$15,451 - $29,362

2018 Volkswagen Golf Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 8.5

The 2018 Volkswagen Golf is one of the stronger performers in the class. It offers energetic gas engines plus an electric powertrain option. Gas mileage is below average but athleticism is decidedly not, as the Golf is more maneuverable and responsive than many rivals. It also provides a comfortable ride.

  • In terms of driving dynamics, the Golf lineup doesn't drive much different than the previous model year, except for the Golf GTI and Golf R." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "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 Golf features a 170-horsepower, turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is available. This engine feels powerful compared to some rivals’ engines, and it provides relatively quick acceleration. However, there is noticeable turbo lag. One gripe with the automatic transmission is that it can sometimes hesitate to downshift when you need more power.

The Golf R offers more muscle for those who are so inclined. It comes with a 292-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is available. This powertrain certainly makes the Golf feel sportier, but know that the Golf R trim costs nearly double the price of the base trim.

The Golf gets an EPA-estimated 24 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway with the base engine and the automatic transmission. Those are below-average numbers for a compact car. The Golf R’s ratings are slightly worse: 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.

There’s also the Volkswagen e-Golf. It features a 134-horsepower electric motor and has a range of 125 miles. According to the EPA, it earns a combined city/highway rating of 119 mpg-e.

The Golf GTI slots between the base model and the Golf R. To read more, check out our full review of the Volkswagen GTI.

  • The new 1.8-liter turbo does the job nicely, propelling the Golf 0-60 mph in 8.7 seconds with the automatic. In everyday driving, response can feel a bit hesitant initially if you feather the throttle, but the engine provides effortless motivation overall, with a healthy mid-range punch. The six-speed automatic, on the other hand, is not the slickest. Upshifts are mostly smooth and timely, but suburban driving with frequent changes in speed can result in some jerkiness. We measured 28 mpg overall on regular fuel -- not stellar for the class." -- Consumer Reports
  • "Thanks to the 170 hp on tap from its turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the 2017 Volkswagen Golf feels more powerful than most other small hatchbacks or sedans. The punchy engine makes overtaking cars on the highway uneventful, with smooth, quick downshifts coming from the snappy automatic transmission." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • 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)

Handling and Braking

Front-wheel drive comes standard in the VW Golf. Golf R models come with all-wheel drive. This is one of the most fun-to-drive compact cars. It’s maneuverable and nimble, with sharp steering. Add it up, and you have a car that’s great to drive around the city but also relishes a winding road. Even better, the Golf’s handling doesn’t come at the expense of ride quality. It rides smoothly most of the time, and the brakes provide good stopping power.

  • "The Golf is one of the most fun to drive compacts. It tackles corners enthusiastically, with quick and precise turn-in response. Body motions are kept in check, and the pliant suspension helps keep the Golf on course even in bumpy corners. On the track, the Golf was fun and forgiving, with good cornering grip and balance." -- Consumer Reports
  • "On a typical commute, the 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 see out of and park in tight spaces. Around turns, the Golf goes where you point it, but it's not particularly sporty. Competitors such as the Civic, Focus and Mazda 3 feel tauter and are generally more fun to drive with enthusiasm." -- Edmunds (2017)
  • "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)

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