The practical, affordable Volkswagen Golf

The Volkswagen Golf expertly blends practicality, affordability, and real driving chops for a delightful package that demands almost no compromises from its owner. A turbocharged four-cylinder engine provides just the right amount of motivation for this little hatch.

The real stars of the show are the Golf’s dynamic, nimble chassis and its always accurate steering, which make this car as rewarding to push hard in corners as it is when loading the improbably large cargo through the wide hatchback. Sure,big brother GTI has more power and better performance numbers, but for the everyman with weekly chores and a yen for back-road joy rides, it’s hard to do better than a Golf.

Highs: Satisfying and predictable, reasonably priced, expansive (for the class) cargo hold.

Lows: Few available configurations, bulbous design, not as sporty as the GTI.

Verdict: The GTI is an enthusiast’s dream, but the base Golf is most of the fun with less of the cost.

A six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic are the two transmission choices. It has automated emergency braking, pedestrian detection, forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. Adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and automatic high-beam headlamps are optional on the top-spec SE model.

Volkswagen Golf Pricing and Which One to Buy

S: US$22,740

SE: US$25,040

For buyers who are looking to keep the negative impact on their bank account minimal, the base Golf S is a sufficient package. We prefer the engagement of the Golf’s six-speed manual transmission, but the quick-shifting eight-speed automatic is good, too, so we’ll leave that decision up to you; it adds $1100 to the bottom line

Engine, Transmission, and Performance

Likes: Reasonably quick, well-calibrated transmissions, confident in corners.

Dislikes: Lacks passing power.

Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG

The Golf is efficient, carrying EPA ratings of 29 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway when equipped with either transmission.

Interior, Infotainment, and Cargo

Likes: Useful cubby storage, comfortable front seats, sleek and intuitive infotainment system.

Dislikes: Small center console, full-power seats are not available

Safety and Driver-Assistance Features

The Golf received great crash-test ratings from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, although it missed out on the latter agency’s Top Safety Pick honors. Coveted pieces of driver-assistance equipment are either standard or optional on the Golf.