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2018 Volkswagen Golf Review

The 2018 Volkswagen Golf is a fun-to-drive hatchback, with variants that run the full-performance gamut, from economical to aggressive. Its midpack standing in our compact car rankings is more a reflection of the Golf's stiff competition than any serious flaws.

Pros & Cons

  • Sprightly, responsive handling
  • Peppy engines
  • Cabin is spacious, quiet, and upscale
  • Lots of cargo space
  • Gas models have below-average fuel economy

8.2

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 9.2
Performance: 8.5
Interior: 8.4
Total Cost of Ownership: 8.6
Safety: 9.3
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

2018 Volkswagen Golf Overview

Is the 2018 Volkswagen Golf a Good Used Car?

Yes, the Golf is a good used compact car. This little name covers a big lineup of cars. Under the Golf umbrella are the all-electric e-Golf and the high-performance Golf R, both of which are discussed in this review. Head over to our separate reviews for information on the sporty GTI or to read about the all-wheel-drive SportWagen and Alltrack wagons.

The 2018 Golf has some outstanding attributes:

  • Lively engines
  • Nimble, responsive handling
  • Luxury-like cabin with high-quality materials
  • Comfortable seats
  • Cargo hold is enormous and designed for easy loading
  • All-electric e-Golf saves money with outstanding MPGe rating

But its shortcomings may put a dent in your wallet:

  • Used car prices are a few thousand dollars higher than the class average
  • All-gas models have below-average fuel economy
Why You Can Trust Us

Our goal is to make shopping for your next car as easy as possible. You'll find everything you need to know about the Volkswagen Golf in our comprehensive review. It combines concrete data like fuel economy estimates, horsepower specs, and cargo space dimensions with 40 professional Volkswagen Golf reviews.

The Best Cars team, a division of U.S. News & World Report, has been reviewing cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007. With more than 75 years of combined automotive experience, our editors, writers, and analysts rank a wide variety of new and used cars and issue three annual awards: Best Cars for the Money, Best Cars for Families, and Best Vehicle Brands. To keep our recommendations unbiased, we decline expensive gifts from automakers, and a third party handles our advertising.

How Much Is the 2018 Volkswagen Golf?

Used 2018 models are beginning to appear on dealer lots. Based on listings for the 2018 Volkswagen Golf on our site, the average price is $23,600, which is above average for the class. Prices range from $17,500 to $37,200 and vary depending on the vehicle’s condition, trim level, mileage, features, and location.

See the Best Used Car Deals »

How Much Does the 2018 Volkswagen Golf Cost to Own?

At the time of writing, we do not have five-year costs for gas, insurance, repairs, and maintenance for the 2018 Volkswagen Golf.

Is It Better to Buy a Used or New Golf?

The 2019 Golf has a few advantages over the 2018 model. The 2019 Golf’s base model comes with a new engine, and the previously optional six-speed automatic transmission is now an eight-speed. This setup is slightly less powerful than the previous base powertrain, but it's still respectable for scooting around town, and it's more fuel-efficient. The 2019 model also gains more standard safety features, including forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian monitoring, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert. That said, most of these safety features were available as options for 2018. You'll likely spend less by purchasing a used 2018 model, and though you'll be missing out on the new engine, you might be able to find an uplevel trim outfitted with the advanced safety options.

If you are shopping for an e-Golf, see if you are eligible for a tax incentive for buying a new electric vehicle. That can potentially save you a fair amount of money and make buying the 2019 model the better economic decision. Learn more about how the electric-car tax credit works here.

Read about the new Volkswagen Golf »

The Golf's current generation launched for 2015. We recommend shopping for a 2016 or 2018 model. The Golf received some improved technology for 2016, including a better infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and new safety options such as automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. 2016 was also the last year the two-door body style was built. Some of these high-tech safety features were temporarily dropped for 2017, though they were reinstated the following year. The 2018 model also has a refreshed look, a larger infotainment screen, and a longer warranty.

Compare the 2016, 2018, and 2019 Golf »

See the Best New Car Deals »

See the Best New Car Lease Deals »

How Reliable Is the 2018 Volkswagen Golf?

J.D. Power gives the 2018 Golf a predicted reliability rating of three out of five, which is about average.

