Now in its seventh generation, the Golf hatchback has been one of Volkswagen's most popular models for four decades.
Volkswagen caters to buyers who want a more engaging Golf by offering a 210-horsepower hot hatch dubbed Golf GTI and a range-topping model called Golf R that boasts 292 ponies. Additionally, family-friendly station wagon model dubbed Golf SportWagen joined the lineup for the latest model year.
It doesn't take a well-trained eye to notice the seventh-gen Golf doesn't look drastically different from the sixth-gen model it replaced. Volkswagen's bread-and-butter hatch gets a sharper front end and angular tail lamps but the overall silhouette and many design cues have undergone only evolutionary modifications.
The story is different under the skin, where the switch to Volkswagen's modular MQB platform has made the Golf more spacious inside and considerably lighter than the sixth-generation model.
The Golf offers an ergonomic interior built with quality materials. The car boasts a function-over-form dashboard with a center console that is slightly oriented towards the driver, an easy-to-read instrument cluster with four analog gauges housed in two separate pods and a three-spoke steering wheel. A thin-film transistor screen integrated into the instrument cluster provides step-by-step navigation directions and can be configured to display a host of vital information about the car and its surroundings.
Base models ship with a 5-inch touch screen, while more expensive trim levels boast a 6.5-inch touch screen that runs Volkswagen's MIB II infotainment system. MIB II integrates the hatchback's entertainment, navigation (if equipped) and climate control systems while offering crash notification, roadside assistance and stolen vehicle location assistance. It also features remote vehicle access, speed and boundary alerts, and it can provide a vehicle health report upon request.
The Golf offers 22.8 cubic feet of trunk space with five passengers on board. That figure goes up to 52.7 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded flat.
Under the Hood
Volkswagen offers the Golf with a 1.8-liter TSI four-cylinder gasoline-burning engine that generates 170 horsepower at 4,500 rpms and 200 lb-ft. of torque at just 2,650 rpms. Base models are equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, and select trim levels can be ordered with a six-speed automatic unit at an extra cost.
The TSI returns 25 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway when bolted to a manual transmission. Opting for the automatic lowers freeway mpg to 29.
The Golf currently can't be purchased with a TDI engine due to Volkswagen's emissions cover-up.
Trim Level Breakdown
The gas-burning Golf is offered in four trim levels: S, S with Sunroof, SE and SEL.
The Golf S packs Bluetooth connectivity, a 5.8-inch touch screen, a rear-view camera, Sirius XM Satellite Radio, a Media Device Interface (MDI) with iPod integration, cloth seats, power windows, power locks, air conditioning, alloy wheels, V-Tex leatherette upholstery, a leather-wrapped shift knob, cruise control and a multi-function steering wheel. Four-door S models benefit from power front seats.
Exclusively offered as a four-door, the Golf S with Sunroof adds a power panoramic sunroof. S with Sunroof buyers can also order their car with an optional Lighting Package that adds Bi-Xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights.
The Golf SE gains bespoke 17-inch alloy wheels, a Cold Weather Package that includes heated front seats and heated washer nozzles, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry with a push-button ignition, automatic headlights, front fog lights, and a Fender-designed audio system. The SE is only offered as a four-door with an automatic transmission.
The range-topping Golf SEL features 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic air conditioning, keyless entry with push-button start, sport seats, a 12-way adjustable driver's seat, ambient lighting and LED reading lights.
Highlights from the list of options include the aforementioned Lighting Package and a Driver Assistance Package that adds a long list of safety features such as a Forward Collision Warning system with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, a lane departure warning system as well as parking sensors on both ends.
All Golf models regardless of trim level come standard with six airbags, electronic stability control and an Automatic Post-Collision Braking system that applies the brakes after a collision in order to reduce kinetic energy and lower the risk of additional impacts.
Alternatives to the Golf in the highly-competitive compact segment include the Ford Focus hatchback, the Kia Forte, the Mazda Mazda3 and the all-wheel drive Subaru Impreza.
Well-equipped SE and SEL models also face competition from the enthusiast-focused Golf GTI.