Battle of the Badge: Three revitalized nameplates compete for newfound glory. Plus: Web-exclusive video.
Back in the day, the GTI and Si badges were must-haves in the world of fast rides and cheap eats. From the early Rabbit and Golf-based GTIs to the popular CRX and Civic Si’s of the mid-’80s and early ’90s, these two nameplates were synonymous with a romping good time in a quick and affordable package. Turn the clock back another two decades, and it was the original Austin Mini Cooper S that flew the feisty, front-drive flag, paving the way for a generation of hopped-up hatchbacks to follow.
Fast-forward to the present and the new Mini continues to keep the original Cooper S flame alive with its playful blend of personality, performance and style. Recent GTI’s and Civic Si’s, on the other hand, seem to have lost their way, getting softer, blander and less involving with each new model. So while the Cooper S has enjoyed almost universal praise from enthusiasts the world over, the last-generation GTI and Si left many flat, wondering why they weren’t edgier and more interesting to drive.
Volkswagen and Honda clearly saw the error of their ways, as the all-new iterations represent a massive improvement over the cars they replace. Any luster lost from these icons has been faithfully restored with the 2006 models, the next-generation GTI and Civic Si reflecting the spirit of their forerunners with genuinely stirring performance and engaging, try-anything attitudes.