One of the pioneers in the small hatchback segment, the Volkswagen Golf has had a bit of a roller-coaster ride throughout its life. Debuting in Europe in 1974, it came to the U.S. a year later wearing the Rabbit nameplate. Ten years later and coinciding with a redesign, VW shifted the North American version to the official "Golf" name. But even that did not last. In 2006, after selling three generations of the Golf to American buyers, Volkswagen had a nostalgic feeling and renamed its economy car the Rabbit for the U.S. market.
But guess what? Volkswagen had yet another change of heart and reverted back to the Golf name for 2010. Yep, it's confusing. But what hasn't changed is this boxy hatchback's enticing combination of practicality, comfort and refined road manners along with an upscale, roomy cabin.
Current Volkswagen Golf
The Volkswagen Golf is a compact hatchback available in a two- or four-door body style. Regardless of body style, the base Golf is powered by a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower. A five-speed manual is standard and a six-speed automatic is optional. Standard equipment includes air-conditioning, full power accessories, cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and an auxiliary audio jack.
The Golf TDI model features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel that produces 140 hp and a robust 236 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is standard and VW's six-speed dual-clutch automated manual (DSG) is optional. EPA-estimated combined fuel economy is an impressive 34 mpg. The TDI trim also adds alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, Bluetooth, an upgraded stereo and an iPod interface. A navigation system and xenon headlamps are optional.
Like the Rabbit before it and the Golf before that, the current Volkswagen Golf stands apart in the compact class with an overall level of refinement that simply can't be matched. The near-luxury quality of the cabin, the European blend of smooth ride and driving involvement, and the subdued yet classy styling make the Golf's price premium worth it. Regarding the Golf's current lineup, we strongly recommend the TDI model because of its higher level of equipment, strong engine and superior fuel economy. The base engine is powerful for the class, but fuel economy suffers for it.
There is also a high-performance version of the Golf known as the GTI, which is covered in a separate review.
Read the most recent 2014 Volkswagen Golf review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Volkswagen Golf page.
For more on past Volkswagen Golf models, view our Volkswagen Golf history page.