Full 2014 Volkswagen Golf Review
What's New for 2014
All 2014 VW Golfs come with four doors, as the two-door body style has been discontinued. The 2.5L model is no longer offered with a manual transmission. Also, the 2.5L Convenience package has been discontinued, as has the desirable TDI Tech package.
Some cars limp down the home stretch, but the 2014 Volkswagen Golf is still in full stride. Although a new, fully redesigned VW Golf hatchback will debut next year, the current Golf remains a desirable pick in its class. It takes a pretty special car to pull this off -- the BMW 3 Series has made a habit of it, but it's hard to think of other examples. Bottom line, Volkswagen got most things right with this Golf, and we'll be sad to see it go.
OK, well, there is one thing that we won't miss at all: the Golf's standard 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine. Rated at just 26 mpg combined with the now-mandatory automatic transmission, the 2.5's fuel economy pales in comparison to the engines in the VW's main rivals. But opt for the admittedly pricey TDI model and you'll get a turbocharged diesel four-cylinder that delivers plenty of low-end power and an impressive EPA rating of 34 mpg combined (including 42 mpg highway).
In practically every other respect, the 2014 Golf is a winner. It drives down the road with a solid, European feel that's unusual for a small car like this. You'll also be pleased with the upscale interior that wouldn't look out of place in an Audi. The backseat is exceptionally adult-friendly, accommodating two 6-footers with unexpected ease. Similarly, just fold down those rear seats and the Golf's relatively boxy shape is ideal for loading up bulky items.
As accomplished as the Golf is, certain competitors also merit strong consideration. Chief among them is the redesigned 2014 Mazda 3, which approaches the VW in cabin quality -- albeit with a more cramped backseat -- and offers sharper handling reflexes. The 2014 Ford Focus mostly mirrors the Mazda's pros and cons, and the 2014 Hyundai Elantra GT is a stylish, well-rounded entrant with a strong value proposition. Within this group, though, we're pleased to see that this old favorite is finishing strong.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Volkswagen Golf is a five-passenger hatchback offered solely with four doors this year. There are two trim levels, 2.5L and TDI, indicating the selected engine. The performance-oriented GTI is reviewed separately.
Standard equipment on the base 2.5L includes 15-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, full power accessories, cruise control, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power-reclining front seats, 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The 2.5L Convenience & Sunroof package adds a sunroof, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, iPod/USB integration, a touchscreen interface and satellite radio.
The well-equipped Golf TDI starts with the 2.5L's standard features and adds 17-inch alloy wheels, a lowered sport-tuned suspension, foglights and the contents of the Convenience & Sunroof package except the sunroof.
The TDI Sunroof & Navigation package adds, yessiree Bob, the sunroof and a navigation system. All Golfs can also be equipped with a sport body kit that includes a rear spoiler (also available separately).
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Volkswagen Golf 2.5L is motivated by a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. In states with California emissions, this engine can be classified with the partial-zero-emissions vehicles (PZEV) tailpipe standard. A six-speed automatic is the only available transmission. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 26 mpg combined (23 mpg city/30 mpg highway), which is considerably less efficient than the Golf's primary rivals.
The Golf TDI gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter diesel four-cylinder that puts out a modest 140 hp but a robust 236 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a six-speed automated manual (DSG) is optional. In Edmunds performance testing, a Golf TDI with the conventional manual cantered from zero to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds. EPA-estimated fuel economy with either transmission is excellent at 34 mpg combined (30 mpg city/42 mpg highway).
Standard safety features for the 2014 Volkswagen Golf include traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, a Golf TDI stopped from 60 mph in 121 feet -- a solid showing for this segment.
In crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Golf received the highest possible score of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. Its seat/head-restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
There aren't many small cars that impart a genuinely premium vibe from behind the wheel, but the Golf has been doing it for years. Low-gloss, high-quality materials spruce up the dashboard and door panels, while restrained lines and classy color combinations make the cabin seem more mature than most. There are a couple downsides, including a lack of useful interior storage and the navigation system's small screen, which makes it harder to view the map and limits its overall usefulness.
The 2014 Golf's front seats are a highlight, delivering firm support along with driver and passenger height adjustability: a rarity in this class. And if backseat space is a priority, don't be fooled by the compact exterior. Even with tall adults situated up front, there's room in back for a couple full-size passengers, making the Golf a wonderfully space-efficient alternative to today's hefty family sedans. Behind the rear seats, the cargo area measures 15.2 cubic feet; fold down the 60/40-split rear seatbacks and you've got an impressive 46 cubes.
The 2014 Volkswagen Golf's tidy dimensions and supple, well-controlled ride make it a perfect around-town runabout, but it's a different animal on the highway. You don't expect a compact hatchback to command the road like this. High-speed stability is impeccable, and although tire noise is a frequent companion, it's modest by class standards. The Golf isn't quite as self-assured on twisty roads (the Mazda 3 and Focus outdo it here) but there's respectable athleticism to be found if you're looking for it.
In the engine room, the base 2.5 serves up sprightly acceleration when you get on it, but its fuel economy and lack of refinement are real drawbacks. The TDI, on the other hand, comes up aces, providing stellar fuel economy along with great drivability thanks to all that torque. It pairs well to either the easy-to-use manual transmission or the automated, quick-shifting DSG. The DSG does exhibit a noticeable delay between the time the gas pedal is pressed and when the engine actually responds, but most owners get used to this behavior in time. There's a similar story with the Golf's brakes, where a committed effort to press the pedal is more confidence-inspiring than a casual one.