2014 Volkswagen Golf

Way back in 2006, Volkswagen ditched the Golf name and brought back the old Rabbit moniker introduced decades earlier. Later, with the introduction of the sixth-generation model, the Wolfsburg-based firm changed its mind once again and returned to Golf, which is now used consistently around the globe for its bread-and-butter compact hatchback.

Much of the exterior styling on the new Golf is sourced from the CC and the Europe-only Scirocco. The front-end design uses strong horizontal lines such as the wide, double-bar grille and front bumper air dam vanes to visually lower and widen the car's stance. The headlights feature a swept-back design to add a dose of sport appeal to the hatchback.

The three-door hatchback has been phased out, leaving the five-door to soldier on by itself for the sixth-gen Golf's last model year on the market.

Life Aboard

The interior design of the sixth-gen Golf features the steering wheel, audio controls and climate control found in the CC and a new touch screen-based navigation unit. Brushed metallic trim inserts are standard on the dash and in the door panels of all Golf models, and accent the Golf's instrument panel and center console.

When needing to haul your gear, simply flip forward the 60/40 split-folding rear seat (it comes with a pass-through on TDI models) and the Golf can pack 46 cubic feet of luggage. Keep the rear seats in place and there's still space for 15.2 cubic feet of cargo.

Under the Hood
Engine choices include the 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that is also shared with the Jetta and Beetle, as well as the 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel that is currently in the Jetta and Jetta Sportwagen. The five-cylinder powerplant is good for 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque while the diesel makes only 140 horsepower but a stout 236 lb-ft of torque.

Fuel economy for the five-cylinder ranges from 23 city, 33 highway with a five-speed manual transmission (available only on the three-door) to 24 city, 31 highway mpg when a six-speed automatic is swapped for the manual. Step up to the diesel, known as the TDI, and fuel economy jumps to 30 city, 42 highway with either the standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic.

Trim Level Breakdown
The Golf is available in a total of six different trim levels - three for the 2.5-liter gas engine, and three for the 2.0-liter TDI turbodiesel.

The gas trims start with the 2.5-liter, which includes power locks and windows, air conditioning, cruise control, an eight-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo system, a cooling glovebox, power adjustable and heated mirrors.

The 2.5-liter with Convenience brings a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and brake handle, heated front seats, heated washer nozzles and Bluetooth connectivity with audio streaming.

The top-spec 2.5-liter with Convenience and Sunroof lives up to its name by adding a sunroof in addition to a premium touchscreen-activated sound system with HD radio, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a media device interface with an iPod cable and SiriusXM radio.

At the bottom of the diesel range there's the TDI, which includes all of the 2.5-liter's features in addition to a lowered sport suspension, a premium touchscreen-activated sound system with HD radio, heated front seats, heated washer nozzles, 17-inch Salamanca alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel and halogen foglights.

The next rung up the latter, the TDI with Sunroof and Navigation, includes precisely what you'd expect - sunroof and a touchscreen-activated navigation system.

Finally, the TDI with Technology Package adds a Dynaudio sound system, keyless access with push-button start, bi-xenon headlights with LED running lights and an adaptive front-lighting system.

Occupant Safety
All Golf models come standard with dual front, side and side-curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and electronic brake-force distribution.

Key competitors
Volkswagen's Golf faces a myriad of competition including the Ford Focus Hatchback, the Mazda Mazda3 Hatchback and the Hyundai Elantra.