2015 Volkswagen Golf Review
Edmunds' Expert Review
- Versatile and roomy hatchback design
- refined interior
- strong acceleration
- great fuel economy from available diesel engine.
- Gas engine's automatic transmission lacks refinement
- slightly more expensive than rivals
- lacks some more contemporary features.
The redesigned 2015 Volkswagen Golf delivers competitive performance, comfort and refinement. For a small hatchback, it's a worthy consideration.
The Volkswagen Golf wasn't the first hatchback invented, but in its 40-year history it has come to define the segment. Like other long-serving German cars, the Golf has evolved over time. Parking all seven generations side by side makes this progression and the traditional Golf formula -- versatility with a dash of performance -- easy to discern. The evolution of the all-new 2015 Volkswagen Golf is so subtle that the casual observer will likely miss the differences.
Reshaped headlights and taillights, and side body panels with slightly sharper creases are the only giveaways that this is a new-generation Golf. The interior is also very similar, with only minor changes and improvements to note.
But underneath that refreshed sheet metal is an all-new body structure and a more powerful, efficient gasoline engine. The underperforming 2.5-liter five-cylinder is gone, a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder in its place delivering strong acceleration and respectable fuel economy. If top fuel economy is your priority, diesel power also returns with the Golf TDI, though with only modest gains in power and fuel economy.
Inside, the 2015 Golf looks and feels much like its predecessor, but there's actually more space for passengers and cargo. Materials quality is marginally better, along with a slightly updated infotainment interface, but the Golf oddly lacks some desirable features found in other small cars, such as in-depth smartphone app integration, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alerts and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Given past success, we can't blame Volkswagen for sticking to the formula, but it does put the Golf at a disadvantage to its competitors.
The Mazda 3 hatchback, for example, lacks the maximum, boxy space of the Golf, but counters with a fun-to-drive character, fuel-efficient engine and an impressive list of technology and safety features unavailable on the Golf. The Ford Focus is another top hatchback with impressive versatility and technology. And in this segment, the Golf (particularly the TDI) can be one of the more expensive models. Contrast this with the turbocharged 2015 Kia Forte SX hatchback, a great car loaded with features that costs much less, and the Golf has its work cut out for it.
Yet the Golf is an undeniable success, and this next evolution of this strong genetic line earns a recommended spot in our 2015 Buying Guide.
2015 Volkswagen Golf models
The 2015 Volkswagen Golf hatchback is available as a two- or four-door hatchback in four major trim levels (the all-electric e-Golf is a similar model, but reviewed separately).
The base Golf Launch Edition will have limited availability and is only offered in the two-door body style with a manual transmission. Standard features include 15-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, air-conditioning, a front seat center armrest, cloth upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, 60/40-split-folding rear seats with a center pass-through, hill-hold assist, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 5.8-inch touchscreen audio interface, satellite radio and iPod connectivity.
The Golf S is available as either a two- or four-door and adds alloy wheels, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery and VW's Car-Net emergency telematics system. Power reclining front seats are also included if the optional automatic transmission and/or sunroof is added.
The SE trim is only available as a four-door with the automatic transmission, sunroof and partial power seats. Added features include 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, automatic wipers, heated front seats, a rearview camera and a premium Fender audio system. To that, the range-topping SEL trim adds 18-inch wheels, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, sport front seats with a 10-way power-adjustable driver seat (with power lumbar), a navigation system and interior ambient lighting with LED reading lamps.
Also offered are diesel-powered four-door-only TDI models available with either manual or automatic transmissions. The Golf TDI S includes all of the standard Golf SE features but substitutes 16-inch alloy wheels. Stepping up to the Golf TDI S adds 17-inch wheels, while the TDI SEL is appointed identically to its gasoline SEL counterpart.
Two package options are available. The Lighting package includes bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, cornering lights that shine light through turns and the ambient interior and LED reading lights if not already included. The Driver Assistance package includes front and rear parking sensors and a forward collision warning system.
