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There are only a few choices if you’re looking for a fun and sporty compact sedan for under $40,000. The Volkswagen Jetta GLI is one, but two more-popular choices are the 2023 Honda Civic Si and the Subaru WRX. The latter two may not compare as favorably to each other since one is front-wheel drive, and the other spins all four wheels. But we decided to check out the specs between the Civic Si and the WRX to see which one would technically be a better pick for the money.

2023 Subaru WRX in red
2023 Subaru WRX | Subaru

The 2023 Subaru WRX has more power and traction than the Honda Civic Si

Pros: Turbocharged power, all-wheel drive grip, and excellent brake feel
Cons: Rubbery shifter, numb steering, and terrible gas mileage

To make this comparison a little fairer, we’ll take the 2023 Subaru WRX base model into consideration. It has a starting MSRP of $30,605; for that money, you’ll get everything you need and nothing you don’t. Those necessities start under the hood with a turbocharged 2.4-liter engine that pumps 271 hp and 258 lb-ft torque out to all four wheels.

The power can be transmitted through either a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT. But, of course, most enthusiasts would want to shift it themselves. Other standard amenities include a dual-screen 7-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration. It also has a single-zone climate control system and cloth seating. Unfortunately, heated seats are only available on the higher trim levels.

As for driving impressions, the folks at CarGurus praised the WRX for its low-end power and upgraded refinement. The WRX doesn’t need to be revved to the redline to make plenty of power, and the engine itself is more refined than before. However, the shifter does have a long throw and feels notchy compared to the Civic Si.

There’s also a decent amount of cargo space, as the trunk measures 12 cubic feet. Lastly, the Subaru WRX is a thirsty sedan, which can only achieve an EPA-estimated 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

The 2023 Honda Civic Si provides razor-sharp fun

2023 Honda Civic Si in gray
2023 Honda Civic Si | Honda

Pros: Manual transmission, rev-happy engine, and good steering feel.
Cons: Dealership markups are hefty, and it’s only front-wheel drive.

The 2023 Honda Civic Si presents an excellent value proposition with its starting MSRP of $28,500. For that money, you’ll get a rev-happy turbocharged 1.5-liter engine that pushes out 200 hp and 192 lb-ft of torque. Yes, it’s slower than the WRX and can’t gain as much traction with its front-drive layout, but the Civic Si makes up for that loss in other ways.

For starters, the sporty Civic comes standard with a Bose premium sound system, an automatic climate control system, and wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility. There’s also a large 9-inch touchscreen that’s easy to use and a little more cargo space as the trunk measures 14 cubic feet. It’s more fuel-efficient as well – the EPA estimates the Civic Si can get up to 27 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway.

On the road, the 2023 Civic Si feels composed and comfortable. It’s suspension is stiff, but it won’t bust your kidneys, and its steering feels direct and well-weighted. The engine revs freely and quickly up to the redline, and there’s no hint of turbo lag as you might find in the Subaru WRX. All of this well-balanced performance comes at a price, though, as many dealerships across the nation are marking these cars up due to rarity.

2023 Subaru WRX Base vs. 2023 Honda Civic Si: Which one should you pick?

2023 Honda Civic Si shifter
2023 Honda Civic Si | Honda

If you can find a 2023 Honda Civic Si for close to its MSRP, it’s surely the better pick. Although the Subaru WRX in its base form can outperform it on the street, that performance is not as valuable as the other features that the Civic has.