I got the 4 door hatchback with the base 2.5 engine. Like most VWs this is a driver's car. It's still built in Germany. Great feel on the road, very comfortable seats and a sophisticated feeling suspension. Very little road/wind noise. I have been getting around 27 mpg with mostly hwy driving. This powertrain has enough pep for my needs while still using regular gas. There's lots of room with the seats folded down. VW still has great lease rates if you can negotiate.
I was torn between a Golf and the Ford Focus. Ultimately, the interior detail and materials sold me on the Golf. It looks like an Audi on the inside (especially at night!). My cloth seats are comfortable and ergonomically correct. I can fit 4 adults in the car without it feeling cramped. Currently getting approx 315 miles per tank. It's really a quality vehicle. The only downside is that my service light has come twice in the past year that I've owned it. The computer on the vehicle needed an update. Although the updates are free at VW, its time consuming and annoying. Service guy told me its like owning an iphone and there's no warning when you might get the light.
I've owned this car for just a couple weeks, but I can already tell this is the great car I hoped it would be. It doesn't come with the most features, it doesn't get the best gas mileage, and it doesn't have the most back seat room. But if you want a car that makes you say "Ahhhhhh" every time you get in and can't spend $35k, get a Golf. Think of it like the iPhone of the car world: the best designed, most well executed, solid-feeling car you can buy for the money. Drive this, then drive something else - you'll be frustrated. The engine is smooth and surprisingly powerful. The transmission is good, but regular mode is a bit economy minded - Sport mode is where I leave it most of the time.
I spent six months researching cars before subscribing to Consumer's. They had listed the Golf as the number 1 hatchback. I had looked at one before, but someone had told me they heard from a friend that they weren't really good cars, so I stopped considering them. But I decided to get a quote to see what I could buy one for. I was really impressed with the price quote (less than invoice) so I went to test drive. It drove like a dream and had everything I was looking for in a car. I even got 1.84% for five years. In the end it was a no-brainer: great car for a great price. I've only had it five weeks, but I love it so far.