Performance & mpg
Powering the conventional gasoline 2015 VW Golf models is a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. The Launch Edition trim is only available with a five-speed manual transmission, while the Golf S trim can be optioned with a six-speed automatic. The SE and SEL trims are only offered with the automatic.
The EPA estimates for this engine are 29 mpg combined (25 city/36 highway) with the automatic and 30 mpg combined with the manual. On our mixed driving evaluation loop, we managed to achieve an impressive 32 mpg from a loaded Golf SEL with the automatic.
In Edmunds testing, this same Golf SEL accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, which is quick for its class.
The diesel-powered TDI models receive a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 150 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automated manual transmission (VW's DSG) is optional. The EPA estimates now stand at 36 mpg combined (31 city/43 highway) for the automatic and 36 mpg combined (30/45) for the manual transmission. On our evaluation loop, we were impressed with our own 49 mpg average, easily outperforming the estimate for the manual transmission.
At the test track, we were also impressed with the Golf TDI's acceleration to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds, which proves to be an average pace for the compact segment and impressive for a frugal turbodiesel.
Standard safety features for the 2015 VW Golf include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. A post-crash braking system is also standard and automatically applies the brakes after an impact to reduce the likelihood of a secondary crash. Forward collision warning and front and rear parking sensors are optional.
On Golf S models and above, VW's Car-Net emergency telematics is standard with features that include automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, remote vehicle access, stolen vehicle location and geo-fencing (which allows parents to set boundaries for teenage drivers). A Car-Net smartphone app lets owners control many of these functions on the go.
In Edmunds braking tests, both the Golf SEL and the TDI stopped from 60 mph in 119 feet, a good result for this class.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, the 2015 Golf earned the highest rating of "Good" in tests for moderate-overlap and small-overlap frontal-offset impact tests. It also earned a "Good" score in the side-impact, roof-strength and seats and head restraints (whiplash protection) tests.
Power from either of the 2015 Volkswagen Golf's engines should satisfy most drivers, and the new gas engine is smooth and strong, one of the highest-powered in its class. The diesel TDI, meanwhile, delivers a nice slug of power at low and medium speeds, but the power drops off conspicuously as the engine nears redline. The six-speed automatic paired with the gasoline engine is a bit balky, however, prone to searching for the right gear when accelerating from a stop. Once underway, gearchanges are quick and smooth. The six-speed manual is easy to shift thanks to a light-effort clutch pedal and distinct shift gates.
On a typical commute, the 2015 VW Golf delivers a comfortable and compliant ride quality that irons out ruts and potholes with ease. With a relatively small footprint and excellent overall visibility, it's an easy car to drive and park in tight spaces. On a winding mountain pass, the Golf obediently sticks to its intended path, though there is an abundance of body roll and the steering can seem overly light and dull. Competitors like the Ford Focus or Mazda 3 are generally more fun to drive in this regard.
The 2015 Volkswagen Golf's interior features well-grained materials that are soft to the touch and a cabin design that is, while somewhat austere, comfortable and even sporty, thanks to bold red stitching. Buttons and switches are placed close to the driver and offer intuitive, simple control. The 5.8-inch touchscreen is a tad small compared to others, but it works well and is easily read at a glance. But the large iPhone connector plug can require you to remove the phone's case and remains a critical gripe, especially with the ubiquity of simple USB ports. The navigation system also disappoints with its inability to overlay traffic information on the map. Instead, it lists traffic incidents in the vicinity.
Front seats provide ample support and comfort, even during long-distance driving stints, and not at the sacrifice of rear seat passengers. The new Golf's added leg- and shoulder room make the small hatch feel big, although the low-mounted rear seat cushions are best suited to smaller passengers. Up to 22.8 cubic feet of cargo can be accommodated behind the rear seats, while folding the seats flat provides a class-leading 52.7 cubic feet of space.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
- Side Impact TestGood
- Roof Strength TestGood
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintGood
- IIHS Small Overlap Front TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front TestGood
More About This Model
Some of us can measure our lives out in the seven generations of the Volkswagen Golf, now in its 38th year of production.
