Honda Civic 1.8 VTI-S, Volkswagen Jetta 1.4 TSI (DSG) Review
Common Ground

Story and Photos by Raymond Lai
17 Mar 2010

The venerable and ubiquitous Civic faces a credible threat from Europe in the form of the increasingly popular Volkswagen Jetta. Can the Japanese car see off the Jetta in a head-to-head?

Ready, Jet set, go

Recent trends in COE prices could mean that it might be a good time to buy a Cat A car rather than one in Cat B. Going into Cat A doesn't necessarily mean that you'd have to buy a model with miniscule power outputs or below average performance though - advancements in small capacity engines with forced aspiration means there are now cars out there with engines below 1.6-litres that offer the performance of an average 1.8 0r 2-litre model.

One of these Cat A models is the Volkswagen Jetta TSI. The mid-range Jetta offers 122bhp from its 1390cc engine but more importantly, it has 200Nm of pulling power on tap, which means it has more torque than even a 2-litre Honda Civic even though power is roughly the same as a 1.6 Civic.

The Civic has been instrumental in increasing Honda's sales in recent times. The Civic is one of the most popular and desirable mid-sized family saloons but the recent onslaught by the small capacity Volkswagens like the Jetta has made the Civic's perch at the top less clear. Let's see how the Cat A mid-range Jetta 1.4 TSI fares against the Cat B mid-range 1.8-litre Civic VTi-S.

The Civic range received a facelift just over a year ago to freshen it up and give it more showroom appeal. The changes to the exterior are minor to say the least - you need to be a Honda or Civic aficionado to notice the changes. At the front, the newer model can be differentiated by redesigned air intakes on the bumper and tinted headlamps. The changes at the front somehow give you the feeling that Honda wanted the regular Civic to mimic the FD2 Type R's nose treatment.

Other changes to the Civic's exterior include new wing mirrors with integrated side repeaters, new alloy wheel design as well as new rear lamp clusters that feature reshaped lenses.

Despite the facelift, the three-box Civic looks rather conservative but maybe it's because it has become a regular roadside architecture and hence its ubiquitous nature in recent years. You'd be hard pressed to differentiate the mid-range 1.8 Civic from its brethrens from the outside. The only clues are the different alloy wheel designs and the badging on the boot lid.

The Jetta's overall looks are about as conservative as the Civic's. It is is basically a booted four-door saloon version of the Golf conceived for less hatchback friendly markets like the US and Asia. While the Golf entered its sixth incarnation last year, the Jetta is still based on the previous, fifth generation Golf.

With almost no changes to its exterior since its debut in 2007, the Jetta's styling has started to age a tad especially at the front where the nose mimics the Mk 5 Golf instead of Volkswagen's latest corporate face like the Mk 6's, while the standard 16-inch alloys do little to improve its stance. On the upside, the rear looks well proportioned and contemporary thanks to a well integrated boot line and LED tail lamps.

The Jetta was recently updated but the changes were limited only to the bits under the skin. The mid-range 1.4 TSI model here can be differentiated from the Sport by different alloy wheel designs as well as the silver ‘S' on the TSI boot lid badge - the twincharged Sport has both a red ‘S' and ‘I' on its TSI boot lid badge.


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Engine Capacity 1799cc
Engine Type Inline 4
Compression Ratio 10.5:1
Bore x Stroke (81 x 87.3)mm
Power 140bhp @ 6300rpm
Torque 174Nm @ 4300rpm
Power to Weight 114.1 bhp per ton


Acceleration 10.2s (0-100 km/h)
Top Speed 197 km/h
Fuel Consumption (combined) 13.9 km/L

Misc Technical Data

Transmission 5 -speed Auto
Drive Type FF


Body Type Sedan
(L x W x H)
(4550 x 1750 x 1435) mm
Wheelbase 2700 mm
Turning Circle 5.4 metres
Kerb Weight 1227 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity 50 L


Brakes (Front) Ventilated Discs
Brakes (Rear) Discs


Engine Capacity 1390cc
Engine Type Inline 4
Power 122bhp @ 5000rpm
Torque 200Nm @ 1500rpm
Power to Weight 23.9 bhp per ton


Acceleration 9.8s (0-100 km/h)
Top Speed 199 km/h
Fuel Consumption (combined) 15.9 km/L

Misc Technical Data

Transmission 7 -speed DSG
Drive Type FF


Body Type Sedan
(L x W x H)
(4554 x 1781 x 1459) mm
Wheelbase 2578 mm
Turning Circle 5.45 metres
Kerb Weight 5100 kg


Brakes (Front) Ventilated Discs
Brakes (Rear) Discs