The 2015 Volkswagen Golf makes a strong case for being the best compact car that the “Everyperson” can afford.
The most impressive vehicles are the ones that combine many great features at a reasonable price point. That is, it's much easier to build a great $100,000 car than a really good $25,000 one. By virtue of its breadth of ability and pleasing nature, the seventh generation Volkswagen Golf makes a strong case for being the best compact car that the “Everyperson” can afford.
The Golf looks expensive (in Europe it's considered quite upscale), with very clean lines and clearly wrought detailing. Proportionally, the five-door hatch meets the needs of just about any family with a large cargo area that can be increased dramatically by folding the comfortable, supportive back seat. The VW cockpit’s front is tall and wide, meaning even a 95th-percentiler can fit. Front seating combines decent lateral support with long-haul comfort, and touch points like the wheel and gear selector are constructed with high quality materials. VW does a brilliant job of making the interior feel above the price point, though the 5.8-inch touchscreen’s graphics and speed leave something to be desired.
Thankfully, no caveats are needed for the way the Golf SE goes down the road. The brilliantly engineered MQB platform underneath is strong and stiff, resists road and wind noise well, and allows the sophisticated suspension to offer both a smooth ride and engaging handling. The Volkswagen cooks corners almost as well as the class-leading Mazda 3, has incisive, accurate steering, and brakes that modulate well.
The 1.8-liter, 170hp four cylinder that lies under the Golf’s hood is an excellent choice for daily duties, especially when combined with the smooth, quick-shifting six speed automatic. Zero to 60mph is dispatched in the high seven second bracket, though the strong feel of low end turbo torque (peaking at a stout 200lb-ft) makes it seem faster. Lag is well masked by the transmission’s programming, and the real world fuel economy this TSI engine delivers is near the front of the class, though a bit far off the EPA’s ratings in town.
Where It Lands
The Golf is certainly more expensive than most Asian and American rivals, but it outdrives all of them—with the exception of the 3—and has more room than the Mazda. This suite of talents means that it's all the car most of us really need, but also one of the most enjoyable to actually use. An assertion that has been reflected in sales of this, the 7th generation version in America, with the numbers up over 150 percent this year.
EPA ratings: 25/37mpg; 30mpg combined
0-60mph: 7.8 seconds
Price as tested: $26,895
Rating: 4.5 stars