The 2016 Volkswagen Golf TSI S 4-door hatchback equipped with the 5-speed manual transmission is truly a great car. I chose the model without the sunroof for the reason that it costs around $1,000 more for that model, and the sunroof was not worth it for me. Starting with the exterior, the Golf looks sporty yet refined (not as bold as the GTI, yet still retains some sportiness). The standard 15" Lyon wheels look good, and the 195/65 tires transmit almost zero road noise, which makes the ride very quiet and comfortable, especially when coupled with the suspension setup. The four-door model offers plenty of space as well. I am 6' 3", and with the driver's seat in my setting, I have 1.5"-2" of leg room in the back seat, which is more than I have in most sedans which outsize the Golf considerably. The hatchback design also allows for a ton of cargo room, which is great when compared to sedans. The door panels are tight and make a solid "thunk" when closed. The halogen lights on the Golf are good (the lighting package cannot be had on this trim, an $1,100 option) and give you good visibility at night. I was surprised that the signals on the mirrors are LEDs, and the Golf has heated mirrors standard (great for the northern folks). Moving to the interior, the Golf's seating surfaces are a sort of cloth, but it is thick and durable, not like that found in a Toyota or Honda. The steering wheel is the same as the one found in the GTI model, leather-wrapped and having a flat bottom, which is very comfortable and feels great. The gauge cluster is very appealing, with easy-to-read font and a well-spaced layout. The steering wheel controls allow the menus to be navigated easily on the mini-screen between the tachometer and speedometer. This moves me to one of my favorite aspects about the car, and that is the Volkswagen Infotainment System. I have driven many cars (Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Toyota, Honda, Porsche, and many more) and this is one of the top systems I have ever used. This is because it is simple, yet loaded with useful features that other vehicles lack. For instance, the VW system offers Apple Carplay and Android Auto, which essentially converts the screen to appear just like the phone you are using. It also has a wealth of vehicle information, such as MPGs, a ThinkBlue Trainer (which measures how much fuel the drivers' style saves or loses), and much more. This system arguably works better than vehicles with price tags double or triple of my Golf ($21,495). In the glove box, there are outlets for three SD cards and a CD player as well. In the center stack there are the USB and AUX input jacks for your telephone. The Golf also has three 12V power outlets, one by the E-brake, one in the center arm-rest, and one in the right side of the trunk. This allows for plenty of charging of any devices. The seats in the Golf are not as supportive as those found in the GTI, but they do the job. They are manually adjusting for forward/backward and height, but the backrest is electric for whatever reason (I found that rather odd) However, the overall quality of the interior is good. You can tell the quality of the materials used is economical, but altogether it is pretty good for the price point. Mechanically, the engine in this vehicle was one of the reasons I chose to go with the Golf. For the price point, you get the most power (170 hp, 200 lb-ft tq) and it is fantastic. The engine sounds great when it is revved up to around 5-6 thousand RPMs, and it does not sound annoying like some inline-4 cylinder turbos of today do. The 5-speed manual transmission is great as well, it is smooth, and the clutch is firm, which I like. The windows in the Golf are all auto up and down, and the actuators work well and do not feel/sound cheap at all. Driving the car is a blast. Though it is front wheel drive, there is virtually no torque-steer under full acceleration, and this car takes corners like a champ, despite the 195/65 tires. There are also many different accessories available for the Golf to make it an even better car than I have described it to be here. Overall, I give this car a 5/5 for the power, value, build quality, and overall fit-and-finish.
Smooth engine, precise responsive steering, clean tasteful styling, better ride height and visibility won me over from the 2016 Civic. I wanted the lighting package so migrated to the SE which gives you an amazing Fender stereo. Wasn't planning on the driver assist safety package but given the how distractable life can be, and the non-obtrusive nature of this German version, I decided to fork out the extra $1500 in hopes it may safe my life in some way. The seats don't look impressive but are very comfortable and supportive. The new Honda Civic is their best version yet with lots of features on the touring. The best way to describe the difference between these two cars is the German car reflects the near perfection of unity between car and driver and the Japanese car reflects excellent car parts put together well but you still know it's a puzzle and not a photo. The Apple car play is a nice feature. Wind noise is exceptionally low. Not a fan of Mazda, but always rated high by professional reviewers.
TSI S w/Sunroof 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl Turbo 6A)
This little car is awesome. It's zippy and handles the road like a champ. Plenty of flexible cargo space. Great visibility, plenty of "get-up," fantastic turn radius, great for city driving also good on the highway. Very fun to drive, definitely the best small car I've driven. I was hesitant to buy a brand new car, but this turned out to be well worth it. I often get over 40 mpg on the highway cruising at ~72/mph. In the city I get around 25 mpg so it is a little worse than my cheap old hyundai in the city, but vastly better. The cargo space is not as big as the Jetta but it's more flexible and the car looks a lot cooler. If you are bored by the Civic or Elantra and have an extra ~ $3,000 go for this.
This car drives sublimely. Quiet, stable and agreeably fun. Excellent highway MPG (40) OK city (25). Manual takes a little getting used to after precise 6 speed manual 14 Mazda6. Fit and finish are great. Wish the aluminum wheels were a little less boring on the S, but the suspension is way more refined than anything close price-wise. Inside, its all logical and nothing feels base. I got this with a huge discount off MSRP and in many ways it is like a 2005 Acura TSX I owned for 5 years. I hope that the reliability is good and that VW gets on track following the scandal. This is an icon of simple design refinement. Now at almost 12,000 miles, I continue to love the Golf. Masterful in city traffic and mileage has improved, great suspension and no problems. What a deal!
It took a 10 minute drive to fall in love with this car.... and I've driven a LOT of cars. I didn't want to have anything to do with Volkswagen --- I wanted something that had a more reliable reputation -- but I suddenly find myself a devoted follower. The car is built to drive, to have fun and enjoy. Somewhere between the paddle shifters (makes the car FAST), technology and lighting packages, I just lost it. And I'm still loving it! Update: After a year of owning the Golf, I still look forward to driving. No problems with the vehicle. More and more I appreciate the lighting package, frequently use the parking assist (parallel parking) feature and love apple-play for podcasts / audiobooks. A great package in a small car. The difference between my wife's top of the line Toyota Highlander (a very nice $50k car) and the Golf is striking -- the Golf is built for the driving experience, where you can easily see, maneuver and accelerate in a way that, in my opinion, out-performs any of Toyota's cars. I'd buy it again.