In that time, the VW Golf has become one of the best-selling cars in all of Europe, but its start in the U.S. was a little rocky. Part of the problem was that it wasn't a Golf at all. It was badged Rabbit and Americanized in a way that spoiled the clean simplicity of its European lines. The Rabbit was a lower-grade device than its European-built cousin, its low-rent, utility tailgate also deterring Beetle buyers by the thousands.
But America's taste for hatchbacks is growing — or its distaste diminishing at least, so VW hopes that the seventh version of the car will take one more small step toward making it more mainstream. We went for a drive to see if it has a chance.
A Familiar Face
It takes only the swiftest of glances to see that this car is a Golf and that is entirely the point, its instantly recognizable identity the key to its success. But there are distinct differences like a longer wheelbase and lower ride height that make this version unique.
The 2015 Volkswagen Golf now rides on the VW Group's all-new modular MQB platform (for Modularer Querbaukasten), which allows the front axle to be pushed forward within the length of the body. That reduces the front overhang, stretches the wheelbase and frees up more passenger space.
Though these new proportions gave the Golf's shapers a bit of challenge, says designer Andreas Mindt, early versions of the car "looking a bit like a dachshund," the awkwardly long-bodied look was eliminated by pushing the cabin rearward. Aerodynamic aims have resulted in smoother fenders, and the quest to produce a low-slung, sporting look has given it shallow, slightly wedged side windows and subtle indents at the roof's edges.
A Slimmer Structure
Apart from the styling changes, there are significant engineering advances, too. Chief among these is the shaving of up to 220 pounds from the Golf's weight despite the modest increase in length and width. The weight savings were achieved by increasing the use of high-strength steels in the body, lightening the interior trim and redesigning most of the engine lineup to pare poundage and increase efficiency.
That lineup begins with a 1.2-liter turbo gasoline engine and a 1.4 turbo for Europe along with a 1.8-liter turbo and a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter five-cylinder that will be used in the U.S. models. There are substantially redesigned 1.6- and 2.0-liter diesels, too, the bigger of which is also destined for America. Transmissions include a six-speed stickshift and VW's dual-clutch, DSG self-shifter with six or seven speeds.
The Golf's MacPherson strut front and multilink rear suspension has been redesigned for reduced weight, and there's a new, simple twist-beam rear axle for smaller-engined European models. In other words, no radical reengineering, but plenty of incremental improvements.
The Diesel Does Nicely
Our seat time was limited to the 2.0-liter diesel, which produces 148 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque from as little as 1,750 rpm. It delivers it all with impressively smooth civility, too. You'll hear the odd light rattle from up front during warm-up, and a little vibration through the steering wheel, but otherwise the only things to remind you that this is a diesel are positive, in the form of really strong pulling power and the excellent economy. There are no EPA numbers yet, but expect over 40 mpg in the real world.
The manual shifter is unusually silken and so are the gearchanges from the DSG, although it will occasionally jolt from gear to gear. With Sport and Manual paddle shift options, this automatic is a good compromise for those who don't want to work a clutch in traffic.
There's a new driving profile selector that offers four modes to choose from: Eco, Sport, Normal and Individual. The various modes allow for adjustment of the throttle map, transmission shifts, steering weight and even shock stiffness if the Dynamic Chassis Control option is selected. The effect isn't that great, though, as the ride only firms slightly and the throttle sharpens a fraction. The most noticeable effect is on the steering, which gains some pleasing weight in Sport mode.
Predictable. Maybe Too Predictable
Despite these changes, the fundamental behavior of the 2014 Volkswagen Golf does not change much when you're thrusting hard along a twisting back road. It corners with precision, it's slow to let understeer build and feels completely stable and safe. But it also feels a little dull — the front end doesn't dart into corners with the enthusiasm of a Ford Focus, and there's virtually no scope for refining your trajectory through a fast curve with deft throttle adjustment. Instead, it's very capable, but pretty inert.
