Usually, when automakers provide a car for me to review, it is a top-of-the-line model with all the bells and whistles. But not this time. The Volkswagen Golf that I had this week is the most basic model that VW offers, the Golf S five speed. It’s a car with few frills, but it’s entertaining.
Style-wise, the Golf retains its conservative clean lines. No exaggerated body creases that distract the eye. The only outstanding feature is a nice set of alloy wheels. Upgrades for 2018 are minimal. LED running lights and taillights are now standard.
Inside, the Golf carries over the simplicity theme with a straightforward dash. The highlight here is the new touchscreen infotainment system that is slightly canted toward the driver. The display is brighter than the previous one, and easier to interpret. Also of note is the leather-wrapped steering wheel with a flat bottom that facilitates sliding in and out of the driver’s seat. However, the Model S comes with no advanced safety features, like pre-collision warning.
The Golf is spacious for a compact car. Seats up front have plenty of fore and aft travel to accommodate tall drivers. They also come with height adjusters, and power recliners. In the rear, the Golf will seat two adults, three in a pinch. Both head-and legroom are generous. However, what really makes the Golf stand out is the storage area behind the seats, which is nearly 23 cubic-feet. And, if you fold the backseats down, you can stow a bicycle back there.
In the power department, the Golf comes with a turbocharged, 1.8-liter engine that generates 170 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on most models, and a six-speed automatic is optional. The manual gearbox on my test car engaged smoothly, and the engine was quite peppy. It brought back fond memories of VWs I drove many years ago. Gas mileage for the Golf is rated at 29 mpg.
However, the most pleasing feature of my Golf test car was the handling. This car is a hoot to drive on twisty back roads. The steering is sharp, enabling the car to change direction quickly. The suspension is finely tuned, so that the Golf tackles corners with poise and balance. Yet, with all its handling prowess, it still delivers a compliant ride. The Golf absorbs bumps and rough stretches of road without jarring your back teeth.
If the Golf has an Achilles heel, it’s its price. The Golf S model I drove was $2,000 more expensive that a comparable Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla or a Mazda3. That’s a huge difference on an entry-level car, and unfortunately, that’s too big a difference for a lot of buyers.
Fun to Drive