The Volkswagen Golf is a subcompact four-door hatchback, available in two trims. Premium interior materials give this model a “class above” feel, while the turbocharged engine delivers healthy performance on demand.

Pricing and Equipment

The front-wheel drive 2017 Volkswagen Golf starts at $20,720 (including $825 for destination) for the S grade. Also available is a Wolfsburg grade costing $22,420. Owners can replace the standard five-speed manual for a six-speed automatic for $1,100. The S model is where most shoppers will begin their search, finding the following amenities:

  • A touchscreen infotainment
  • 8-speaker sound system with satellite radio, CD player, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto compatability
  • Glove compartment with adjustable cooling
  • Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters (automatic only)
  • Heated, power-operated side mirrors
  • Rearview camera
  • Automatic post-collision braking system

No packages are available with either of the two trims, except for a $1,550 sunroof option for the Wolfsburg grade. There are, however, the usual array of dealer-installed accessories.

A 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque is the lone engine available. You have a choice between five-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions. This model makes 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.

The Golf serves as the foundation for an entire family of products. Volkswagen offers two high-performance versions of its five-door hatchback – the beloved GTI and all-wheel-drive Golf R – a versatile Sportwagen, a high-riding Alltrack wagon, and the all-electric e-Golf. All are listed separately.

Performance Pros

Volkswagen Golf
  • The turbocharged four-cylinder allows even the cheapest Golf to hold its own in a straight. Abundant low-end torque means a nippy character at low speeds.
  • The sprint to 60 miles per hour time will come in below eight seconds, which is faster than most other base engines in this class.
  • The Golf’s five-speed manual is antiquated in the land of six-speed manuals, but its clutch is light and precise and the gates are easy to access, rewarding the driver with every shift.

Performance Cons

  • The Golf does an admirable job of balancing comfort with sport, but when it comes to hanging the corners, it's outclassed by the Ford Focus and Mazda 3.
  • 36 miles per gallon on the highway Golf is competitive, but the days of ultra-efficient diesel-powered Golfs is over.

Interior Pros

  • Comfortable and supportive front seats mark every model. Choose the standard cloth trim.
  • The Golf's cabin offers a premium look and feel at a mainstream price, making it a standout in this affordable class.
  • Cargo space is generous, measuring 22.8 cubic feet behind the rear seat. Fold down the second-row seat and you have access to 52.7 cubic feet. And if you really need more, the Golf Sportwagen (listed separately) isn't a huge leap in price.

Interior Cons

Volkswagen Golf
  • You can’t find leather upholstery, period. The available imitation leather isn’t convincing.
  • The base Golf S model seems spartan compared to what most competitors are offering. The Wolfsburg justifies its premium with keyless entry, larger wheels, and driver assist features.
  • A 6.5-inch touchscreen is standard and seems small. That said, the graphics are especially sharp and the large virtual buttons are useful.

The Most Pleasant Surprise

Who needs navigation with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink to pull up directions from your connected smartphone?

The Least Pleasant Surprise

Volkswagen quietly discontinued the two-door Golf hatchback in 2017, citing declining customer demand. Three-door hatch fans are still in mourning.

The Bottom Line

The 2017 Volkswagen Golf offers fewer trim choices than the competition now that the Wolfsburg edition replaced the previously available SE and SEL grades. What’s left is a hatchback that’s no slacker, delivering a tidy package with few upgrades available.