Do-it-all hatchback. The 2021 Volkswagen Golf is part of the model’s seventh generation and has no changes compared to the previous model year. But with a hatchback that does so many things so well, who needs change?

From its roomy cabin to its spacy cargo area to its zippy performance, there is very little to complain about on the 2021 Golf. Continue reading to see if this ageing but functional hatchback still holds the lead against surging competitors like the Hyundai Veloster and Mini Cooper.

Forget about a budget-oriented model. Most of the Golf lineup is a good value for the features it offers, but its $24,990 (destination fees included) price tag is over $1,000 more than the already pricey $23,645 Mazda 3 2.5S Hatchback.

Where the Golf makes up for its price is in its value, as it comes standard with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay deal, heated front seats, leather-wrapped shifter, power front seats, keyless start, and two USB ports. The Golf’s 6.5-inch standard touchscreen is dinky compared to the Mazda 3’s 8.8-inch infotainment screen, but the Mazda’s screen is attached to a finicky rotary-knob infotainment system that lacks standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are big turn-offs.

Sure, there are cheaper hatchbacks, including the Subaru Impreza and Toyota Corolla Hatchback, but only the Corolla can match the Golf’s level of value.

Buyers looking for performance and value can look toward the Golf GTI. It starts from $30,490 (destination fees included) base price, which is about $3,000 less than the Veloster N and about $4,000 less than the Mini Cooper Hardtop John Cooper Works.


Volkswagen Golf

Fun to drive, no matter how you take it. The base Golf is no slouch in performance either. Sure, its 147-hp 1.4-liter turbo four-pot doesn’t sound like much on paper, but it delivers excellent midrange punch and 184 pound-feet of torque at just 1,400 rpm. This gives it a quicker in-the-seat feel. Plus, with a standard manual transmission, you have full control of where the revs stay, so you can always keep it near the powerband.

The Corolla Hatchback is close in straight-line speed thanks to its 169-hp 2.0-liter engine, but the Impreza’s 152-hp boxer-four is nearly 1.5 seconds slower to 60 mph. The Mazda 3’s base 155-hp 2.0-liter Is equally unimpressive, though its turbo 2.5-liter option is a crowd-pleaser.

Of course, the most fun is in the 2021 Golf GTI, with its 228-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and standard six-speed manual transmission. This zips it to 60 mph in about six seconds while its firm chassis delivers crisp performance in the corners.

This may ring in a little slower than the 250-hp Veloster N, but that $3,000 in savings is more than enough to make up for a few tenths of a second.

Surprisingly roomy. The 2021 VW Golf has a tiny footprint, but its cabin is roomy with 23 cubic feet of room with the rear seats up and 53.7 cubes with them folded. The Veloster offers just 19.9 cubes with the seats up and 45.5 with them folded. The Cooper is laughable at 8.7 cubes with the seats upright and 34 cubes with them folded.

The Golf’s rear seats are also decently spacy with 35.6 inches of legroom and loads of headroom. The Veloster comes up 1.5 inches short, and the Cooper is a whopping 4.8 inches tighter in legroom.

The only complaint – if you can call it that – is the snugness of the Golf GTI’s sport seats. While a performance lover will be used to this tight embrace from the bolstered front seats, a casual driver may feel uncomfortable.

Final thoughts: The 2021 Golf is an impressive combination of roominess, upscale features, technology, and performance. Few can compete with it in every segment. Sure, you can the faster Veloster N or the more unique-looking Cooper John Cooper Works, but there are huge tradeoffs in each.

Check prices for the 2021 Volkswagen Golf »