2018 Volkswagen Golf: Hatchback Fun for Everyone [Review]

2018 Volkswagen Golf TSI Mk7.5

Not the GTI nor Golf R

The regular 2018 Volkswagen Golf TSI, naturally, isn’t marketed as a performance model. Despite that, V-dub’s compact five-door handles the curves better than most. It also has enough zip under the hood to make your commute more engaging than the typical humdrum daily driver. Falling just short of the “hot hatch” designation, the intrepid Golf has a quality cabin that does not feel cheap and embodies the driving dynamics that inspire you to seek the long way home after a full day at work.

What’s New on the 2018 Volkswagen Golf TSI

For 2018, the standard Golf gets a refreshed front and rear treatment that include a new “visual signature” based on the front and rear LED lights. It also picks up a new, larger infotainment touchscreen. Volkswagen backs everything with a six-year/72,000 miles “bumper-to-bumper” limited warranty that’s sure to give some extra piece of mind.

Available in two trims – S and SE – the 2018 Golf keeps it simple. MSRP for the S trim, with a five-speed manual and 17-wheels, starts at $20,910. If you do not like rowing your own gears, the six-speed automatic is available for an additional $1,100. Standard equipment for the S is a 6.5-inch infotainment touchscreen, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and a rearview camera.

The SE model starts at $23,655 and comes with the nicer 8-inch infotainment touchscreen display, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring (Front Assist), and blind spot monitoring with rear traffic alert.

Interior

The interior of the 2018 Volkswagen Golf is basically unchanged, save the new 8-inch infotainment display. Overall, it is still a great cabin that insulates you from the rigors of the road. VW designed the Golf with a tidy environment and quality materials in mind. Perhaps it’s a bit too tidy, because we found only one USB port to charge and connect our devices.

On the plus side, there is an impressive amount of room for the driver and front passenger in every direction. Designed to adjust for short drivers and tall people alike, the driver’s seat and steering wheel with height and telescoping capabilities can accommodate a great range of sizes.

In the back seat, legroom might be a little tight for above-average-size adults when the front seats are pushed all the way back. These cars are typically bought by small families, however, and there is plenty of space in the rear seat for kids. The anchors are set up just right for easily latching your child seats as well. Rear cargo space, at 17.4 cubic feet, is smaller in comparison to similar hatchbacks. However, that cargo space extends to a generous 53.7 cubic feet after dropping the rear seats. Plus, there is a little extra storage room underneath the floor. When you drop the rear seats, the 2018 Volkswagen Golf offers volume on par with or slightly better than its rivals.

Comparing Cargo Space

SEATS UPRIGHT SEATS FOLDED
2018 Chevy Cruze HB 27.2 ft3 47.2 ft3
2018 Ford Focus HB 23.8 ft3 44.8 ft3
2018 Hyundai Elantra GT 24.9 ft3 55.1 ft3
2018 Kia Forte5 23.2 ft3 56.4 ft3
2018 Mazda3 5-door 20.2 ft3 47.1 ft3
2018 Subaru Impreza 5-door 20.8 ft3 55.3 ft3
2018 VW Golf 17.4 ft3 53.7 ft3

The Drive

Only one engine choice is available with the 2018 Volkswagen Golf — a 1.8-liter turbocharged direct injection 4-cylinder. 170 horsepower transferred through a five-speed manual or 6-speed automatic to the front wheels is enough to make this little five-door a ton of fun to drive. Even moving from gear to gear is super easy due to the shifter action.

When launching from a stop, there is little hesitation before the boost hits. After the turbo spools up, you’ll be well on your way. As you pop from gear to gear, the low and mid-range power of the Golf’s turbo engine keeps you moving at a lively pace. Find a twisty back road and be rewarded with dexterity usually reserved for more expensive cars with a sharper, sporting edge.

For a car with humble pretenses, we imagine the 2018 Volkswagen Golf hides even more road-holding goodness within. You’ll just need to fit a stickier set of tires. The Golf’s MQB platform is just that good. That being said, the Golf offers a great balance of cornering capabilities and ride quality on its standard tires. True, some hotter hatchbacks like the Focus ST are set up for sharper handling prowess, but the Golf has a smoother ride and won’t beat up its passengers.

Thankfully, all this fun won’t cost you at the gas pump. Around town, EPA estimates are 25 MPG with the manual and 26 with the automatic. On the highway, the Golf should return 36 MPG. We observed 31 MPG average without any effort to be ultra-conservative.

TFLcar’s Take

While the standard Volkswagen Golf does not pack the power of a true hot hatch, it has an attractively low price, features excellent build quality, and gets better fuel economy. Moreover, the finely chiseled exterior coupled with a premium-feeling interior make it a pleasant daily driver. Even better, its well-balanced chassis makes it a worthwhile contender in the heavily contested 5-door compact car segment. The competition there is stiff, as the Golf’s up against the Mazda3, Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra GT, Kia Forte5, and Subaru Impreza. Let’s not forget though, the Golf has at least three decades of pedigree on those contenders.

SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 VW Golf TSI

Base MSRP: $20,910
Price as Tested: $21,760 (including $850 destination charge)
Engine: 1.8-liter, turbocharged inline-4
Drivetrain (Layout): Front-engine, front-wheel drive
Horsepower: 170 hp @ 4,500 RPM
Torque: 199 lb-ft @ 1,600 RPM
Transmission: 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic
Suspension: Front: Strut-type w/lower control arms, coil springs, shocks, 22mm diameter anti-roll bar
Rear: Multi-link w/coil springs, shocks, 19mm diameter anti-roll bar
Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel discs (11.3-inch vented front, 10.4-inch solid rear)
Tires: Bridgesone Ecopia EP422 225/45 R17 all-season
Fuel capacity: 13.2 gallons
Fuel economy (EPA): 25 / 36 / 29 MPG | 32.0 MPG observed (manual)
24 / 33/ 27 MPG (automatic)

Dimensions:

Wheelbase: 103.8 inches
Length:  167.6 inches
Width: 70.8 inches
Height:  58.2 inches
Cargo capacity: 53.7 cubic feet (w/ seats folded)
Ground clearance 5.4 inches
Curb Weight: 2,945 pounds (manual) / 3,003 lbs (automatic)

In this TFLcar mashup, we compare the standard Golf against the all-electric e-Golf. Which one would be your preference?

PHOTO GALLERY: 2018 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF

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