By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
The Volkswagen Golf is one of those cars that seems perpetually young or youth oriented even though it’s now in the seventh generation and 41 years old. Perhaps we think that’s because we see so many people, younger than us, driving them.
Although we can’t claim to have driven samples from every model year, we have logged at least 25 model years of Golf reviews in the list of more than 3,000 cars that we have driven and reviewed. During those drives we’ve noted several appealing constants which include styling, driving fun and value.
The 2018 Volkswagen Golf has been “freshened” with new front and rear signature looks plus LED daytime running lights. We sometimes wonder if “freshening” is necessary other than to make sure everyone can easily identify the model year without checking or the Vin. number coding.
Where the VW Golf excels is in driving fun. There must be something in the water in Germany, because all the cars from there – Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche and Volkswagen — seem to have excellent handling and performance in their respective classes. Of course, that’s not to say there aren’t many other cars that are equally fun to drive, but categorically, the German cars are all very good. This is where the Volkswagen hits home with extra value, because it’s priced so much lower than the other German brands.
Both Golf models have at 170-hp, turbocharged and direct-injection 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engines driving the front wheels. The EPA rates this engine with the manual transmission at 25 mpg city and 36 mpg city. The automatic transmission is rated at 24/33 mpg. We averaged 31.6 mpg during our week behind the wheel. Zero to 60 mph acceleration with the automatic transmission takes 7.3 seconds according to buff magazine testing and it has a top track speed of 127 mph. As with most VW’s we’ve driven, though, this one felt faster than the numbers indicate.
What sets the Golf four-door apart from other compact sedans and hatchbacks is its ride and handling. Driving briskly on winding mountain roads the Golf holds tight to corners with little body lean and no squeal from the tires. It seems to want to go faster, eating up the corners with great confidence and stability.
The Golf uses a front strut suspension with a multilink and coil springs in the rear. It’s outfitted with telescopic shocks and an anti-roll bar. The steering is rack-and-pinion with electric assist. All models are equipped with the XDS® Cross Differential System, which acts like an electronic substitute for a traditional mechanical limited-slip differential, working by actively monitoring data from each wheel sensor. When needed, the system applies braking to the appropriate wheel to reduce understeer. This system improves stability, handling and cornering performance.
The Volkswagen Golf has standard Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, rearview camera, Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Monitoring along with Blind Spot Monitors with Rear Traffic Alert. Plus, both models also have rain sensing wipers – a feature that’s very desirable in wet climates.
The S model has a standard 6.5-inch Composition Color touchscreen infotainment display, and the SE has an 8-inch screen. The system includes USP, JPEG views, Sirius XM Satellite Radio (three-month subscription), HD Radio, Bluetooth and the ability to receive SMS text messages. It also has the VW Car-Net App-Connect smartphone integration that connects smartphones through services like Apple CarPlay™, Android Auto™ and MirrorLink®.
An important new feature is the People First Warranty, a six-year or 72,000-mile (whichever occurs first) bumper-to-bumper New Vehicle Limited Warranty, which can be transferred to subsequent owners throughout its duration.
The Golf S and SE four-door hatchbacks are the base level of the lineup which includes the Golf SportWagen, Golf Alltrack, the all-electric e-Golf, and the two performance Golfs, the GTI and R.
While the Golf styling might not excite you, the spacious interior, and fun-to-drive capabilities may.