And though you can switch off the stability control, its interventions don't completely disappear. Which is probably a good thing considering the vast array of buyers expected to buy this new Golf. The only occasional disappointment is the ride, the suspension thumping like an unwanted neighbor's party over ridges and potholes. That's a surprise given this VW's sophisticated multilink rear axle.
Feels Sturdy, Looks Much the Same
Inside there's a grander-looking dashboard than previously, its center console angled toward the driver to produce a slightly sportier ambience, and an increased surface area of decorative trim to heighten the aura of quality, which this car oozes in spades. From the reassuringly solid structure of its dashboard to the classy piano-black steering wheel inserts, it's a finely built piece.
The center of the dash is dominated by an infotainment screen that's offered in three sizes and five levels of sophistication, some including an iPad-like swipe feature to access music. All of this creates a pleasing first impression of this seventh-generation Golf, from the muted clunk of a closing door to the subtly enveloping support provided by the seats.
The cabin is not only comfortable and convenient but quiet, too, only the faint rush of air at 80 mph intruding on the impressive calm at speed. There's no question that the Golf Mk7 makes an impressive long-distance device, especially with the turbodiesel's pulling power.
Built in Mexico?
It will be a long time before American drivers even get a chance to see what this new Golf is all about, as it's not scheduled to arrive until early 2014. Why? Mainly because Volkswagen is more concerned about Golf sales in Europe, where it's the company's bread-and-butter model. There's also the possibility that American Golfs will be built in one of Volkswagen's factories in Mexico to make it less expensive.
A competitive price would go a long way toward making the Golf more acceptable to American consumers. The Golf may be the most refined hatchback in its class now, but it's a growing segment that includes plenty of competent contenders. And who knows? By 2014 there could even be a few more with newer and better features. We'll have to wait and see.
For now, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf feels much like the old Golf in terms of refinement, which is a good thing. It's solid on the highway and the diesel is as good as it's ever been. The extra space inside doesn't hurt either, so it's well positioned to grab even more buyers if the price is right. We'll find out in about 12 months.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2015 Volkswagen Golf Overview
The Used 2015 Volkswagen Golf is offered in the following submodels: Golf Hatchback, Golf Diesel. Available styles include TSI S 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 6A), TDI S 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6AM), TSI S 2dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 6A), TDI S 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6M), TSI SE 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 6A), TDI SEL 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6AM), TDI SE 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6AM), TSI SEL 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 6A), TSI S 4dr Hatchback w/Sunroof (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 6A), TSI S 4dr Hatchback w/Sunroof (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5M), TDI SEL 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6M), TDI SE 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6M), TSI S 2dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5M), and TSI Launch Edition 2dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 5M). Pre-owned Volkswagen Golf models are available with a 1.8 L-liter gas engine or a 2.0 L-liter diesel engine, with output up to 170 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2015 Volkswagen Golf comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 6-speed shiftable automatic, 6-speed automated manual. The Used 2015 Volkswagen Golf comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.
What's a good price on a Used 2015 Volkswagen Golf?
Price comparisons for Used 2015 Volkswagen Golf trim styles:
- The Used 2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI S is priced between $15,885 and$16,998 with odometer readings between 39117 and73220 miles.
- The Used 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI S is priced between $16,590 and$16,590 with odometer readings between 103435 and103435 miles.
- The Used 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SE is priced between $19,895 and$19,895 with odometer readings between 73592 and73592 miles.
- The Used 2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI Launch Edition is priced between $16,499 and$16,499 with odometer readings between 36229 and36229 miles.
- The Used 2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI SE is priced between $16,990 and$16,990 with odometer readings between 60769 and60769 miles.
- The Used 2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL is priced between $19,590 and$19,590 with odometer readings between 42907 and42907 miles.
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Which used 2015 Volkswagen Golfs are available in my area?
Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2015 Volkswagen Golf for sale near. There are currently 7 used and CPO 2015 Golfs listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $15,885 and mileage as low as 36229 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2015 Volkswagen Golf.
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Should I lease or buy a 2015 Volkswagen Golf?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.