Honda Civic VS Volkswagen Passat
- Looks are good (or bad)
- Suspension and steering are both terrific
- Plenty of legroom in the rear seat
- CVT drones at pace
- Standard safety lacking on base models
- RS is noisy on the wrong road surfaces
- Super practical
- Easy to drive
- Great safety equipment
- Dual clutch auto isn't too smooth at low speed
- No heated steering wheel
- Halogen lights are dim
If you think the new Civic Hatch looks a little lower-slung than its sedan sibling, that can likely be attributed to the crushing weight of expectation placed on its little metal shoulders.
See, this 10th-gen Civic might be the most important car Honda has ever made. While most manufacturers were pouring funds into their SUV ranges, Honda was diverting a huge chunk (heavily tipped to be a whopping 35 per cent) of their research and development budget into the Civic, using the evergreen nameplate as a key pin in their Australian comeback.
And with that much riding on it, it had to be good. In sedan form, which launched here last year, it mostly lived up to the hype, with Honda shifting more than 800 units per month. And with the Civic hatch finally touching down in Australia, Honda is hoping to add 1000 sales to the tally.
So the question now is, does this new hatch version shine, too?
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
I like you already. Even if you don’t end up picking the Volkswagen Passat 132TSI Comfortline wagon, the fact you’re here means you’re willing to think outside the SUV square that so many Australians may get a bit stuck in when buying a car for the family or work, or both.
See, SUVs are kind of the cargo shorts of the car world because of their practicality, but do you want to wear cargo shorts everywhere? Wagons generally handle on the road better than SUVs and can be just as practical - especially if it’s the Passat 132TSI Comfortline.
Think of this wagon as the comfortable but cool jeans of the car world that you can get away with at a dinner or a picnic, the ones that always surprise you with how much stuff you manage to take out of the pockets when it comes to time to wash them.
|Engine Type||1.8L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Energetic and engaging (if not quite sporty), the Civic hatch is quiet and comfortable around town, but it can more than hold its own on a twisting backroad, too. It’s looks will either appeal or not, but a lack of comprehensive safety equipment on the cheaper models is sure to ruffle some feathers.
For us, the cheapest way into the turbocharged engine forms the pick of the bunch, so we'd call the VTi-L the sweet spot.
The Passat 132TSI Comfortline wagon is a well-equipped, super practical, good looking, and easy to drive alternative to an SUV. I’d option the Luxury Package for the LED headlights if you’re doing lots of country kays, plus it brings you auto parking – making life with it even easier. Jeans or cargo shorts? The choice is yours.
Are you a cargo shorts or jeans type of guy or girl? Does a wagon appeal more to you than an SUV? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The word 'polarising' is usually a thinly disguised way of saying 'lots of people don’t like it'. And the all-new Civic sedan was, well, very polarising. A glance at this new hatch version shows it hasn’t strayed too far from that design approach, either.
It’s as understated as a snakeskin suit in all grades, but nowhere is it quite so busy as in the RS trim level, in which the sporty trimmings jump out from every possible angle. Strangely, though, we quite like the way it looks, and it's undeniably an individual in the small car segment.
Inside, Honda has produced the comfortable and tech savvy interior that was missing from the outgoing model, but the sense of well executed semi-premium fades as you approach the spartan rear seat.
The Passat wagon doesn’t have the flowing curves of the Mazda6 nor the killer-bee look of the Levorg, nope, but there is so much appeal in its restrained and organised design, with razor sharp lines and ridges. It’s a serious and prestige look, that’s less about bling and more about utility.
The 132TSI Comfortline and the 132TSI grade below it in the range look almost identical from the outside – both have the chrome blades on the grille, and the chrome trim around the windows, and there’s the dual exhaust. The only difference is the wheels. While both come with 17-inch wheels, the 132TSI Comfortline has the ‘London’ style not the ‘Soho’ style of the 132TSI.
The interior has the same clean design and premium feel. There’s the simple, logical layout of controls and a high-quality feel to the materials. The 132TSI Comfortline like the 132TSI below it in the line-up has a ‘Silver Diamond’ trim on the dash, the centre console and doors. I think the leather seats make the cabin with their ‘tuck and roll’ style.
You need to step up to the top of the range 206 TSI R-Line to get the fully digital active driving display as standard, but you can option it on the R-Line package which also brings bigger 18-inch wheels, aluminium face pedals and a tougher looking body kit.
Our test car didn’t have any options fitted and that 'Pure White' paint it wears is the only no-cost colour. I don’t think it shows off the Passat’s lines best, not as well as the optional 'Pyrite Silver Metallic', or 'Manganese Grey Metallic', the 'Harvard Deep Blue Metallic' and the 'Deep Black Pearl Effect'.
How big is the Passat 132TSI Comfortline wagon? Not as big as it looks in the pictures. The dimensions show it to be a bit less than 4.8m in length (the same as the sedan version), 1.8m wide and almost 1.5m tall.
The Civic hatch is surprisingly spacious in the cabin, where up front the two seats are split buy a central bin housing two of the fattest, deepest cupholders we’ve ever seen (that would be America’s 'Big Gulp' influence on the Civic’s design), along with a hidden USB and power source that sits behind the centre console, hiding the ugly chords while you’re plugged into touchscreen unit.
