The Volkswagen Golf is one of the world's most successful and beloved compact cars. Here in the United States, the two- and four-door hatchback's enticing combination of practicality, comfort, refined road manners and an upscale, roomy cabin make it an appealing choice for new and used car shoppers. The last three generations (including one in which it was known as the Rabbit again) have been fairly similar, representing a constant evolution in terms of design, engineering improvements and feature availability. Anyone searching for a more practical and/or upscale alternative to a traditional compact sedan would be wise to check it out.
Current Volkswagen Golf
Redesigned for 2015, the current Volkswagen Golf is, in keeping with tradition, a subtle evolution. Modest changes to styling and dimensions disguise a significant overhaul under the skin, where VW's engineers have lightened and modernized the Golf. It gets improved engines and a redesigned interior with even better materials quality and a more eye-pleasing design.
The Golf is available in two- and four-door hatchback body styles and there are four major trim levels: Launch Edition, S, SE and SEL.
A new 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder serves as the Golf's base engine. It produces 170 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. The Launch Edition is only available with a five-speed manual transmission, while the S can be optioned with a six-speed automatic. The SE and SEL are only offered with the automatic. You can also get a diesel-powered four-cylinder engine for the Golf (TDI). This turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel makes 150 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automated manual transmission known as DSG is optional. Expect the TDI's fuel economy to be in the high 30-mpg range in combined driving.
The Launch Edition (two-door only) only comes with a manual transmission. Standard features include air-conditioning, hill-hold assist, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 5.8-inch touchscreen audio interface and iPod connectivity. The S is available in either body style and features alloy wheels, cruise control, premium vinyl upholstery and VW's Car-Net emergency telematics system. The SE trim is only available as a four-door with the automatic transmission and comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic wipers, a sunroof, heated front seats, a rearview camera and a premium audio system. The SEL features 18-inch wheels, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, sport front seats, a power driver seat and a navigation system.
The TDI models are four-door only. The Golf TDI S includes all of the Golf SE features but substitutes 16-inch alloy wheels. The Golf TDI SE adds 17-inch wheels, while the TDI SEL is appointed identically to its gasoline SEL counterpart.
Option highlights include bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, ambient interior lights, front and rear parking sensors and a forward collision warning system.
In reviews, we've found that the front seats are very comfortable but although the rear ones are roomy, they're somewhat low, making them best for smaller passengers. As expected, the cabin is trimmed with class-leading materials, and most controls are easy to use. On the road, the 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder engine provides brisk acceleration, while the TDI continues to offer an impressive combination of performance and high fuel economy. The Golf rides comfortably over ruts and potholes and feels secure when going around turns. Still, more demanding enthusiasts will notice an abundance of body roll and likely feel that the steering is too light and not as communicative as some more sporting rivals. For them, there is always the high-performance Golf GTI.
Read the most recent 2016 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.