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2021 Volkswagen Golf

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$23,195 - 23,995 MSRP

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2021 Volkswagen Golf Review

The 2021 Volkswagen Golf has lively handling, great cargo space, and a high-end cabin, but its infotainment system is disappointing, and acceleration could be better on the highway. This vehicle does not have an overall score or ranking because of incomplete reliability data.

Pros & Cons

  • Composed handling
  • High-end cabin
  • Roomy back seat
  • Expansive cargo hold
  • Great fuel economy with manual transmission
  • Sluggish infotainment system
  • Engine feels underpowered at high speeds
  • High base price

Research & Ratings

Currently, the Volkswagen Golf's overall score is not available, though its Critics' Rating, Performance score, and Interior score are based on our evaluation of 51 pieces of research and data.

N/A

out of 10

Overall Rating

Critics' Rating: 8.9/10
Performance: 8.0/10
Interior: 7.6/10
Safety: 9.2/10
Quality & Reliability:
This model has never been fully tested for reliability. As a result, it doesn't have an overall score and cannot be ranked against other compact cars.
N/A

Thinking of leasing a Volkswagen Golf?

The U.S. News Best Price Program saves users an average of $3,206 off the MSRP, and a lower price equals lower monthly lease payments. That means you could see a savings of $90 a month on a 36-month lease.

Is the Volkswagen Golf a Good Car?

Yes, the Volkswagen Golf is a good compact car. It offers an enjoyable interior, with comfortable front seats, a roomy second row, and impressive cabin materials. A hatchback design affords a massive cargo hold as well. The Golf handles with enthusiasm and returns great fuel economy when equipped with its standard manual transmission.

However, it does have some shortcomings. The Golf’s engine is adequately powered for daily driving, but it feels weaker at highway speeds. And while the infotainment system is easy to use, it offers slow response times and dated graphics.

We cover the performance-oriented Volkswagen Golf GTI in a separate review.

Why You Can Trust Us: 51 Reviews Analyzed

We analyzed 51 Volkswagen Golf reviews – along with reliability scores, fuel economy estimates, and more – to help you decide if the 2021 Golf is the right new car for you.

This 2021 Golf review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2015.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. To ensure our objectivity, we never accept expensive gifts from carmakers, and an outside firm manages the ads on our site.

Should I Buy the Volkswagen Golf?

The Golf's roughly $23,000 starting price is several thousand dollars higher than what most class rivals retail for, but it's still a decent pick. There's only one trim level, and it has attractive standard amenities such as synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, and several driver assistance features. Plus, the Golf’s combination of space, quality, and controlled handling is hard to beat in this segment.

Find a 2021 Volkswagen Golf for sale near you »

2020 vs. 2021 Volkswagen Golf: What’s the difference?

There are no major differences between the 2021 and 2020 Volkswagen Golf.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 Golf »

Here are the key changes for the Volkswagen Golf over the last few years:

  • 2017: two-door model discontinued and Wolfsburg trim introduced
  • 2018: exterior received design refresh, an 8-inch touch screen became available, and Wolfsburg trim discontinued
  • 2019: a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine became standard, along with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert; horsepower reduced from 170 to 147; a six-speed manual transmission made standard and an eight-speed automatic became optional
  • 2020: lineup condensed to one trim as Golf R and e-Golf models discontinued; synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, a sunroof, and a Wi-Fi hot spot added to standard features list; adaptive cruise control, 8-inch touch screen, satellite radio, and lane keep assist no longer available
  • 2021: no major changes

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 Golf, 2019 Golf, and 2020 Golf reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the Volkswagen Golf Cost?

The 2021 Volkswagen Golf has a retail price of $23,195, which is above average for the compact car class. There’s only one trim level with no major optional features, though you can upgrade from the standard manual transmission to an automatic for $800.

We review the performance-oriented Volkswagen Golf GTI separately.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great deals at your local Volkswagen dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Volkswagen deals page.

Volkswagen Golf Versus the Competition

Volkswagen Golf vs. Volkswagen GTI

The Volkswagen GTI is a sporty offshoot of the Golf. The GTI delivers better performance with livelier handling and a peppy 228-horsepower engine. It's also available with features that aren't available in the standard Golf, such as leather seats, adaptive cruise control, a larger infotainment display, and navigation. The downside is that the GTI has one of the highest starting prices in the class. If you can stomach the upcharge and prioritize fun behind the wheel, go with the GTI over the Golf.

Compare the Golf and GTI »

Volkswagen Golf vs. Honda Civic

The Honda Civic ranks highly in the compact car class. It offers deft handling and several potent engine options, with the high-performance Civic Type R sitting at the top of the lineup with 306 horsepower. You can also choose from sedan and hatchback body styles, both of which have admirable passenger and cargo space. Both models feature a high-quality cabin, but in the end the Civic's upper hand in performance gives it the edge over the Golf.

Compare the Golf and Civic »

Compare the Golf, GTI, and Civic »

Golf Interior: Great Accommodations

Golf Cargo Space

The Volkswagen Golf is a hatchback that has more cargo space than nearly every other car in the class. It also offers more space than some subcompact SUVs. You get 22.8 cubic feet behind the rear seats, and folding the rear seats opens up 52.7 cubic feet.

How Many People Does the Golf Seat?

This small hatchback seats five people. The front seats are comfortable, with plenty of head- and legroom. In the back, adult passengers should find sufficient legroom that’s on par with what many class rivals offer. Rear-seat headroom is excellent for the segment.

