New Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic vs Audi A3 Sportback

Honda and Volkswagen have just introduced new family hatchbacks with small, frugal petrol engines. Can either of them topple the class-leading Audi A3?

Words By What Car? team

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New Volkswagen Golf with new Honda Civic and Audi A3 Sportback

Our verdict

One thing’s for sure: if you’re in the market for something of this size (or smaller), you should think carefully before choosing a diesel. An equivalent petrol will cost you a lot less to buy, you’ll sidestep any future punitive legislation on diesel cars and your NOx footprint will be suitably smaller. Even if you’re a company car driver, a small-engined petrol car will usually yield lower tax bills than a diesel.

But which of these petrol hatchbacks is best? Well, all things considered, it’s the newly updated Volkswagen Golf. After nearly five years of agonisingly narrow losses to the Audi A3, the Golf finally wins out. True, it still isn’t as classy inside as its posher-badged German rival and its infotainment system isn’t as user-friendly but, crucially, the Golf is now a good deal cheaper than the A3 to buy and own. That wasn’t always the case. And when you factor in the Golf’s smoother ride, slightly more spacious rear seats and more generous list of standard luxuries and safety kit, that’s just enough for it to snatch first place.

The new Honda Civic comes last, then – but that’s no disgrace in such esteemed company. It’s a vastly better car than its noisy and hard-riding predecessor, being both decent to drive and, rear head room aside, roomy inside. It’s also extremely well equipped, both in terms of creature comforts and safety provisions. The only major black mark concerns the Civic’s woefully inadequate infotainment system; if it weren’t for that, it would be one of the top five cars in the family car class.

1st – Volkswagen Golf

For Brilliant to drive; well equipped; quietest cruiser; now considerably cheaper than A3 to buy and own

Against Driving position not ideal for tall people; dreary interior

Verdict Minor updates and a new, lower price tag make the Golf a winner

Rated 5 out of 5

Read our full Volkswagen Golf review

Find a great Volkswagen Golf deal

2nd – Audi A3 Sportback

For Brilliant interior and infotainment; agile handling

Against Priciest and the least well equipped; firm ride

Verdict Not the bargain it once was, but still great

Rated 4 out of 5

Read our full Audi A3 review

Find a great Audi A3 deal

3rd – Honda Civic

For Practical boot; cheapest on finance; loads of kit

Against Awful infotainment; head room; a bit noisy

Verdict A few too many flaws to be a real contender

Rated 4 out of 5

Read our full Honda Civic review

Find a great Honda Civic deal

Also consider:

Specifications: Audi A3 Sportback 1.0 TFSI Sport

Engine size 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol

List price Β£22,135

Target Price Β£20,111

Power 114bhp @ 5000-5500rpm

Torque 148Ib ft @ 2000-3500rpm

0-60mph 9.9sec

Top speed 128mph

Fuel economy 60.1mpg

CO2 emissions 107g/km

Specifications: Honda Civic 1.0 VTEC Turbo SR

Engine size 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol

List price Β£20,340

Target Price Β£19,659

Power 127bhp @ 5500rpm

Torque 148Ib ft @ 2250rpm

0-60mph 10.7sec

Top speed 126mph

Fuel economy 55.4mpg

CO2 emissions 117g/km

Specifications: Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI 110 SE Navigation

Engine size 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol

List price Β£20,260

Target Price Β£18,800

Power 108bhp @ 5000-5500rpm

Torque 148Ib ft @ 2000-3500rpm

0-60mph 10.0sec

Top speed 122mph

Fuel economy 58.9mpg

CO2 emissions 109g/km

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