By Matt DeLorenzo
The launch of the seventh generation of the Volkswagen Golf represents a major turning point in the car's history: No longer is it simply a model – the Golf – but rather a family of vehicles that includes 2-door and 4-door hatchbacks, performance variants like the Golf GTI and Golf R, the upcoming Golf SportWagen, and an EV in the form of the eGolf. Not only does the Golf family offer a little bit of something for everyone, but in its most basic hatchback form, it has grown larger, offers a new family of gasoline, diesel and electric powerplants, while still retaining the practical and fun-to-drive attributes that have served a loyal customer base well.
The VW Golf is a bit counterculture. It's a hatch when most cars are sedans, and its German roots go against the grain, since most cars in this segment are either Asian or domestic. The Golf offers tremendous utility and good fuel economy, a fun-to-drive spirit, and one of the best interiors in its class.
The Golf's 2-box shape is not for everyone. Those looking for traditional styling and a separate trunk might prefer sedans like the Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic. Also, if fuel economy is a priority, there are hybrids that offer as much or more fuel economy than the Golf diesel.
The 2015 VW Golf is all-new, 2.5 inches longer and a half-inch wider. With 5-passenger comfort and the cargo space of a midsize sedan, the new Golf weighs almost 80 pounds less than its predecessor. It features new turbocharged engines, formally adds the GTI to the family and, within a year, the Golf R performance version, the eGolf EV and Golf SportWagen.
Driving Impressions At launch, buyers will be able to choose from the 1.8-liter gasoline TSI model, the 2.0-liter gasoline GTI, and the 2.0-liter TDI turbodiesel. The TSI and TDI share the same...... suspension and driving characteristics – turn-in is crisp and the performance on par, though the diesel has an advantage in torque, making it a feel a little snappier off the line than the 1.8. Still, the gasoline engine model has a smooth linear feel, and with a traditional 6-speed automatic transmission, the Golf has solid road manners and a comfortable ride. If you seek more thrills, the GTI, which can be had with either a 6-speed manual gearbox or DSG automatic, has more horsepower and a willing spirit that invites hard driving. If you're aggressive with the throttle, you'll feel a bit of torque-steer tug through the steering wheel, but the handling is razor sharp with precise steering to match.
CENTER CONSOLE TOUCH SCREEN
Standard on all Golfs is a new 5.8-inch center console touch screen. The device features a capacitive touch sensor similar to smartphone technology, which instead of requiring pressure touch to activate, allows gesture control by swiping and pinch zooming.
XDS CROSS DIFFERENTIAL SYSTEM
Previously offered only on the GTI, all Golfs benefit from this electronic substitute for mechanical limited-slip differentials. If the suspension becomes unloaded in a turn, braking is applied to the inside wheel to prevent understeer, which improves handling.
The new Golf continues VW's tradition of having an upscale look to its interior, using high-quality materials, soft-touch surfaces and piano black trim. The cabin has more shoulder room in both rows. Cargo volume is 16.5 cubic feet below the parcel shelf and 22.8 cubic feet to the roof. Loading is easier thanks to lower liftover in the rear hatch. The rear seat has a 60/40 split rear-folding back, expanding the load space to 52.7 cubic feet when lowered. There's plenty of front-seat storage in the center console and door panels, and a nifty mini glovebox to the left of the steering column.Exterior
Even though all the sheet metal is new, the car is instantly recognizable as a Golf. While the 2-box profile is the same, all the surfaces appear to be highly tailored with crisp character lines that start at the base of the steeper hood and new narrow horizontal grille, which is flanked by sharper headlight clusters. The distinctive C-pillar treatment recalls earlier Golf generations, adding to the familiarity of the overall look. The car is about 1.1 inches lower in overall height, and the wider track gives it a more muscular, purposeful appearance.
Among the standard features are power windows and door locks, air conditioning, a touch-screen infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity, Sirius XM satellite radio, and a media-device interface with iPod integration. S models feature aluminum-alloy wheels, V-Tex leatherette seating, steering wheel controls, and cruise control. Four-door models also have partial-power front seats. Golf SE models add a rearview camera and Fender Premium Audio System. The top-line SEL model features 18-inch alloy wheels, navigation and sport comfort seats with 12-way power adjustment.
A 6-speed automatic transmission is available on TSI models, as is the exclusive Fender audio system. A driver assistance package – available throughout the Golf line – features forward-collision warning, and front and rear park-distance control. The 6-speed DSG automatic is optional on the GTI and the diesel TDI. On the GTI, options include an $800 adaptive-damping system and a $1,495 performance package, which includes larger brakes.
The Golf family of engines includes an all-new turbocharged gasoline 4-cylinder in 1.8-liter and 2.0-liter displacements. The 1.8-liter engine is available with a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission, while the GTI's 2.0-liter comes with a 6-speed manual transmission or, optionally, the 6-speed DSG automatic. Also new is the 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel on the Golf TDI. Like the Golf GTI, the diesel-powered Golf is paired with a 6-speed manual or the optional DSG automatic transmission. All three engines feature cast-iron blocks with five main bearings and aluminum heads. Unleaded regular is recommended on the 1.8-liter TSI, while the 2.0-liter GTI requires premium fuel.
1.8-liter turbocharged inline-4
170 horsepower @ 4,500 rpm
200 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/37 mpg (manual), 26/36 mpg (automatic)
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (GTI)
210 horsepower @ 4,500 rpm
220 horsepower @ 4,700 (optional performance pack)
258 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/34 mpg (manual), 25/33 mpg (automatic)
2.0-liter turbocharged diesel inline-4 (TDI)
150 horsepower @ 3,500 rpm
236 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 31/42 mpg (manual), NA (automatic)
VW will be offering a Golf Launch Edition, a 2-door hatch priced just under $18,815 including destination charges, which is competitive against its competitive set, which includes Kia Forte, Ford Focus, Mazda Mazda3 and Subaru Impreza. The step-up S model is $19,815 for a 2-door and $21,815 for the 4-door. SE models start at $25,315 and the top-line SEL starts at $28,815. Diesel models add about $1,000. The sporty GTI starts at $25,215 and tops out at $31,515, which includes the DSG automatic transmission, navigation and automatic air conditioning. Being all-new, resale prices for the 2015 Volkswagen Golf have yet to be forecast, but historically, Golfs tend to play on the weaker side of the residuals field. To get a better idea of what Golf buyers in your area are paying for their new cars, be sure to check out the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price.