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Article Highlights:

  • German and Japanese hatchbacks face off again
  • Pricing, specs, and features for each model
  • Which hatchback is right for you?

Volkswagen and Honda are two companies that have a long history of making excellent hatchbacks. The Civic Si is pure Japanese driving nirvana, and the Volkswagen GTI is the original hot hatch. But what about their slower counterparts, the 2021 Volkswagen Golf, and the 2022 Honda Civic? Only one of these hatchback models can stand the test of time, and it’s time to figure out which.

Vehicle2022 Honda Civic2021 Volkswagen Golf
Price Range$22,915-$27,615$24,190-$24,990
Engine Options2.0L four-cylinder, 1.5L turbocharged four-cylinder2.0L turbo four-cyl.
Horsepower (HP)158 hp/180 hp147 hp
Torque (lb-ft)138 lb-ft/177 lb-ft184 lb-ft
TransmissionCTV automatic transmission, 6-speed manual6-speed manual, dual-clutch automatic
MPG Rating35/31/40 (combined/city/highway)33/29/39 (combined/city/highway)
IIHS Safety RatingTop Safety Pick+Top Safety Pick
NHTSA Safety Rating5 Stars5 Stars

2022 Honda Civic

A white 2022 Honda Civic hatch shot in profile rolling down a dark highway at night
The Civic hatch redefines the name like none before it | Honda
  • Pros: Killer looks, better options, more cargo space
  • Cons: Lack of standard features, interior quality

It’s hard to overstate just how close the 2022 Honda Civic and the 2021 Volkswagen Golf hatchbacks are. However, variety is the spice of life, and it scores the Honda its first win. There’s only two real trim options for the Golf, and the Civic has far more variety. While that can make things feel a little overwhelming, you can have your Civic your way. Plus, Honda’s go-forever reputation for reliability proceeds itself.

If we’re going for bare-bones specs in both models, the Civic loses out due to a lack of horsepower. Plus, the CVT transmission in base models is handily beaten by the stick in the Golf. That said, the 2022 Honda Civic hatchback has a manual transmission and larger cargo capacity than the Golf. Plus, the Civic has more going for it in the looks department. While the Golf has the better cabin, the Civic’s interior is nothing to turn your nose at, with standard Carplay and Android Auto, as well as a full redesign.

2021 Volkswagen Golf

A blue 2021 Volkswagen Golf hatchback shot from the front 3/4 on a canyon road
The Golf, admittedly, feels a little basic | Volkswagen
  • Pros: It’s a Golf, killer interior and infotainment, tourqier engine
  • Cons: Meh safety rating, higher base price

That said, the 2021 Volkswagen Golf is, well, a Golf. It’s like the Porsche of economy cars, consistently refined and honed over the years. The seventh-gen model hits it out of the park. Taking a different approach to options, VW lets you choose a transmission and then throws in 99% of the options book for one price, which accounts for the higher base price. Trust me, you want your Civic to cost more than $23,000. However, the Golf hatchback is let down a little when it comes to safety.

While both cars have a 5 Star NHTSA rating, the IIHS found the Golf’s headlights to be severely lacking. They just can’t cover the ground the Civic’s do, and it’s not clear why. Thankfully, some nicer bulbs are an easier fix. However, the Golf does lose some storage space as compared to the Civic hatchback. But, its 184 lb-ft ought to make up for that, if only at the cost of some MPGs.

Which hatchback is right for you?

A dark turquoise blue 2021 Volkswagen Golf hatchback shot from the front 3/4 on a lake bed
The Volkswagen Golf is hatchback royalty | Volkswagen

The Best Hot Hatches of 2021 Include The Volkswagen GTI and These Hidden Gems

At the end of the day, the Honda Civic is simply better. Yes, VW does a better interior, but the Civic makes up for it in other ways. You might miss the extra torque of the Golf, but at least you can see better in the Civic. As long as you keep the cost of your 2022 Honda Civic below that of the outstanding Volkswagen GTI, you’re getting a hatchback bargain for the ages.