$11,696 - $30,623

2016 Volkswagen Golf Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 Volkswagen Golf was new.


Performance: 8.1

Test drivers say the 2016 Volkswagen Golf has nimble handling and a comfortable ride. Most reviewers report the turbocharged four-cylinder engine generates ample power and brisk acceleration for passing, though a few say the engine exhibits some turbo lag when accelerating off the line. The automatic transmission is refined, according to critics, while the manual transmission is difficult to shift and feels outdated.

  • "All in all, driving the Golf is patently more fun than driving the majority of its competition. It's not a terribly fast car, but its nimbleness and balance around turns is sure to brighten up any commute or coffee run." -- Autoblog (2015)
  • "VWs are a cut above. Solid steering feel, muted thumps over bumps, quietness, ride composure, and interior design and materials all befit a car with a premium nameplate." -- Consumer Guide (2015)

Acceleration and Power

The 2016 VW Golf comes standard with a 170-horsepower, turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission, while a six-speed automatic is optional. The EPA estimates the base Golf can get up to 25/36 mpg city/highway with the automatic transmission, which is about average for an affordable compact car. The Golf diesel model is currently unavailable in the U.S.

The Golf's engine operates quietly and makes plenty of power, according to most reviewers, and it delivers brisk acceleration for passing on the highway. Some note, however, that there is a modest amount of turbo lag when accelerating quickly from a stop. Test drivers report the automatic transmission shifts smoothly and precisely, though a few say it occasionally downshifts too slowly. They add that the manual transmission feels outdated, and that shifting it is difficult.

The performance-oriented Golf R comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 292 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automated manual transmission is available.

  • "With 170 hp on tap from its turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the 2016 Volkswagen Golf feels far more powerful than its contemporaries. The punchy engine makes overtaking cars on the highway uneventful, with smooth, quick downshifts coming from the snappy automatic transmission." -- Edmunds
  • "It's a peppy little engine, though you'll feel a bit of turbo lag at very low rpm. It's really only apparent when you're trying to leave a stop aggressively, or if you're lugging the engine in a high gear. With a few more revs on the clock, the motor pulls smoothly and strongly and makes plenty of power to scoot the car around with authority. It's even fairly quiet in the process." -- Motor Trend (2015)
  • "[N]ail the gas from a stop, and the car moves off the line a bit lazily, quickly followed by a stronger surge that isn't always linear. Furthermore, hit the gas while under way, and the transmission often hesitates to downshift, and when it finally does, engine response again ebbs and flows a bit - something that's particularly noticed accelerating out of corners." -- Consumer Guide (2015)
  • "The ancient manual gearbox could use some improvement, and not just by adding a sixth gear. The shifter contains noticeable physical resistance, making the throws a bit more laborious than expected, and clutch pedal travel length is too long. The six-speed automatic … is solid, offering crisp shifts with minimal drama." -- Autoblog (2015)

Handling and Braking

Many critics praise the 2016 Golf for its refined ride over rough pavement and agile handling around corners, though some report that body roll is apparent when turning quickly. A few reviewers say the Golf's steering is precise and responsive, while others note the steering feels numb. The brakes slow the Golf smoothly, test drivers write.

  • "On a typical commute, the 2016 Golf delivers a comfortable and compliant ride quality that smooths ruts and potholes with ease. Its small footprint and large windows make it an easy car to drive and park in tight spaces. The Golf goes where you point it in tight corners, although quick transitions produce a noticeable amount of body roll." -- Edmunds
  • "On the road, the Golf feels nimble yet solid, displaying that distinctive Germanic composure at higher speeds. The steering is rather numb in corners, but you can hustle this little hatch along if you feel like it. It has moves." -- Autotrader (2015)
  • "As with the old Golf, the new car's electric power steering provides surprisingly natural weight in the steering wheel with no slop. Steering response is quick and linear, allowing you to point the car right where you want it without much concentration. There's no torque steer in the wheel, which is always appreciated. Brakes are similarly competent, offering a smooth, linear engagement as you depress the pedal." -- Motor Trend (2015)
  • "The brakes have a nice sharp bite to them and the electronically assisted steering is blissfully responsive, eschewing the numbness found on less enthusiast-minded cars in this class." -- Autoblog (2015)

Find the Best Price

Enter your zip code to get local pricing.

Get Dealer Quotes

To get dealer quotes, enter your zip code.

Search Used Listings

To search used listings, enter your zip code.

Change Location

Enter your zip code to see listings near you.

Please enter a valid zipcode

Best Price Program

Interested in a New?

Use the U.S. News Best Price Program to find great deals and get upfront pricing on the.