Read more about Golf reliability »

2018 Volkswagen Golf Recalls

At the time of writing, five recalls have been issued for the 2018 Volkswagen Golf:

  • The rear coil spring may fracture
  • A potentially flawed ignition may allow the key to be removed even if the vehicle isn't in Park
  • The coating on the brake caliper pistons may be insufficient
  • An improperly secured fuel line in some models may cause a fuel leak
  • Rear seat guide sleeves may be welded incorrectly

Before buying any used vehicle, make sure all recalls have been addressed.

See more information on Volkswagen Golf safety recalls »

Which Used Volkswagen Golf Trim Is Right for Me?

The 2018 Volkswagen Golf comes in four trims: Golf S, Golf SE, Golf R, and e-Golf. The Golf R is the lineup's high-performance edition, and the e-Golf is an all-electric vehicle. Note that both tend to have much higher prices than the lower Golf trims. We cover the SportWagen and Alltrack jointly in a separate review and the GTI in its own review.

The Golf S and SE have the most in common and are equipped with front-wheel drive and a 170-horsepower turbocharged engine. Of these two trims, we recommend the SE as the best bang for your buck. It's swankier inside, with synthetic leather seats and a larger touch screen. It also comes with more safety features, including forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking.

  • Volkswagen Golf S: The Golf S comes with a rearview camera, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob, a USB port, an infotainment system with a 6.5-inch touch screen, an eight-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and VW's Car-Net, which allows you to make, receive, and reply to text messages via voice commands. 
  • Volkswagen Golf SE: In addition to the S trim’s features, the Golf SE comes with push-button start, synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, an upgraded infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen, and HD Radio.
  • Volkswagen e-Golf: The e-Golf SE has a 134-horsepower electric motor, front-wheel drive, and similar features as the gas-powered S trim. The e-Golf SEL Premium comes with a few more standard features, such as synthetic leather upholstery and navigation.
  • Volkswagen Golf R: The range-topping Golf R is equipped with a 292-horsepower turbo-four engine and all-wheel drive. Enhancements include upgraded brakes, a performance-oriented driver's display, and adaptive chassis control with Comfort, Normal, Individual, Eco, and Race drive modes. In addition to all the features of the Golf SE, the Golf R comes with extras such as sports seats, leather upholstery, a Fender audio system, and automatic high-beam headlights.

See 2018 Volkswagen Golf trims and specs »

What Does Volkswagen's Certified Pre-Owned Warranty Cover?

Volkswagen offers a certified pre-owned program for vehicles seven years old or less and with fewer than 75,000 miles. You receive the balance of the new-car warranty when you purchase a CPO model, and depending on your car’s model year, you get a limited comprehensive warranty that takes effect once the new-car warranty has expired. For 2018 and newer VWs, the limited comprehensive warranty is good for one year or 12,000 miles. The length of the warranty increases to two years or 24,000 miles for 2017-and-older gas, hybrid, and electric vehicles. Finally, 2016 and older TDI vehicles get a two-year/unlimited miles warranty.

VW CPO vehicles must pass a 100-plus-point inspection. Additional benefits like towing, a Carfax vehicle history report, a three-month SiriusXM All-Access satellite radio trial subscription, and roadside assistance may be available, so read the Volkswagen warranty page carefully.

According to our analysis, Volkswagen’s CPO program is the least robust of all auto manufacturers.

See the best CPO programs »

How Safe Is the Golf?

In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the Golf received the highest rating of Good in all but the passenger side small overlap test. It received the second-highest rating of Acceptable in that test. The IIHS gave models equipped with optional automatic emergency braking the lowest rating of Basic for front crash prevention.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Golf a five-out-of-five-star overall safety rating. The Golf received five stars in the side crash category and four stars in both the frontal crash and rollover categories.

Standard advanced safety features:

  • rearview camera

Available advanced safety features:

  • forward collision warning
  • pedestrian detection
  • automatic emergency braking
  • adaptive cruise control
  • lane departure warning
  • blind spot monitoring
  • rear cross traffic alert

See Golf safety scores »

2018 Volkswagen Golf Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: 2018 Volkswagen Golf or 2018 Kia Soul?

The 2018 Kia Soul isn't as animated as a Volkswagen Golf, but it rates high in practicality and personality. Alongside the VW, the Kia has an excellent safety rating and is expected to be more reliable. Its average prices are about $8,500 lower as well. The Soul has a spacious interior and comes with an appealing set of standard features. Overall, it's the better compact car.

Which Is Better: 2018 Volkswagen Golf or 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI?

