The 2018 Volkswagen Golf is peppy, practical, and on point. An affordable hatchback that starts at $21,760 (including an $850 destination charge), the latest Golf is available in two trims, returns excellent fuel economy, and is loaded with safety and technology features that offer consumers plenty of bang for their buck. The Golf is an exceptional vehicle for single commuters, those with small families, or consumers looking for a fun-to-drive and reliable daily driver.
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2018 Volkswagen Golf Overview
What's New for 2018
Volkswagen dropped last year's range-topping SEL and Wolfsburg Edition models, moving the five-door Golf to a two-trim lineup with the S and SE. Standard LED taillights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a new 6.5-inch infotainment center lead the list of changes to the S, while the SE gains standard 16-inch wheels, an eight-inch touchscreen, adaptive cruise control, and automatic dimming mirrors.
Choosing Your Volkswagen Golf
The Golf's standard 1.8-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine belts out 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, while upgrading to a six-speed automatic requires an additional $1,100. In manual transmission configuration, the Volkswagen Golf returns an EPA-estimated 25 miles per gallon city and 36 mpg highway. With the automatic, fuel economy drops to 24 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.
The Golf is but the base of an entire family of products – Volkswagen offers an all-electric e-Golf, along with two high-performance variants in the GTI and Golf R, a long-roof Sportwagen, or a high-riding proto-crossover, with the Alltrack. Each of these variants is listed separately.
Volkswagen dropped the three-door Golf body a few years back, leaving customers with a five-door hatchback that features 60/40-split rear seating and 52.7 cubic feet of cargo space.
Automatic emergency braking is standard on all Golf models, as is intelligent crash response, which will shut off the fuel pump, unlock doors, and automatically activates hazard lights when the vehicle is involved in an accident.
While there are a plethora of dealer add-ons, there are no option packages available for the S or SE in 2018.
While VW has been in PR damage control for the past few years, the gas-powered Golf continues to be one of the company's more dependable models. The lack of extra add-ons might deter some consumers, but overall, the S or SE offer features that will please most potential buyers. We'd recommend spending the extra on the Golf SE – while the S' feature set is fine, there's a lot more value in moving up to the range-topping model.
2018 Volkswagen Golf Review
Since Giorgetto Guigiaro first penned the lines of the original iteration back in 1975, the Volkswagen Golf has been a perennial favorite with the compact crowd. It's practical, well-built, and boasts a certain athleticism for which it has consistently earned top marks.
Of the two trims offered, the uplevel SE is the more sensible choice. It costs another $2,745 over the base S trim, but includes numerous additional features that buyers would be remiss to pass up.
The additional fripperies include an eight-inch touchscreen, panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, and additional safety features such as rear cross-traffic alert and parking sensors. Other than color, the only choice buyers have in outfitting their Golf is deciding whether to shift for themselves or not.
As most buyers prefer the ease and convenience of an automatic, we recommend checking the box for the $1,100 six-speed auto. Doing so also wrings 15 more lb-ft of torque from the engine, bringing the total to 199. Beyond the gearbox, there are no additional options available for the 2018 Golf.
- Model: 2018 Volkswagen Golf SE
- Engine: 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder
- Output: 170 hp / 199 lb-ft
- Transmission: Six-speed automatic
- Drivetrain: Front-wheel-drive
- MPG: 24 city / 33 hwy
- Options: Automatic transmission ($1,100)
- Base Price:$24,505 (includes $850 destination charge)
- Best Value Price:$25,605
A lot of people grimace at the thought of spending a lot of time in economy cars; after all, these pipsqueaks sure aren't Cadillacs. The Golf, though, pleasantly surprises with its comfort and competence. On the open road, it rides soft, yet avoids coming off as floaty. The steering is as precise as the handling, and the result is a car that has a very natural and organic feel when cornering. The whole package is cohesive, and also quite continental. The Germans did not try to dull down their trademark fastidiousness, even for VW's most affordable car.
Interestingly, the five speed manual and six-speed auto both use nearly the same gear ratio for their tallest cog: .66 for the stick-shift and .67 for the automatic. The manual also uses a taller final-drive ratio of 3.39, compared to the self-shifting unit's 3.87 rear end. This means that even though it is down a gear compared to the automatic, the gearing of the stick-shift will actually allow the engine to rev at lower engine speeds at a highway pace. For warriors of the interstate, this will make those long 65 mph slogs more comfortable.
So what then is the point of the automatic's additional sixth gear, if not to provide a steeper overdrive? Well, compared to the manual, Volkswagen uses different, shorter ratios for the automatic's lower cogs. This translates to faster off-the-line response and sharper reactions at around-town speeds compared to the manual. Ultimately, buyers may be better off with the five-speed if they do more highway driving than city driving, while the automatic should be snappier and more responsive around the local two-lanes.
Evolution, rather than revolution, has been the guiding principle for the Volkswagen designers tasked with styling the Golf's sheetmetal. There is little here that is exciting, inspiring, or even distinct; Guigiaro would quickly recognize the seventh generation of his groundbreaking people mover.
Inside, the story of unpretentious practicality continues. The center stack is canted toward the driver, making it easier to use the infotainment system and climate control. Buttons and controls are logically placed; trying to lower the volume but accidentally shifting into neutral instead will never be an issue.
In the S, buyers will have cloth seats and a 6.5-inch touchscreen, while SE buyers get eight inches of screen real estate and leatherette upholstery. Both seating surfaces make for comfortable thrones while fiddling with either infotainment system. Though there's nothing wrong with the 6.5-inch version, the SE's eight-inch unit has a faster interface and is intuitive and easy to use.
Second-row legroom is adequate for adults on short journeys, while the Golf's two-box shape makes for a roomy cargo hold. If you need more space, Volkswagen also sells a longer Golf Sportwagen that promises even more practicality.
The Best and Worst Things
Practicality is the Golf's strong suit. The boxy, upright shape means that there is 23 cubic feet of storage space behind the rear seats, and 53 cubes when those seats are laid flat. Unfortunately, that same boxy shape makes for a design that might be a bit too anonymous, especially when considering that the Golf is a bit pricey compared to other competing hatches.
Those with families or who haul a lot of passengers will want to look elsewhere. This is, after all, a compact car, and wrestling in a bulky car seat or putting three people abreast in the back will make for an unpleasant experience.
The Bottom Line
The Golf is a vehicle that has been continuously honing its mastery of the compact segment for over forty years. The result of that multi-decade pursuit of perfection shines through in the 2018 models, which are practical, efficient, and comfortable daily drivers that outhaul competitors and also outshine them on the road. In short, the current car has not only retained the ethos of the original, but has managed to tailor it for today's expectations – and that is why the Golf is still an excellent choice.
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