Volkswagen Golf GTI vs Honda Civic Si vs Subaru WRX, Daughter’s First Car, and a Buick for Mom? [Ask Nathan]

2015 chevrolet equinox | TFL Car

In this edition of Ask Nathan:

  • Honda Civic Si vs Subaru WRX vs VW GTI?
  • My 16 year-old daughter’s first car?
  • Should I buy my mom the Buick Encore?

Today’s first question comes from a fan who is looking at the Volkswagen Golf GTI, 2014 Honda Civic Si and Subaru WRX.

Mk1 VW Golf GTI 2015 VW Golf GTI

The reason I’m writing is because I’m a Major in the Army and my time in Erie is coming to an end. I’m headed to Fort Knox, KY this summer but I want to live in Louisville, KY. Where I want to live is about 50 miles from post and it will be a 100 mile round trip each day so I’m looking to get a car. No I’m not getting rid of Taco, my blazer got me through my first 10 years in the Army and I’m hoping the Taco will get me through the last 10. The vehicle before my Blazer was my college car, 1990 Z24 Cavalier 5 speed :). I loved that car and now that I’m back in the car market I’m looking to get that thrill of driving back. I’ve watched all your reviews and many others and have narrowed my search down to a 2016 WRX, 2016 GTI, and 2014 Honda civic SI. (Manual Transmissions Only)

Sorry for the life story, BLUF… my concern is reliability and maintenance. I know all of these cars are fun to drive but I’ll be putting about 25k on a year and don’t want to spend a ton of money on more than just routine maintenance. My dad is a mechanic and taught me how to take car of a car. My dad or I completed most of the maintenance and repairs on the cavalier and blazer but all of these cars are foreign to me, no pun intended. I’ve heard of oil consumption issues with Subaru and VW, not necessarily with the WRX or GTI but it’s still in the back of my mind. I’m also concerned about VW as a company and their future. I haven’t heard of too many issues with the civic SI but I’d have to get the 4 door and reupholster the seats because at 34 I don’t want to look like a college kid again. If you’ve done articles that address my concerns would you mind providing a link and if not could you provide your professional opinion? If you can’t, I understand and will still continue to enjoy your channel.

Thanks in advance!


A: Great question Dan!

Volkswagen Golf GTI.

All three cars are great choices and I would like to include the Ford Focus ST, Scion FR-S, Mazda MX-5 and Fiat 500 Abarth as possible alternatives. All of these vehicles have unique personalities and I recommend you drive each one more than once. Check out forums and ask owners for their opinions if the opportunity presents itself.

Volkswagen Golf GTI.

The Subaru WRX is damn good, but you may not need all-wheel drive (AWD) and they are not as thrifty as the other vehicles on this list. The older Honda Civic Si is a solid choice, but the Volkswagen and WRX are more powerful. The Scion FR-S is an excellent handling ride, but the power is lacking.

Volkswagen Golf GTI.

Roman and I would choose the Volkswagen Golf GTI with the Ford Focus ST as a close second.

Yes, Volkswagen screwed up big time and the company will suffer for a while because of it. Still, Volkswagen is a massive automaker with a vast pool of resources, they should be around for a while. The Volkswagen Golf GTI is the best combination of performance, utility and driveability. The Volkswagen Golf GTI is all types of fun and it’s not a typical teen’s car. It’s the one car both of us would spend our own money on.

Volkswagen Golf GTI.

As for maintenance; no car is exempt from mechanical issues. Some of these automakers have extended service plans that we usually recommend (along with an extended warranty for those who would prefer to be hands-off).

I’m sure that readers will have a few recommendations below.

Hope that helps and thank you for your service!


Yep, we like the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

2015, toyota, yaris, review

This next question is from a viewer who wants to buy his daughter a good used car.

Q:Hi Nathan,

I wanted a used car for my daughter. She’s about to turn 16 and I wanted to get her a good used car for under $7,000. She will pay half and finance it through me. It’s a good way to teach her about real payments without the hassle of going through financing her. I want a good car to get her through high school (she’s a junior) and to get her started in college.

Her mother would prefer something that isn’t very fast that has room for all of her junk. Reliability and economy are important too. Also, it would be great to get something at that price with less than 70,000 miles on it.

We live in Jacksonville, Florida and don’t need anything fancy. I want her to learn stick, but I think an automatic is the way to go. She’s a good kid and does a lot of work with her church, I want something she can be proud to drive. I have a 2003 Lexus LS she’s been practicing on, but its size makes her uncomfortable.

So, something smaller and less expensive?

T. Washington

A: Greetings Mr. Washington!

There are a ton of vehicles that fit your parameters. I tend to lean towards Toyota products like the Toyota Yaris, Corolla, and Scion xD. All of those vehicles can be found for under $7,000 with less than 70,000 miles on the ticker. I highly recommend hatchbacks as they can haul a ton of cargo.

The Honda Civic is always a great choice and there may be a few Honda Accords that fit most of your parameters too.

I like the Hyundai Elantra Touring, Kia Soul, Chevrolet Spark and Nissan Cube too. Still, my gut goes with the Toyota in this class.

I’m sure our readers will have a few suggestions below too.

Best of luck!



The last question comes from a viewer who’s thinking about buying his mother a Buick Encore.

Q: Hi Nathan and Roman,

I wanted your opinion. Last week I donated my mother’s 1999 Buick Century with over 160,000 miles on the odometer. Other than replacing brakes and tires, the car was totally reliable. It finally developed a nasty knock and I didn’t want to wait for the other shoe to drop.

She loved that car and is very keen to repeat her Buick ownership. I will be buying her this next car and I was intrigued by the Buick Encore. You seem to like them and I have read good things.

She’s about to turn 79 and this could very well be her last car. I want her to feel secure while she’s having fun driving. Is this the right car for that?

I’m pretty sure this is the one, but I wanted your opinion.

Thanks for everything and keep making those great videos!


Ventura, CA

2014 buick encore awd

A: Thanks for putting your trust in us Marv!

Yes, I would highly recommend the Buick Encore. Heck, my good ol’ sister bought one based on my recommendation. They are ideal for people who like comfort, luxury and a jazzy ride. They are easy to drive, a snap to park and the seating height is nearly ideal for people who want to simply scoot in and out of their seat.

Cargo space is limited and some people feel its sluggish with AWD. The brand new version has more pep.

Make sure you get your mom to drive one first. Some people have a hard time transitioning from a low-slung sedan to an upright crossover.

Best of luck!


Nathan and The Fast Lane Car team are here to answer your (reasonable) questions. Interesting and/or entertaining emails will be posted to this column. If it’s relevant in the automotive universe, there’s a chance we may know something about it. The author’s email address and name will be omitted – leaving your initials or nickname, your preference.

From day one, The Fast Lane Car has made it our policy to answer as many questions and comments as we can. We get thousands of emails and comments and feel that, as part of a tight-knit automotive community, having an open dialogue with you keeps things fresh and exciting.

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nathan adlen Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism – Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. His words, good humor and videos are enjoyed worldwide.