If the base VW Golf is too tame for you but the high-performance Golf R is out of your price range, the 2018 Volkswagen GTI may be the perfect fit. It captures one of the highest performance scores in its class, thanks to its 220-horsepower turbocharged engine and athletic handling, and it's only about $2,200 more than the Golf, on average.

Compare the Golf, Soul, and GTI »

2018 Golf Performance

How Does the 2018 Volkswagen Golf Drive?

The Golf's peppy turbocharged engine combines with its go-cart-like handling to produce a fun-to-drive dynamic rarely seen at this level from a compact car. The Golf R delivers serious horsepower but tends to be quite pricey. If the base four-cylinder engine isn't lively enough for you, consider the 2018 Golf GTI, which is a more affordable alternative.

  • Base engine: 170-horsepower turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder
  • Available engine: 292-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder
  • Drivetrain: standard front-wheel drive; standard all-wheel drive in Golf R
  • Transmission: standard five-speed manual in Golf; available six-speed automatic in Golf; standard six-speed manual in Golf R; available seven-speed dual-clutch automatic in Golf R
Does the 2018 Volkswagen Golf Get Good Gas Mileage?

The base Golf's fuel economy rating is a couple of miles per gallon lower than the class average. Driving the Golf R adds an additional $550, on average, to your fuel expenses each year due to its more powerful engine and all-wheel drive.

  • 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, FWD: 24/33 mpg city/highway
  • 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, AWD: 22/29 mpg
2018 Volkswagen Golf Alternative Fuels and Charging

The e-Golf has a 125-mile range on a full charge and a 119 MPGe rating. It comes with a 134-horsepower electric motor, a single-speed transmission, and a lithium-ion battery pack. Comparing charging costs to gasoline, the e-Golf will cost the average driver about $1,000 a year less than the base Golf.

The charging time depends on the method used:

  • 220-volt charging station: 5 hours and 18 minutes for full charge
  • DC Fast Charging: 60 minutes for 80% charge

To understand more about how the plug-in and electric models stack up against gas-only cars, check out What is MPGe?

Read more about Golf performance »

2018 Golf Interior

How Many People Does the 2018 Golf Seat?

The 2018 Golf is a four-door hatchback that seats five people. Between the high-quality materials and excellent sound insulation, this upscale cabin is more luxury-like than most compact cars. Its seats are well-cushioned, and they’re supportive enough to keep your crew feeling relaxed during a full day of traveling. Adults can reasonably ride in the back seat, though the seats in this zone don't offer as much space or comfort as some rivals.

Standard seating features:

  • cloth upholstery
  • six-way partial power-adjustable front seats

Available seating features:

  • synthetic leather upholstery
  • heated front seats
  • sport seats with leather seating surfaces
How Many Child Car Seats Fit in the 2018 Volkswagen Golf?

The 2018 Golf has two complete sets of LATCH car-seat connectors on the rear outboard seats and an upper tether on the rear middle seat. The system is relatively straightforward, and it earned the second-highest rating of Acceptable from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for ease of use.

2018 Volkswagen Golf Features

The Golf comes with an easy-to-use infotainment system that's accompanied by an assortment of straightforward knobs and buttons. The touch screen, though a little small, is responsive.

  • Standard infotainment features: an infotainment system with a 6.5-inch touch screen, an eight-speaker audio system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a USB port, Bluetooth, and VW's Car-Net, which allows you to make, receive, and reply to text messages via voice commands
  • Available infotainment features: an upgraded infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen, a Fender premium audio system, satellite radio, HD Radio, and a navigation system
  • Other available features: push-button start, a sunroof, and dual-zone automatic climate control

See 2018 Volkswagen Golf specs »

Read more about Golf interior »

2018 Volkswagen Golf Dimensions

Volkswagen Golf Cargo Space

Not only is cargo space generous in the Golf, but it's convenient as well, thanks to the low liftover height and flat cargo floor. Regular Golf models have 22.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the seats and up to 53.7 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. Golf R and e-Golf models have a maximum cargo volume of 52.7 cubic feet, still among the largest in the compact car class.

These cargo dimensions are for comparative purposes. There is no substitute for visually examining the storage area in any car you’re considering.

2018 Volkswagen Golf Length and Weight
  • Length: 13 feet, 11.6 inches to 14 feet
  • Curb weight: 2,945 to 3,455 pounds
  • Gross vehicle weight rating: 4,101 to 4,453 pounds

Where Was the 2018 Volkswagen Golf Built?

Volkswagen built the Golf in Mexico and the Golf R and e-Golf in Germany.

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