2019 Volkswagen Golf

Performance


#8 out of 13 in Compact Cars

MSRP
$21,845
U.S. News Best Price Program

2019 Volkswagen Golf Performance Review

Scorecard

Performance: 8.3

The 2019 Volkswagen Golf is a strong performer, with capable engines (including an all-electric powertrain), a comfortable ride, and athletic handling.

  • 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 (2018)
  • "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

There are multiple powertrains in this Volkswagen. The standard Golf has a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 147 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and an eight-speed automatic is available.

The performance-tuned Golf GTI, which we review separately, features a 2.0-liter turbo-four that produces 228 horsepower. For an even greater power bump, try the Golf R. It features a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine rated at 288 horsepower. Both the Golf GTI and Golf R come with a standard six-speed manual transmission, and a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is available. 

While the base engine provides decent acceleration, there’s some noticeable turbo lag. The Golf R feels much more energetic.

According to the EPA, the Golf with the base engine gets 29 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. Those are typical figures among compact cars. The Golf R is pricier at the pump. Not only does it have worse fuel efficiency, at 23/30 mpg, but it also runs on premium gasoline.

  • "With the swap to a new but smaller turbocharged 1.4-liter engine, the Golf loses some of its potency, but we expect efficiency gains. This is the same engine that powers the all-new Jetta sedan, and we enjoyed its outsized verve and high fuel economy in that VW. Also with the transplant are the Jetta’s new transmissions, either a 6-speed manual or an 8-speed automatic. Again, we are thoroughly impressed with these units. While manuals are going out of favor, this one is another reason to save them. It is light, easy to use and adds the kind of driver involvement that keeps you tuned to driving, not texting. The 8-speed automatic that most buyers will choose also stands out. It works seamlessly." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • As with most other modestly powered cars, the 2019 Golf had us hammering the gas pedal pretty often during everyday driving. But unlike most other modestly powered cars, the engine didn't thrash and scream in protest when we did so. … Only at the very upper reaches of the rev band does it start getting loud. Generally, the 1.4T is uncannily smooth and quiet in most of its operating range – a few times we had to check the tachometer at stoplights to see if it was running." -- Car and Driver

Handling and Braking

The Golf has a comfortable ride, and its suspension easily soaks up holes and dips in the road. This vehicle is somewhat athletic around corners too. Some critics say it has lively steering, though others say its numb steering keeps it from being as sporty as some rivals. Front-wheel drive is standard. All-wheel drive comes standard in the Golf R and unavailable in other models.

  • "While we have long touted the Golf's steering as lively, it now feels even more eager to change direction and offers genuine tactility transmitted through the steering wheel's thin, leather-wrapped rim. It also continues to track as well at high speeds as an Audi costing twice as much." -- Car and Driver
  • The drive is nimble yet solid, staying absolutely composed at higher speeds as well as completely comfortable. The steering is rather numb (a symptom of electric steering assistance), something that becomes more apparent through the turns. But the car is ready and eager to transition from one direction to the other." -- Autotrader
  • "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)

Alternative Fuels and Charging

The e-Golf has an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery that combine to produce 134 horsepower. It returns great mileage ratings of 126 MPGe in the city and 111 MPGe on the highway, and it can run on electricity alone for 125 miles. DC Fast Charging comes standard, which means you can charge up to 80 percent of the battery within an hour at a fast charging station. With the available 240-volt charging, it takes around six hours to fully recharge the battery.

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