The back seat, is plenty spacious in the longer and wider hatch - which also sits on a 30mm longer wheelbase than the outgoing car - with more shoulder, leg and knee room for backseat riders.
Which is just as well, as there’s not much else happening back there, with no air vents, power outlets or USB points on offer, with just the two cupholders housed in a pulldown divider that separates the rear seat.
The Passat 132TSI Comfortline does the practicality thing well with a roomy cabin and good storage space.
Up front is spacious with plenty of shoulder and headroom, while rear legroom is excellent. I’m 191cm and can sit behind my driving position with about 40mm between my knees and the seatback. Headroom back there is outstanding, too.
Those rear doors are giant and swing wide like the one on a bank vault making it super easy to get in and out – look at the images.
I have a three-year-old who is now insisting on climbing in and out of every test car we have – it used to be annoying (because he takes his time) but it’s now becoming part of the car testing process. He’s fallen backwards, forwards and sideways out of SUVs because of their height and if the entry way is narrow the sloping door sill makes it harder to for him to get secure footing, (don’t judge me, I’m there to catch him…mostly).
But the Passat was low enough for him to easily step up or down from and the doorway wide enough for him to have plenty of flat door sill to stand on.
The boot opening is enormous, too, and luggage space with the rear seats up is 650 litres (more than the Mazda6 wagon and Commodore Sportwagon) and you have a cargo capacity of 1152 litres with them folded down.
There are four cupholders – two in the front and two in the back, large bottle holders in all the doors, and a deep centre console bin with USB port. There are three 12-volt outlets – one in the front, one in the second row and one in the cargo area.
Those in the back seats are the masters of their own climate with digital controls for temperature and directional vents.
Price and features
Thanks to what Honda refers to as its “One Civic” philosophy, this new hatch lineup perfectly mirrors the sedan range that was launched here last year, with the only major change being the ‘Ring-burning Type R, which will be hatch-only when it arrives later in 2017.
And that means the five-strong Hatch range kicks off with the entry-level VTi ($22,390) before stepping up to the VTi-S ($24,490) and the VTi-L ($27,790). Next up is the sport-sprinkled RS ($32,290), before the range tops out with the high-flying VTi-LX ($33,590).
Entry-level shoppers will make do 16-inch steel wheels, fabric seats and single-zone climate control, but there are some nice and premium-feeling flourishes, like LED DRLs, a 7.0-inch touchscreen that’s now Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-equipped and a second colour screen in the driver’s binnacle for your trip information.
Stepping up to the VTi-S adds 16-inch alloy wheels, integrated LED indicators in your wing mirrors and proximity locking and unlocking, along with some clever safety stuff we’ll come back to under the Safety heading.
Along with a better engine (more on that in a moment), springing for the VTi-L will earn you 17-inch alloy wheels, twin-zone climate control and automatic windows in both rows, while the sporty-flavoured RS adds LED fog and headlights, along with a hearty dose of sporty styling courtesy of a bumper kit, skirting and a liberal splashing of piano black highlights.
Inside the RS gets leather trimmed seats, a better 10-speaker stereo and and a standard sunroof, too.
Finally, the range-topping Civic - the VTi-LX - gets satellite navigation, and a fairly comprehensive suite of safety kit.
The Passat comes in three grades and the 132TSI Comfortline sits right in the middle of the range. While the sedan lists for $41,990 the wagon asks $43,990. That’s $6K more than the entry grade 132TSI wagon – so what do you get that the base-spec car doesn’t?
For starters it comes with the larger 9.2-inch screen (not the 8.0-inch) and the more sophisticated 'Discover Pro' media system with sat nav and gesture control, plus voice control for phone and the navigation.
The seats are leather, not cloth. There’s also the auto tailgate with kick-open function, 14-way power adjustable and heated front seats, electric folding door mirrors with reverse kerb adjustment, puddle lights, front fog lights, proximity key and a start button. The 132TSI Comfortline also has more safety equipment than the 132TSI, which we’ll cover below.
That was the gear that comes on the 132TSI Comfortline over the 132TSI. Here’s what they both get: there’s the LED tail-lights, roof rails, three-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors with visual display, floor mats, halogen headlights, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, eight-speaker stereo and a leather wrapped steering wheel.
Is it good value? Yes. The 132TSI Comfortline is the sweet spot for value in the range. Is there anything that should be there that’s not? Yes. A head-up display – or the option for one would be good. Ventilated seats are welcome in Australia, but not offered on the Passat, neither is a heated steering wheel.
The Holden Commodore RS Sportwagon will cost you less at $39,490, but it’s 13cm longer – that could be the difference between making it into a parking spot or not.
Engine & trans
Like the sedan version, there are two engine choices on offer, with the cheaper option a 1.8-litre petrol engine, good for 104kW at 6500rpm and 174Nm at 4300rpm found in the VTi and VTi-S trim levels.
The better option, though, is a perky turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine that will push 127kW at 5500rpm and 220Nm at 1700rpm to the front tyres.
