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Monday, February 23, 2015

Comparison: 1990 Honda Civic EF vs. VW Golf (GTI)

On HotWheelsCollectors.com, I made the 1990 Honda Civic EF hatchback the 2014 Hot Wheels of the year, and one of my comments was something like a Honda that can go after the Golf GTI.  Some snickered at that thought, but it's true!  Now to prove it, both are here together for a head-on comparison; this test was supposed to be done last month if it wasn't for the newly-recolored Civic, in race deco, arriving a batch later.  The VW Golf reappeared in the Wal-mart-only Holiday 2014 series, two years after arriving at Wal-mart in white in special 8-packs for the holidays.  Both have similar means, but who is the best?

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Both are spun off two-box, three-door hatchbacks, though a space of two decades separates the two.  The Civic is cleaner, lower, yet still stock.  The lighting, bumpers, trim, rear spoiler nicely done, and even with the controversial racing graphics it still looks good.  The Civic also benefits from today's lowered stance, wider wheels, and coffee-can exhaust tip, though all three have been toned down from what tuner cars were like 10 years ago at Hot Wheels.  The Golf is a different story: it's based on a time well before tuned compact cars made an appearance, so it has a normal ride height and stock-looking body, though that body has incredible details for such an old casting introduced at the time when Hot Wheels castings were rather drabby on the details.  The quad headlights on the separate bumper and grille, the rear with the white plate and bumper/lights, and correct trim details.  Even the decals look good in red and only a snowman on the doors identify this as a holiday car.  Note the red below the front bumper.  Nice touch!  Then again, the casting has no mirrors, the rear bumper (where the body latches on) is crude and large, and there's confusion if this is a regular Golf or a GTI.  Hint:  The headlights give it away as a GTI.

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It's a draw for both as they both feature roomy interiors with seating for four, and the rear seat folds down for more cargo area.  Dashboards are simple, but designed in different ways:  The VW uses controls closer to the driver and higher up on the dash, leaving an unusual tray below the dashboard.  The Civic uses a lower dashboard design with central controls and well laid-out gauges, oh and the steering wheel is on the right-side.

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Engine and Acceleration

The Golf GTI uses turbocharging to create more power to the 16-valve 1.8L I-4 that produces 137 hp. through a 5-speed manual.  The Civic, at least in the US, would get whipped by the GTI, buuuuut this Hot Wheels version is based on the JDM SiR model that uses the first application of the race-inspired 1.6L DOHC I-4 with VTEC variable valve timing to produce 158 hp unboosted, to a slick 5-speed manual.  So when it came to acceleration time the Civic beat the Golf with faster, smoother liftoff and neutral handing, which you'll get to see more next.

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Braking and Handling

Both cars use front disc and rear drums with ABS optional.  Both cars stopped pretty well, but the higher-stance of the Golf resulted in a longer stopping distance than the Civic.  Things get more noticeable in the handling department where the lower Civic trumps the Golf:  The Civic uses a compact double-wishbone suspension on all four corners, whereas the Golf has struts up front and a torsion-beam at the rear.   The Civic was smooth, fast, and never saw an ounce of body roll.  The Golf  sits too high and teethers on its wheels despite having the same quick cornering feel as the Civic.  The brightside is that the Golf can be more comfortable on the highway than the lower Civic thanks to more suspension room.

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Features and Price

The Civic wins this with more details and functionality than the Golf, though the Golf does a good job of giving the features and realistic look in its two decades of service.  Pricing is a tie as both would be set at the same price: higher than their typical commuter variants, but much more affordable than sports cars of the day

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Both cars are nicely done and the same age for their real counterpart's arrival, but as usual the age of the VW Golf casting would catch up to the car as it has many setbacks to the Civic, which is newer and features more sharp details but also has a few mechanical tricks up its sleeve in the SiR trim.  Too bad this one was only available in Japan, though the engine would be legendary in future Honda products and a popular swamp for Civic EF hatchbacks.  So in the end, the Honda Civic HF takes the win!

As for the other black Golf's, the clean black/red version with 5-spokes is the 1996 version, which was then succeeded with the next variation using lace wheels and graphics also seen on the 1996 First Editions VW Drag Bus.  Note the minor tooling changes between the black and red Golf's, mostly at the rear.  Trust me, both are much better than the glitter pink one that I used to have (what was I thinking!)

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