I admit that going into this particular comparison I had a preconceived notion that today's pocket rockets weren't offering the value of their predecessors. In the tradition of our grandparents, "when I was a kid" it was always better, right? Of course, when our grandparents told us that, all we had to go on was their word and maybe a dusty old book or microfiche in the library.
The proliferation of the web, however, brings a whole new meaning to historical comparisons. Our blurred view of history is far easier to debunk with actual facts and figures - if we're willing to look. In light of this, I decided to compare the seminal hot rod econo cars of the 90's and today in a limited match up - adjusted price, power, weight and acceleration performance. How much, if at all, better do we have it today?
The 90's team is a varied lot. I tried to select cars from 1995-1999 that listed for not much more than $20k when new. I only looked at base prices for the sake of simplicity. Our old-timer's league consists of the following vehicles:
1998 Acura Integra GS-R Coupe
1999 Honda Civic Si Coupe
1998 Nissan 200SX SE-R Coupe
1997 Ford Probe GT Coupe
1995 Mitsubishi Eclipse GS-T Coupe
and pinch hitting I just had to throw in the 1994 Nissan Sentra SE-R. While it is mechanically very similar to the 200SX, the engine was better, the chassis was lighter and it was a hell of a lot cheaper.
For the modern day up and comers, I tried to stick with some of the same brands and the same basic rules with one exception which I'll explain in a minute. The team consists of:
2004 Nissan Sentra SE-R V-spec
2003 Mazdaspeed Protege
2004 Dodge Neon SRT-4
2004 Honda Civic Si
2004 Ford Focus SVT 3dr
and the pinch hitter for the modern team is the 2004 Acura RSX-S. Yes, it breaks the $20k price range, but such a compelling and interesting comparison with the great Integra GS-R shouldn't be neglected - and this is a Honda/Acura enthusiast site after all.
Now you know the players. Who do you think has the upper hand? Have time and progress elevated the performance bar in the world of cheap performance? Let's find out.