Want the best small car that money can buy? Two words Volkwagen Golf.
The 2.5 in-line five-cylinder has been replaced with a smoother 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 170hp. While the 2-liter turbo-diesel produces 150hp. Pick of the range is a mere matter of taste. If you do tons of highway driving the diesel makes the most sense financially. However, most will pick the 1.8t engine which is just as sensible as the diesel and slightly cheaper.
The Golf won't disappoint at all when you take it on the road. Steering feedback is excellent and communicative. Handling is also a strong point too. It may not be as sharp as a GTI but most will be satisfied with its road holding manners. The ride comfort is the biggest compliment here. It feels like a much bigger vehicle and soaks up bumps very well. Some keen rivals can't even match the level of refinement the Golf has. With each generation it feels like Volkswagen pushes the enevlope even further.
Road and wind noise are so well suppressed you'd think you were in a luxury vehicle. There's barely any noise from the suspension over bumps and the engines are smooth and quite once at speed. The diesel produces a little clatter at idle, but this is expected from a diesel engine.
Interior quality has been improved dramatically from the previous generation. Many of the materials used feel upscale and soft touch. The dashboard is very user friendly and easy to navigate. With the optional touch screen display many of the menus are easy to navigate through and not distracting. Passengers will find comfort in both the front and rear, although the large transmission tunnel makes life for the middle man uncomfortable.
2-door 1.8T launch comes with Bluetooth, touchscreen sound system and heated side mirrors. 2-door/4-door 1.8T S comes with leatherette seating surfaces and multi-function steering wheel. 4-door 1.8T S w/ sunroof adds a panoramic sunroof and optional bi-xenon headlamps. 4-door 1.8T SE adds rearview camera, corner-illuminating foglights, heated front seats and Fender premium audio system. 4-door 1.8T SEL adds keyless access with push-button start, 12-way power driver's seat and dual-zone climate control. 4-door TDI in S, SE and SEL all offer simliar standard kit as the 1.8T trims. Top of the range 1.8T sport adds 17-inch alloy wheels, sporty body-kit and power tilting/sliding panoramic sunroof.
The Golf has always been a level higher than it's keen rivals and this is no exception with this new generation. Everything feels solid and long lasting. Reliability isn't the strongest point for Volkswagen but we can say that they have been improving dramatically over the years. So there should be no worry in this area.
The Volkswagen Golf is really a jack of all trade. It's a classy and pratical vehicle that proves you don't need a large vehicle to have luxury and refinement. Driving dynamics are spot on and the engine choices are both excellent. Combined with Volkswagen excellent engineering and build quality. It's no wonder we gave the Golf our top pick for small cars. It's just that good.
Likes: It's all the car you'll ever need. It's engaging to drive, classy and well put together. Both engines are flexible and smooth.
Dislikes: No more two-door TDI. Some trims can get expensive and still you'll have to add the options that should be standard.
Devon's Pick: The 4-door 1.8T S trim level makes the most sense finacially with the Golf. Alloy wheels, leatherette seating surfaces come standard as well as air-con, cd player and remote keyless entry. If you're looking for the best deal on the Golf look no further. The 4-door TDI S is the same price and has that excellent diesel engine in case you want the diesel.