After lunch today at Torchy’s Tacos, our family headed to the Honda dealership to kick some tires. We’re in the market to replace my 2001 Golf, and we test drove a 2016 HR-V, a 2013 Civic EX-L, and a 2016 Civic LX.

I didn’t know the HR-V existed (it’s new this year, apparently), and it’s essentially a smaller version of the CRV. I actually liked this vehicle in EX or EX-L trim. It was roomy and comfortable, but not too big. For grins, and since I really want a manual, we test drove the 6-speed manual HR-V LX. Overall driving impression: Meh. The clutch was easy, with a rather short, easy throw, but it was nothing special. (Is it truly mechanical, or fly-by-wire?) I never felt like I was gaining anything by having the manual, that I could ever work it hard to get more performance out of the vehicle. I felt like I was simply doing the work for the automatic. It drove well enough, and had reasonably good acceleration. But overall, it was a total snooze. I told the salesman, “There is absolutely nothing about this vehicle that excites me.” It also felt very plastic-y inside.

Next, we drove the 2013 Civic EX-L. This one had an automatic, but not a CVT. It also had leather, sunroof, the works. The engine is a 140hp 4-cyl, and while it was no race car, it was perky enough. But what really turned me on was the driving experience. It was relatively stiff, responsive, and the steering wasn’t over-powered. It really felt like a driver’s car. What I didn’t get to test drive was an Si. They had a black 2013 Si that was awaiting detailing, so we couldn’t drive it. I can’t imagine what 200 hp would feel like in a car that small. Hands down, this was the best car we looked at or drove today.

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Lastly, we drove the 2016 Civic LX. I can’t say I hated it, but there was absolutely nothing exciting about it. It was big and heavy and hard to see out of, and the center console restricted my right leg. The CVT, while I’m sure I would get used to it, was a very strange experience. At higher revs it provided decent power, but there wasn’t much off the line. It felt like a car that really wanted to go in a straight line—put it on the freeway, set the cruise at 70, and sit back. The 2013, on the other hand, felt like a car that wanted to be tossed around. I took one corner in the 2016 at a bit of speed, and you could almost hear the car groaning in protest. It’s heavier and longer than the 2013, and it shows.

We had a great salesman, too. He was extremely knowledgeable, was interested in what we had to say, and I had a great time talking cars with him. He knew we were interested in the 2013, and I think that as we were driving away he was moving it to a secluded spot on the lot. I think we owe VW a shot, and we’ll head there tomorrow (if they’re open). But I really liked that Civic.

I haven’t shopped for a car in years, and what really struck me the most about our visit today is how so many people these days want a car that is comfortable, reliable, and one that entertains them. But they don’t want to drive. They want to sit comfortably and get somewhere. I want to go somewhere. I’ve never driven a true sports car. I’ve grown up with base level VWs, but even those could be tossed around, were stiff enough to take a turn at speed (with a little tire squeal, of course). And even if the 2.slow engine in my Golf is just that—slow—I can work the clutch and feel like I’m getting the most out of it. Maybe I should wait until that 2013 Si becomes available. It’s black, and boy, is it pretty.