Golf and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the rear outboard seats and a tether anchor for the rear middle seat. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave this LATCH system the second-highest rating of Acceptable for ease of use. The tether anchors are generally easy to find. The lower anchors aren't set too deeply in the seats, though they can be difficult to access when securing a car seat.

Golf Interior Quality

The Golf employs ample soft-touch surfaces and high-quality materials. Its cabin design is understated, but it’s still sleek and upscale.

Golf Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Technology is not one of the Golf's strong suits. The infotainment system’s 6.5-inch touch screen is on the small side for a new car, and the graphics are nothing special. The system can also be slow to respond to your inputs. Standard smartphone integration and screen mirroring are a nice plus, in contrast to an otherwise short list of features. The system is easy to use, with dedicated buttons that make it easy to access primary audio and infotainment functions.

  • Standard infotainment features: a 6.5-inch touch screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a Wi-Fi hot spot (VW Car-Net), a USB port, and a six-speaker stereo
  • Additional standard features: a sunroof and proximity keyless entry

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto?

Read more about interior »

Golf Performance: Tee It Up

Golf Engine

The sole engine for the Volkswagen Golf is a 147-hosepower turbocharged inline-four-cylinder. It delivers swift acceleration from a stop, and there's impressive midrange torque as you're moving. However, try to pass another car at higher speeds, and you might find the Golf a little underpowered.

The Golf comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission. The clutch is well-weighted, and the shifts are polished. An optional automatic transmission also performs well and goes through the gears with precision.

Golf Gas Mileage

The 2021 Golf returns great fuel economy when compared with other models in the compact car class. With the standard manual gearbox, it gets an EPA-estimated 29 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. Models with the automatic transmission get an estimated 29 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway.

Golf Ride and Handling

Despite its limited highway passing power, this VW has controlled handling that contributes to a fun driving experience. It remains composed around corners, with little body roll. At lower speeds, the steering is light, which aids in maneuverability. Ride quality is soft and comfortable over most kinds of pavement.

Read more about performance »

Golf Reliability

Is the Volkswagen Golf Reliable?

As of this writing, the 2021 Golf does not have a predicted reliability rating.

Volkswagen Golf Warranty

Volkswagen covers the Golf with a four-year/50,000-mile warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Golf Safety

Golf Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 Volkswagen Golf an overall safety rating of five out of five stars, with five stars in the side crash test and four stars in the frontal crash and rollover tests.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2021 VW Golf the highest rating of Good in five crash tests and the second-highest rating of Acceptable in the passenger-side front overlap test. The Golf received the lowest rating of Poor for how well its headlights illuminate the road ahead.

The IIHS uses a different scale for grading collision avoidance features. The Golf earned the highest rating of Superior for its standard vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention system and the midtier rating of Advanced for its standard vehicle-to-pedestrian system.

Golf Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Forward collision warning
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Post-collision braking
  • Pedestrian detection
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Rearview camera
  • Rain-sensing windshield wipers

Available advanced safety features

  • None

Read more about safety »

Golf Dimensions and Weight

The Golf is 14 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 2,945 to 3,012 pounds, and its gross vehicle weight rating is between 3,990 and 4,057 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 Volkswagen Golf Built?

Volkswagen builds the 2021 Golf in Mexico.

Which Volkswagen Golf Model Is Right for Me?

The 2021 Volkswagen Golf only comes in one trim level. The Golf TSI features a 147-horsepower turbocharged engine, a six-speed manual transmission, and front-wheel drive. An eight-speed automatic transmission is optional for $800.

The 2021 Golf TSI starts at $23,195. Standard features include synthetic leather upholstery, manually adjustable and heated front seats, a synthetic leather-wrapped steering wheel, proximity keyless entry, a sunroof, automatic headlights, and a 6.5-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a Wi-Fi hot spot, a USB port, Bluetooth, and a six-speaker stereo.

The Golf also comes standard with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, a rearview camera, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

We review the performance-oriented Volkswagen Golf GTI separately. 

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Volkswagen dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Volkswagen deals page.

See 2021 Volkswagen Golf specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2021 Volkswagen Golf sticks out in the compact car class for its well-controlled handling, sharp interior, and ample passenger and cargo space. Acceleration on the highway is a little underwhelming, but overall, the Golf delivers a solid driving experience. You'll want to shop around, though, if you're put off by this VW's high base price or mediocre infotainment system.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "Looking for an affordably priced compact European hatchback? That’s the German-built VW Golf. … It’s not crazy expensive, yet the Golf has the high-quality feel and sporty driving manners of a much more expensive European car. It’s practical, it’s economical." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "We think it's one of the best compacts whether shoppers are car enthusiasts or not. Sure, some rivals look more interesting, go faster, and cost less, but the 2020 Golf is among the classiest and savviest." -- Car and Driver (2020)
  • "What the Volkswagen Golf lacks in emotional appeal, it more than makes up for in other areas. This machine is simple and honest, a real salt-of-the-earth hatchback that's not only versatile but unexpectedly satisfying." -- CNET (2020)

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: January 22, 2021

Plummeting Sales: Sales of the soon to be discontinued Volkswagen Golf declined by 30.8 percent last year relative to 2019. Among compact cars, however, the entire Golf family (which is made up of the Golf and the sportier GTI) sold near the bottom of the segment. Its sedan sibling, the Volkswagen Jetta, outsold the Golf well over 3 to 1.

Research more buying advice »
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2021 Volkswagen Golf

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