I only drove the Civic Turbo yesterday and I can’t tell any practical difference in speed. Both vehicles steering is good but lack feel, although I think the Honda is slightly better since the variable steering in the Kia makes it feel very light at times. The steering modes (Comfort, Normal, Sport) didn’t seem to make noticeable differences, so I’d probably keep it Sport, just because.
However, the tiptronic paddles on the F5SX work surprisingly well - I was expecting really clumsy shifts but it’s very good on the upshifts, not as much on downshifts, also I think that’s because I’m just not used to when I should be downshifting.
Interior is pretty nice, although you would never mistake it for an upscale car. Seats are this weird leather with cloth inserts - you’d never mistake the leather for something upscale but again, decent at this price point. I suppose my only gripe is that the screen is pretty small on the regular SX, although I think you get something better in the SX Luxury model. Neither car has power seats, which would have been a nice feature but something I can live without. Some plastics are still distinctly cheap but it’s all in places I don’t really care, and once again, “cheapness” is relative when you’ve been driving a super-cheap econobox for eight years.
Out of these two cars, I think I’d actually lean towards the Kia, just for value, and subjectively I think it’s more fun than the Honda. Not to say the Civic Turbo was bad at all, but for reasons even unknown to me I still prefer the Kia.
I guess if you’re an auto journalist you get to drive so many cars in ideal conditions, as well as conditions in which you can floor it (i.e. on a track) that you get to see where the limits of a vehicle are. I know you don’t get independent rear suspension or an LSD, but practically speaking I can’t see it making a huge difference in day-to-day use.
With the hot hatch market these days, I don’t think it would be what enthusiasts call a “great” car, but damn, it’s surprisingly good.