I don't think mentioning it has 50 year old tires is a selling point!
I also have this article. It's a real glimpse into how the imports were pulling away from our domestics in just about everyway. As you mention, these 2 cars were identical in price, but the VW had electronic fuel injection, independent front and rear suspension and front wheel disc brakes. They couldn't get the Chevy II up to 80 MPH, but they squeezed 86 MPH out of the 96.6 cubic inch VW with special mention of the lack of noise and vibration suffered in the Chevy II. The economy car image of the Chevy II also took a beating with an average trip mileage of under 29 mpg. The VW did 39 mpg and at one point hit 45 mpg!June 1968, Motor Trend magazine ran a comparison test between a '68 Nova 4 banger 3 on the tree, and a VW 1600 fast back ,4 cylinder fuel injected 66 hp with a 4 speed In the end, the writer recommended Nova buyers choose the 6 or 8 ..the VW out performed the Nova in most departments.. Both units sold for $2200.00
I couldn't find any road test of a 3rd generation 4 banger, probably because 4 cylinder road tests didn't sell magazines. Car Life did tests on 1962 four cylinders. The 3 speed manual did 0-60 in 17 seconds and the 1/4 in 20.2. Third generation cars were somewhat heavier, so probably posted slightly higher times.I remember reading about the 4 cylinder engines offered in Novas. I can't imagine how horribly slow that car must have been. Wonder what the 1/4 mile time would have been stock? Maybe 25 seconds or something?
Canada dumped the 4 cylinder after 1965. Good decision for the reasons you mention.That four was designed with the lighter ChevyII in mind, not the bigger 3rd generation. That car should never have had that engine, and would have a HP/weight ratio that puts it in a category where, if you can't get 30 mpg, forget it.
The VW fastback MPG numbers are pure mendacity. I haven't read the article, granted, but unless they were on cool, flat asphalt and allowed to maintain a steady 35-40 mph, that car would never get 39 much less 45 mpg. I owned two of those F.I. Type 3's (a '64 dual carb Notchback and a '68 square back) and there was no way they could get those numbers with the F.I. car, smog connected, normal driving course and conditions, and in stock form. Wouldn't be the first bogus numbers from a magazine road test.