Forty years ago, the VW Golf arrived on our shores. Tagged as “Rabbit” from 1975 to 1984, the spunky little hatchback proved a worthy successor to the beloved Beetle.
The seventh-generation version continues those winning ways. Bigger, lighter and more fuel efficient, the 2015 Golf comes with either two or four doors and —for the first time ever — turbocharged, direct-injected engines. Buyers can choose either a 1.8-liter four-cylinder (with a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission) or a new 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel (with a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission).
The 1.8-liter gas engine produces 170 horsepower — the same as the outgoing version — but torque is increased to 200 pound-feet and is available much lower in the rpm band, which means quicker, more responsive acceleration. The diesel cranks out 150 horsepower and an impressive 236 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy estimates for the gas engine are 25/37 miles per gallon and 31/42 for the diesel. (Of particular note: the new diesel engine costs $3,000 less than the outgoing version. Given the price, mileage and available grunt, the diesel looks like the way to go.)
The new Golf still looks like a Golf but better. The front end is all new, anchored by a steeply sloping hood that gives the prow a leaner, more athletic look that carries along the sides and rear for a graceful look.
The cabin boasts more shoulder and elbow room and 8 percent more trunk capacity — 16.5 cubic feet up to the parcel shelf and 22.8 cubic feet to the roof. That’s more space than most midsize sedans. With the rear seats folded, the number rises to 52.7 cubic feet, 15 percent larger than before.
The center stack is now angled toward the driver, and white backlighting for the controls makes for an upscale ambiance, as do optional trim levels in chrome, aluminum and piano-black finishes.
Features are generous and include a standard 5.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system (with a smartphonelike touchscreen so you’re not hammering away), Bluetooth and iPod integration, an Automatic Post-Collision Braking System and the XDS Cross Differential System — previously on the sportier GTI model — for better handling and cornering.
With a host of model variants and trim levels, there’s a Golf for just about everybody, especially with a starting price of $17,995. For 40 years, value has been at the heart of VW’s formula for the Golf. Clearly, the corporate suits know a good thing when they see it and don’t intend to mess with success.