What car have just done a group test on the 118d, A3 Sportback TDi 140, 08 Civic 2.2 ES and Golf (6) TDi 140.
Sadly, the Civic came last, mostly for ride and steering quality despite having a bigger boot and better engine than the rest.
The engine in the new Golf is no more powerful than the one in the old car, but it's smoother and more flexible. The Civics engine has a different character from the others: not as eager at high or low revs, but a huge mid range thump.
Ride and Handling:
Most of the Golf's suspension, steering and chassis parts are carried over from the previous model. ...already so good that nothing needed to change. ... the odd thud over bad potholes ... otherwise so smooth that you'd swear VW has developed hover-travel. The Golf's an excellent cruiser ... the steering is well weighted ... you'll run out of nerve long before the Golf runs out of grip. This incredible composure is especially reassuring, and you'll still feel involved enough to enjoy your driving.
The Civic's suspension is flustered by poor surfaces, but the ride quality improves as you pick up speed. The Civic is the first of these four to stumble on more demanding roads. It's steering ... is unnerving at higher speeds because there's minimal feel, and after that initial turn in it all becomes a little mushy. On top of that, the Civic doesn't grip as well as its rivals.
... new Golf the most refined yet. Some road noise gets through, but wind noise is well contained and the Golf is the quietest cruiser here. The new engine also helps: where the old TDi was loud, this one is quiet and smooth.
The Civic engine ... whistles and wheezes. The suspension clunks noisily over bumpy roads, too, but the Civic is peaceful enough on the motorway.
To live with:
Golf cabin... as radical as cereal at breakfast. Visibility ... isn't a problem in the Golf.
Civic .. futuristic ... can reflect in the windscreen. Civic's front pillars are rather thick, and rear vision is appalling.
Golf ... it's hard to fault the finish or materials. There are more soft-touch plastics than before, plenty of smart details, and a slick precision to the way switches and controls work.
The Civic feels the cheaper car that it is. ... some of the materials are rather lightweight and most are hard to the touch. On the upside, mechanical reliability is as good as it gets, and Honda dealers were credited in our 2008 JD Power survey with being helpful and extremely efficient.
: Outstanding ride, handling and refinement; comfortable cabin, good residuals, flexible engine, lots of safety kit, great image.
: Same-again looks may be a disappointment to some; no steering wheel mounted stereo controls as standard.
: The Golf is better than ever. Desirable, refined and great to drive, it's simply one the great all-rounders there is.
: Low price, well equipped; roomy and versatile cabin, engine has strong mid-range shove.
: Poor rear visibility, cabin looks low-rent in this company, fussy dash, vague steering, weakest residuals.
: Funky and versatile, but style has triumphed over substance in places. No match for its rivals here.