The long running Volkswagen Jetta aims to compete directly with other economical compacts, which means a focus on lower price and simplified equipment choices, and greater emphasis on fuel efficiency. Despite its roomy interior and grown-up looks, the Jetta sedan carries the lowest sticker price in the VW lineup.
The Honda Civic received a substantial redesign for the 2016 model year that gave it an all-new look, new engines, and new body styles. It's an impressive package of enhancements for a model that's still so new to the market.
How does the value-oriented Jetta stack up against the reinvigorated Civic?
Where the Jetta Delivers
The Jetta optimizes the notion of a lot of car for the money. Interior and trunk space come close to midsize levels, and features like heated outside mirrors, a 5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, and express up/down windows are included in the modest base price. The Jetta offers clean and sensible styling inside and out, which makes it unique in a field that thrives on trends and cuteness.
The standard 1.4-liter turbo engine makes 150 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, but buyers can upgrade to a 1.8-liter with 170 horsepower, or a 2-liter turbo with 210 horses. There is also a hybrid model that cranks out 170 horsepower and gets up to 48 mpg combined.
Where the Civic Delivers
The redesigned Civic's new look puts it in a class of its own, and buyers will eventually have three body styles to choose from: sedan, coupe, or hatchback. The Civic manages to pass the well-equipped Jetta in terms of features, as it comes standard with more desirable features like a rearview camera, auto climate control, and more.
The Civic's base 2-liter engine is slightly more powerful than the Jetta at 158 horsepower, but it does fall short in torque. With its optional 1.5-liter turbo engine, the Civic pushes out 174 horses and 162 pound-feet of torque. Both of these gasoline engines easily beat the VW's 1.4- and 1.8-liter engines in fuel economy. Soon, the Civic will have an Si model to compete with the 2-liter-equipped Jetta GLI.
Which Stands Out?
The Civic's new look and new engines make it a standout in its class, leading it to a pretty easy victory over the Jetta. While the Jetta's cabin may be a little roomier than the Civic's, the differences are so small that they are not enough to overcome all the good things the Civic does.
Our Verdict: Honda Civic
A new look and new engines make the Civic our choice.