2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI SE Long-Term Introduction

For 40 years, the Volkswagen Golf has epitomized the compact hatchback genre. That alone would be reason enough to include the newest, 7th generation version 2015 Volkswagen Golf into our long-term test fleet, but the slew of new technologies incorporated into this Golf put it on the fast track.

Chief among the new tech is the 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that's now standard across the board. This smooth, quiet, and powerful engine replaces the old 2.5-liter 5-cylinder from the last generation (can I hear a "hallelujah"?), and we couldn't be happier. With 170 horsepower on tap and a slick 6-speed automatic transmission, our long-term Golf's powertrain is one of our favorite things about this little car.

Loads of standard equipment

Our 2015 Volkswagen Golf SE has a Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $25,315. Besides the color -- Blue Silk Metallic, a striking sky-blue -- everything on the car is standard equipment. That includes the 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, sunroof, heated front seats covered in beige leatherette, rain-sensing automatic windshield wipers, automatic headlights, a rearview camera that pops out from under the "VW" badge on the hatch, and an awesome sounding Fender audio system. Not included in our test vehicle is the navigation system, although since many on staff rely on smartphones for navigation duty, it's not missed.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2015

More than $25,000 for a fuel-efficient compact hatchback sounds like a lot, but in reality, it's on par with others in the segment. You'll pay about the same for a Kia Forte5, Hyundai Elantra GT, and Ford Focus Titanium or Mazda3 hatchbacks, although some of those come with real leather at the same price. Still, the price isn't entirely unreasonable for the class, although it's definitely on the higher end of things.

Impressive dynamics

After just a few weeks, we're mostly impressed with the way the new Golf drives. The new independent rear suspension on our gas-powered model -- diesel models get the old torsion-beam setup -- improves on the Golf's traditionally good blend of agility and comfort without sacrificing either. The engine is also very satisfying, delivering good acceleration with equally good fuel economy. However, some of us have noticed an odd "wiggle" in the steering wheel when accelerating at moderate throttle, almost as if a little more power was sent back and forth to the left and ride sides for a brief moment. We'll see if this gets worse or better while we have the car.

The Golf has already endeared itself to the Volkswagen lovers on our staff, and is on its way to winning a few converts, too. Check back as we spend more time with our new Golf around town, and out of town, over the next 12 months.

More 2015 Volkswagen Golf...

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