The 2015 Volkswagen Golf is the best car for you if you believe in German engineering and trust Volkswagen to deliver it. This is the all-new, seventh-generation of a compact hatchback that’s Volkswagen’s best-selling car around the world — but No. 2 in the U.S., to Jetta sedan. Americans are just not hatchback people. They would be, if it were up to us. Redesigned from stem to stern with vastly improved engines, the 2015 Golf and its sporty GTI cousin are understated and versatile. They’re also economical and fun to drive. In short, they’re everything a great hatchback ought to be. But Volkswagen still ranks below average in independent surveys of overall dependability. Should that bother you? I’m Chuck Giametta. Join me for a CarPreview video review of the 2015 Volkswagen Golf and GTI. Redesigned for the first time since model-year 2010, Golf returns in a choice of two or four doors and expands its lineup to absorb the former Jetta station wagon.It’s now the Golf SportWagen. Making its debut is the fully electric eGolf hatchback. And the sporty side is again well represented… This is the 2015 GTI, the enthusiast’s choice in the Golf lineup, at least until early 2015 when the Golf R arrives with all-wheel drive and around 290 horsepower. Meantime, the GTI with its 10-horsepower turbocharged engine and performance-tuned suspension is Volkswagen’s best hope in the hot-hatch category. Serving a global audience keeps Golf’s design conservative, so the latest styling is evolutionary,though more aerodynamic.A slimmer grille and sleeker headlamps modernize the nose. The GTI and R models get their own appearance touches. So does the eGolf. It’s the first VW in America with energy-saving LED headlights. Golf’s wheelbase – that’s the distance between the front and rear axles – is an inch longer than before. The body is slightly longer and wider, and the roofline an inch lower. Four adults do ride in greater comfort. There’s a welcome sense of spaciousness in back, although three across is still a squeeze. The new dashboard gives all models a 5.8-inch touchscreen to display audio and other information. It also serves the available navigation system, and for that it’s a little small — especially given the less-than-hi-def graphics. If you can wait for the 2016 Golf, it’ll have an eight-inch touchscreen. No complaints about cabin materials. They’re classy and upscale — even in the basic trim levels. Only
cheap-feeling climate controls spoil the mood. What’s beneath the body is significant. It’s a new structure, essentially a compilation of building blocks VW can mix and match to suit a variety of cars and crossovers.It’s called the MQB platform – a rough translation of modular transverse matrix — transverse referring to the crossways positioning of the engine. Designed for simpler, more economical manufacturing, MQB is more sophisticated than the structure of VW’s Jetta sedan, though it’ll be used for the next-generation Jetta, as well as the next Beetle and Passat — and VW’s upcoming seven-passenger crossover. It’s already shared with the redesigned A3 from Volkswagen’s premium Audi brand. Golf again features gas and diesel engines – each is turbocharged and has four cylinders. Replacing a five-cylinder as the base engine is one-point-eight-liter four with more torque and better fuel economy.Models with it carry the TSI badge and have a five-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. The GTI returns with two-liters but has 10 more horsepower and an additional 51 pound-feet of torque. It uses a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. So do the TDI models, which introduce a new, smoother-running turbodiesel with more power and better mileage. With its refined engines and new platform, Golf reasserts itself as the compact for drivers who recognize all-around excellence. Even mainstream TSI versions deliver a rare balance of ride control and responsive handling. Acceleration with the base engine or the diesel is more than adequate in any traffic situation.And these hatchbacks and wagons are as composed on the highway as many larger, more expensive cars. The GTI is a joy. It hones Golf’s attributes to an athlete’s edge. It’s best savored with the manual transmission. The dual clutch is fine when you’re in a spirited mood and use its paddle shifters or sport mode. Left in drive, it’s a rougher-shifting substitute for a conventional automatic. Granted, the GTI isn’t as outright fast as direct rivals.But its acceleration isn’t compromised by torque steer, as in, say a Ford Focus ST. And it doesn’t make you suffer a punishing ride in exchange for maximum cornering grip, like a Subaru WRX. We won’t say the GTI is the one to choose if you favor finesse over fast. It’s still plenty fast. Let’s just say it’s for the more mature driver. The eGolf’s helps VW meet
zero-emissions-vehicle quotas in east- and west-coast states – the only places in the U.S. it’ll be sold. Routine driving gets you ninety miles on a single charge. Replenishing a depleted battery takes under four hours on a two-hundred-forty-volt charger. A DC fast-charging station can restore the lithium-ion battery to 80 percent in 30 minutes. The battery alone weighs seven-hundred pounds, but, interestingly, the eGolf is just seventy pounds heavier than a comparable gas Golf. The opposite end the Golf spectrum is the R.The American-market incarnation of this cult favorite comes only as a four-door and scoots to sixty in 4.9 seconds — more than a second quicker than a GTI, according to VW. Every other Golf, including the SportWagen, has front-wheel drive. The R has all-wheel drive for added grip off the line and in corners. A lowered suspension, leather sport seats, and R-specific gauges are part of the experience. So is the utility of a hatchback design. Two doors or four, gas, diesel or electric, there’s 23 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the rear seat – seven more than the Jetta’s huge trunk.Folding the seatback opens a class-leading 53 cubic feet — more than in some compact SUVs. The R has a little less luggage space. But moving to the MQB platform increases the SportWagen’s cargo volume by 10 percent, to about 33 cubic feet, or around 70 with the rear seatbacks folded. Every 2015 Golf projects the air of a premium small car — and prices, to some extent, reflect that. VW considers this a step up from the Jetta and charges as much as $2,000 more for comparable versions of the Golf. The Golf is also slightly more expensive than hatchback editions of the Focus, Impreza, and Hyundai Elantra. It has that in common with another compact hatch with upmarket aspirations, the Mazda 3. The exception here is the TDI. It starts roughly $3,000 below its 2014 counterpart — a notable price cut on yet another cult model. Every Golf comes with power heated mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, and satellite radio. All side windows power up and down with one touch. Ascending the model ladder brings features like navigation, moonroof, bi-xenon headlamps, parking and forward-collision alerts, heated front seats, rearview camera, aluminum interior trim , automatic climate control, and pushbutton ignition.And unlike the Jetta, Golf is available with leather upholstery. There’s great value here if your values
align with those of VW. If that includes top-notch reliability — a sore spot for this brand in the past be encouraged that VW has high hopes for the new plant in Mexico that’s replaced Germany as the source of most Golfs for the U.S. Volkswagen knows it must improve dependability. Interestingly, the brand gets top customer ratings for dealer service. Perhaps familiarity breeds content… Our conclusion? The new Golf and GTI have earned a place on your compact-car shopping list. For more on cars, trucks and SUVs, go to CarPreview.com. .