.

      Speaking of comparison tests, this was a spectacularly lame one by Edmunds standards. Two weeks of testing, and a maximum of three paragraphs to describe each car? Where's the beef?
      • 8 Years Ago
      Seems like the WRX lost because of practicality... so get the wagon instead... I think AWD versus FWD for about the same money is a pretty easy choice.
      • 8 Years Ago
      What about the RSX -type S???

      Is it true this is the last year, or is the advertising for the RSX not being spent in the right places to be considered??


      • 8 Years Ago
      I own a Mazda3, (not a Mazdaspeed), but also owned a Subaru (Saab 9-2x). The Mazda is the far better car for day to day living. More refined, roomier, comfortable, better handling, quieter, better paint job, better everything, unless you absolutely need AWD. The Subaru interior is very outdated and looks like a 1990's econobox. The seats are narrow, very cramped car if you're anything 6' and up. It's noisy, the paint chips and swirls badly, and yes- the stock tires are crap. The Mazdaspeed3 must be a great ride because the basic Mazda3 is a great foundation.
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