VW’s Golf, the evolution of the car for the people, has always been a smart, practical choice. It’s also grown up quite a bit since we first met it.
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Pricing: 2015 VW Golf
Base price (Comfortline trim): $22,895
Options: $1,695 Convenience Package
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $26,085
Let’s just get this out of the way first. The Golf, simply a 5-door hatchback car in the case of my review vehicle, is nothing exciting to look at. Although its lines have been refined over the years, the 2015 Golf certainly follows VW’s current theme of “is this boring enough for you guys?” There isn’t much to get excited about in its line-up when it comes to exterior styling, and the Golf falls into line nicely.
The headlight pods are clean. The tail light design is clean. The lines are clean and functional. See where this is going? There’s not a lot to grab your attention here. It’s not an ugly car, but simply put, it’s a bland hatchback.
Once you get in, you’ll appreciate VW’s departure from a stark black cabin. Ironically, as their exteriors have become more and more of a yawn-fest, the interiors improve by leaps and bounds. My review car had a handsome two-tone scheme going on with the upper half being dark and the lower parts in a very friendly light colour. It was a very nice place to be. Materials are upscale, as is the fit and finish – the entire dash is crafted of soft plastics and the doors are upholstered and even get a swatch of carpeting on the lower panels, and VW throws in some well-done brushed-metal-looking plastic trim. Everything here looked and felt expensive.
The heated leatherette seats are very comfortable. While the higher side bolsters offer good support during spirited driving, I found that they were on the tighter side. I was fine in them, but anyone wider than me might find the front seats feeling a bit narrow.
The beautifully-sculpted flat-bottomed steering wheel is comfortable and sporty, and is set up well with its selection of buttons for the cruise control, the media, your phone and the driver information screen. The 5.8-inch touch screen features a cool proximity sensor that adds soft buttons and on-screen choices when it senses your hand approaching and the system handles media (which sounds good) and phone functions. Underneath it sits a dual-zone automatic climate control system. And overhead you’ll find a tilt and slide sunroof.
Not a lot of driver assistance tech in the Golf, but the rear-view camera has a neat party trick. It’s hidden behind the VW badge on the rear hatch – the motorized badge swings up to reveal the camera when you put the car in reverse, and yes, that means it’s never dirty – a real bonus on slushy, mucky spring streets in Edmonton.
One of the Golf’s traditional strong suits continues on in full force – a highly usable rear passenger area. It offers good leg room and decent head room (at 5’10”, I had a couple of inches to spare). The middle seat isn’t great for adults as there’s a large floor tunnel in the middle, but our three kids were quite comfortable and happy back there. As you’d expect, there are two sets of LATCH anchors for the little ones.
Yes, this matters to me. And the Golf does very well in this department. Under the centre stack is a flip-up lid that exposes a long, deep storage bin which I used a lot – it’s perfect for phones, and plenty of other stuff. There’s also a somewhat hidden pop-out bin on the left underside of the dash which is great for hiding things in. I found a little storage (and a 12V plug) under the armrest lid (which was too low for my liking, by the way), but it’s a tiny space.
There are some interesting slots cut into the centre console – two would hold larger coins like our Canadian loonies or twonies, but I really liked the wider one, which was also deep enough to accommodate a parking pass/card. Unobtrusive and very useful for me.
And then we get to the Golf’s other strong suit – the hatchback cargo space. Split by a hard tonneau cover (that’s removable of course), the large 670L trunk (without the tonneau cover in place) can swell to a massive 1520L with the rear seats folded down. Tons of space. There’s a nice comfortable high load floor, a handy 12V plug and even bag hooks.
Those rear seats split 60/40 for flexibility and there’s a narrow pass-through to allow for long, skinny items to be transported between two rear passengers.
Under the Hood
Here’s some fun news! Specifically, a new 1.8L turbocharged direct-injection inline-4 that cranks out 170 horsepower and, more importantly, 185 lb.ft of torque at 1600 RPM. Yes, the Golf remains front-wheel drive (for now) and my review car had a manual 5-speed transmission. That’s right. 5-speed. When’s the last time you heard that?
Fuel efficiency is great – it’s rated at 9.3 L/100 km (25 US mpg) in the city and a stunning 6.4 L/100 km (37 US mpg) on the highway. I ended up averaging 9.2 L/100 km (26 US mpg) over my week with the car, where I drove through snow and slush, and probably with a heavier foot than usual.
The Golf has most certainly packed on a bit of weight since we first met it in Rabbit guise, and it tips the scales at 1318 kg (2906 lb). Still, the new 1.8 is powerful and perfectly suited to this car. It delivers its power with hardly any lag and it is beautifully linear, not peaky. I love that it pulls strongly from low revs to redline, which makes it very flexible.
The manual transmission is very driveable with an easy take-up from the clutch – it’s forgiving enough that you could teach someone to drive stick with it. Pedal effort is balanced – it requires more than the rental-car-manual and less than a tractor, and it never got tiring in bumper-to-bumper commuting.
I loved the ratios of the 5-speed around town, where it felt like I could easily find the right gear for the job and stay in it. Sure, I’d appreciate a sixth cog on the highway, but for everyday use in the city, this transmission was nearly perfect.
VW has blessed the VW with a good ride and it feels very refined on the road. There’s some lean into corners, and it feels tall, but the handling is good and the car is highly predictable and competent. On top of the good ride, we found the Golf quite well-damped and quiet in all situations (including at highway speeds), and it felt very solid on the road – no jiggling, no rattles. Considering this is VW’s entry-level car for Canada, it will surprise some with its rigidity and it felt very well-built.
The Golf has grown up. There’s no doubt about that. But what it remains is what made it popular in the first place. It’s practical, comfortable, fun and efficient. The new engine is in the sweet spot between plenty of power and enough fuel efficiency and it made a great impression on me. On top of all this, the 2015 Golf really comes across as a very refined car that offers a high level of quality. It’s tough to nitpick anything with the 2015 Golf, to be honest. It’s a great car!
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) comes from the passenger perspective as she doesn’t drive manual transmissions. But she loved the interior, saying it felt more expensive than it is and if she hadn’t looked at the back, she would have assumed it was a luxurious little sedan. She thought everything worked well and was pleasantly surprised by the size of the trunk too.
My review car wasn’t totally loaded, but it certainly wasn’t base either – you can get into a Golf for about $19,000 in Canada. If you want more performance (and can afford it), you can always step up to the fire-breathing GTI.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by VW Canada.
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