Both engines are partnered with a CVT automatic transmission, with or without wheel-mounted shifters, depending on the trim level.
Shifting gears for you is a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission.
You and I know this isn’t a performance car, but a 0-100km/h time of 8.1 seconds means there’s enough oomph to move quickly if you need to with confidence, such as in overtaking situations.
Fuel use is pretty impressive across the board, with the 1.8-litre engine sipping a claimed combined 6.4-litres per hundred kilometres, while the turbocharged version needs just 6.2 litres on the same cycle.
Emissions are pegged at 150 and 142 grams per kilometre of C02 respectively.
I measured our test car’s fuel consumption at the petrol pump and after 177km of inner-city peak-hour commutes in the morning and late nights on empty motorways measured 8.0L/100km when it came to fill up. That’s still good mileage.
Honda struggles a little in explaining exactly what its new 1.5-litre turbo-powered Civic is.
Is it a hot hatch? Nope, the incoming Type R will handle those duties. Oh, so it's a warm hatch, then? Not really - it's mechanically identical (same engine, gearbox and suspension) to the other, top-tier Civics. In fact, only the brand of tyres seperate the RS from the more luxurious VTi-LX.
"We would say it's a 'sporting hatch'," says Honda's head honcho, Stephen Collins.
And sporting it is, with its clever turbocharged 1.5-litre engine a willing and perky unit, delivering plenty of oomph all over the rev range and with no noticeable, soul-destroying lag in its power delivery.
The steering, too, has a sporty flavouring, it's super direct, and offers such crisp direction changes that you have to pay keen attention driving, as even the slightest input will see you steering out of your lane. And while the ride is a little crashy through bumps, it pays you back with composed cornering antics that see the front wheels hanging on to the tarmac for much longer than you might expect.
But the best trick of the 1.5-litre engine is that it doesn't require much accelerator to make it move, which means there's never too much strain on the CVT auto in town. And, given the auto is both loud and intrusive when you ask too much of it, that can only be a good thing.
Like most CVT 'boxes, it's quiet and composed in city driving, but loud and with a tendency to surge when you start to test it. So much so that heavy acceleration requires a kind of lucky dip as to when to back off the throttle, with the Civic continuing to accelerate for a moment or so even once you get off the gas.
Happily, then, the 1.8-litre models are much easier to classify. They're the cheap ones.
It's a a simple, honest and hardworking engine that feels both slower and slower to respond than its newer, turbocharged sibling, but is more than capable of getting up to speed, even if it struggles to add pace from the mid-range onward.
In a word: easy. The Passat 132TSI Comfortline is easy to see out of, easy to park, easy to sit comfortably in for long periods of time whether it’s in peak-hour traffic going nowhere or on the motorway at 110km/h.
The cabin is quiet, the ride is composed, and on-board tech such as gesture control for the media adds to its all-round easiness.
Easy, but not perfect. The halogen headlights are dim and while they’re fine in the city you’ll really notice on Australia’s poorly lit country roads and highways – I strongly recommended optioning the 'Luxury Package' which brings the incredibly bright LED headlights.
The dual-clutch auto transmission isn’t perfectly smooth at low speeds, either. But I feel I am just looking for problems where there really aren’t many.
If you’re after a more sporty driving experience and looks to match there’s the Passat 206 TSI R-Line – much more power and aggressive styling to go with it.
While some of its key competitor are throwing safety functions at all trim levels, with Honda it’s still sadly a case of you get what you pay for.
The entry-level VTi, for example, makes do with six airbags (front, front-side and curtain) and a 180-degree reversing camera, opting for the VTi-S, VTi-L or RS adds front and rear parking sensors and Honda’s cool 'LaneWatch' (with activates a side-mounted camera when you indicate, beaming an image of the lane running alongside the lefthand-side of the car up onto the 7.0-inch screen).
The entire Civic range was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Wondering what else the 132TSI Comfortline gets over the 132TSI grade below it? More standard safety equipment. Yup, while all Passats come with AEB which works at lower city speeds, manoeuvre braking (front and rear), a rear-view camera, and parking sensors, the 132TSI Comfortline also comes with blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert and lane departure warning.
Do I still need to tell you that the Passat wagon has a five-star ANCAP rating? It does.
For child and baby seats there are three top tether anchor mounts and two ISOFIX points in the second row.
Happy to report, too, that the 132TSI Comfortline comes standard with a full-sized spare wheel. That’s becoming a rarity with many car makers opting for a space saver spare, which might save weight and space, but in Australia where distances are vast a full-sized spare is an essential part of a good safety kit.
The Passat 132TSI Comfortline is covered by Volkswagen’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
Servicing is recommended every 15,000km/12 months and pricing is capped.
You can expect to pay $476 for the first service, $671 for the second, $563 for the third, $857 for the fourth and $476 for the fifth.
It’s more than most Japanese and Korean brands charge for a service. Mazda for example caps servicing no higher than $341 for each service over five years for it’s 2.5-litre petrol GT Mazda6 wagon and has a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
So, the Passat 132TSI Comfortline is losing marks here for its short warranty and relatively high servicing costs.