After months of driving the 2015 VW Golf, I still often forget it's not a GTI. That's a big compliment. It speaks to just how well VW's latest-generation hatchback drives. Like most Volkswagens, the Golf has long been imbued with fun-to-drive manners. It retains those characteristics for its 7th-generation and, thanks to an extra dose of German engineering, adds to them. 

First, every Golf comes with a turbocharged engine. The 2015 VW Golf TSI's 1.8-liter 4-cylinder offers an excellent blend of power and fuel economy -- 170 horsepower/200 lb-ft of torque and up to 36 mpg with an automatic transmission like that in our long-term test model. As with many turbocharged engines, this one lags at times -- that's when there's a slight delay between when you mash the accelerator pedal and the vehicle actually accelerates -- but otherwise the Golf has plenty of get up and go. And when the turbocharging comes on, it provides a satisfying thrust. For times when you know you'll be expecting more out of the Golf -- such as a short freeway onramp or that winding uphill road -- putting the car in Sport mode via a flick of the gear shift makes this VW hatchback more responsive.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2015

XDS Cross Differential System

Just as gratifying is the 2015 Golf's skill at cornering. If you're the type of person who enjoys taking turns with gusto, you'd do well to test-drive a Golf. After you do, that whole German engineering/Euro tuning talk makes sense. And it's in these situations, flinging this hatchback around turns, in which would I happily mistake our standard Golf for the more performance-oriented Golf GTI. One of the reasons for that is the 2015 Golf's standard XDS Cross Differential System. This advanced handling feature, previously only available on the GTI, is an electronic riff on a limited-slip differential. It constantly monitors data from each wheel and can automatically apply the brakes to an inside wheel to reduce understeer in hard cornering. The technology might be hard to grasp but the results are not. Simply throw the Golf around a bend and enjoy.

A solid highway cruiser, too

Thankfully the VW Golf doesn't compromise flingability for livability. Yes, its suspension is firmer than that of other small hatchbacks, but it's not so stiff as to be uncomfortable in everyday commutes. I rather enjoy the solid, planted feel, and if you're looking for a European-tuned car that is also affordable and practical, you'll get it in the Golf.

See past reports for our Long-Term 2015 Volkswagen Golf...


Long-Term Update 1

Long-Term Update: The routine

Long-Term Update 3

More 2015 Volkswagen Golf...

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