Volkswagen's resident hatchback continues its journey in 2015 with a refreshed look, platform and engines. Despite new sheet metal, it remains easily identifiable as a Volkswagen, and carries on with the same, legendary build quality and reliability that it always has.
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2015 Volkswagen Golf Overview
What's New for 2015
The Golf is all-new for 2015, and its two-door body returns after a year off in 2014. Its redesign makes it longer and wider than the previous year, and a shorter height helps drop its coefficient of drag to a slippery 0.29. The cabin also gets a full overhaul, while remaining distinctly Volkswagen, and adds an extra 0.6 cubic feet of passenger volume. Two new engines make their way into the new Golf too.
Choosing Your Volkswagen Golf
The decision to buy a Golf is two-fold. First, you need to decide which engine is right for you. The new-for-2015 1.8-liter four-cylinder produces 170 horsepower at 4,500 rpm and 200 pound-feet of torque between 1,500 and 2,650 rpm, while the 2-liter turbo-diesel (TDI) engine makes 150 at 3,500 rpm and 236 pound-feet of twist at 1,750 rpm, while getting 35 mpg combined. The second stage is simply choosing what features suit you.
An unfortunate circumstance for diesel fans is that the low-cost Launch Edition doesn't offer the option of a TDI engine. This thrifty torque monster starts out in the better-equipped TDI S trim, which costs $4,000 more than the Launch Edition.
To give buyers the ultimate drivetrain freedom, Volkswagen chose to offer a six-speed manual transmission as the standard gearbox in every trim level and offer the DSG automatic transmission as a $1,100 upgrade, except in the Launch Edition.
There is a total of eight trim levels available on the 2015 Golf:
Unlike many base trim levels, the Golf Launch Edition is anything but stripped down, as it includes Bluetooth, a touchscreen infotainment system, power windows and door locks, and iPod integration. It is the perfect blend of a low entry fee and high-end features for younger buyers.
The Golf S adds $1,000 to the price and nets buyers some more mature features, like leatherette upholstery, aluminum-alloy wheels, Car-Net connected services and partial power seats in the four-door model.
This package adds an extra $300 to the Golf S four-door and give you a skyward view, thanks to its panoramic sunroof. Unfortunately, buyers cannot get this package in a two-door model. For an extra $995, you can opt for the Lighting Package, which adds in bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, ambient lighting, LED reading lights, and adaptive headlights.
The SE package adds $5,505 to the S package, and for this money buyers get loads of premium features, including 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, the cold weather package with heated seats and headlight washers, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, fog lights, a rearview camera and the upgraded Fender Audio System.
The SEL package adds $2,500 to the price of the SE, and brings the Golf to a level of luxury few compact hatchbacks can meet with features like 18-inch wheels, navigation, automatic climate control, keyless start, a 12-way power driver's seat and ambient lighting with LED reading lights.
The TDI S is the base level for the diesel engine, and it gets all of the same features as its gasoline-power trim-mate. Jumping to the TDI adds $3,000 to the Golf S's base price
Like the TDI S, the TDI SE has all the same features as the gasoline-powered Golf SE, but it only costs $1,000 more than its petrol counterpart.
The TDI SEL, like the TDI SE, is a $1,000 upgrade over the gasoline-powered SEL model, and shares its features.
If you do a lot of long-haul driving, we suggest opting for the TDI engine, as the increased fuel economy and reduced emissions more than offsets the $3,000 upgrade on the SE model. If long hauls aren't your thing, then the livelier gasoline engine is the better choice.
2015 Volkswagen Golf Review
Pricing and Equipment
With a base price of $25,495 (plus a $820 destination charge), our Volkswagen Golf TDI came in mid-range SE trim with Tungsten Silver paint and a six-speed manual transmission. Standard equipment included:
- Seventeen-inch aluminum-alloy wheels
- A large tilt-and-slide glass sunroof
- Heated front seats
- Automatic headlights and windshield wipers
- A rearview camera
Our car was also equipped with optional Lighting ($995) and Driver Assistance ($695) packages that added features like xenon headlights and park distance control. A six-speed DSG automatic transmission costs an extra $1,100.
The first thing you'll notice about a Golf TDI is what you don't notice—the noisy clatter you expect from a diesel engine. During our initial drive we actually checked the tailgate for the TDI badge to confirm this was, indeed, a diesel-powered model. Stand next to the TDI while it idles on a quiet evening and you'll hear more than you hear from a gas engine, but from a driver's perspective, noise simply isn't a factor.
- The next thing you'll notice is abundant torque. The Golf TDI feels exceptionally quick in city traffic, with instant power from the lag-free turbocharged engine. Find an opening, aim for it, punch the gas pedal, and you're there, no problem.
- And then there's the mileage, the glorious mileage. Without altering our rather aggressive driving styles, we couldn't force the average economy below 31 mpg in city driving. We then watched in wonder as it soared to a bona fide 50 mpg on Malibu's Pacific Coast Highway, even during a relatively crowded summer weekend. For long-distance drivers, the TDI might be more efficient than many hybrids.
- Steering is a bit light for serious driving.
- Enthusiasts who opt for a manual transmission might have a hard time adapting to the Golf TDI's unusually low redline -- get used to shifting at 5,000 rpm.
- A stopwatch will tell you that the TDI isn't as fast as its gas-powered siblings. We can say, though, that it doesn't feel slower.
The Golf's interior is thoughtfully designed and finished with high-quality materials. A few features stand out:
- We loved the small windows located in the A-pillar, ahead of the rearview mirrors and behind the windshield. They added an appreciated degree of outward visibility.
- The well-packaged interior provides plenty of space for four people and a fair amount of cargo.
Even with a large sunroof, the all-black interior of our test car—though elegant—could feel claustrophobic.
The Most Pleasant Suprise
In an age when other manufacturers have been forced to restate overly optimistic mpg estimates, it's refreshing to see the Golf TDI exceed its EPA ratings.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
You'll learn very quickly how many gas stations don't have diesel pumps. During our journey up the Malibu coast, we let the fuel tank get perilously close to empty, knowing a station at Point Dume carried diesel. The only problem: that station was unexpectedly closed for repair. We spent the next several miles in tense silence, hoping the station at Broad Beach would have diesel. Fortunately, it did, though the banner announcing "We Have Diesel" indicated this was a recent addition.
The Bottom Line
We're confirmed fans of the Golf TDI. If your budget allows, though, we'd recommend stepping up to the $27,995 SEL model. The extra $2,500—which buys larger wheels, navigation, automatic climate control and more—is an exceptional value.
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