Volkswagen Golf

The 2013 Volkswagen Golf is offered in 2- or 4-door hatchback models, both with a choice between two engines, one gasoline, the other diesel. The gasoline choice, which is lower-priced, is a 170-horsepower, 2.5L 5-cylinder, while clean-diesel fans will like the 2.0L turbo-diesel 'TDI' 4-cylinder. Two-door gasoline models come with a 5-speed manual. A 6-speed automatic is optional, but is standard equipment on the 4-door models. Meanwhile, Golf TDI models come with a 6-speed manual or 6-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic. Both automatics include Tiptronic manual mode, while the DSG shifts much quicker than a typical automatic. TDI models achieve much better gas mileage, with EPA ratings of up to 30 mpg city, 42 mpg highway.

With its excellent variable-assist electromechanical power rack-and-pinion steering, strut-type front suspension and fully-independent rear suspension, the Golf is tuned to feel responsive, which goes well with this compact hatchback's maneuverability and parking ease. Four-wheel disc brakes provide strong stopping power, and electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes are included across the model line. The Golf also rides quieter and with more refinement than other on-a-budget hatches.

The 2013 Golf's interior exceeds expectations for those seeking basic transportation, as it adds a little more pizzazz than other hatchbacks in its price range. The instrument panel and door trims are nicely detailed, and there are plenty of soft-touch surfaces. Front seats are adjustable for height and lumbar and 4-door models get a power recline feature. Rear seats are just spacious enough for most adults and seatbacks are split 60/40 and fold forward to expand cargo space up to 46 cubic feet; otherwise with them up, there's 15.2 cubic feet--about enough for a standard load of groceries.

With a simplified model lineup this year, the base Golf now includes power windows and locks, cruise control, air conditioning, a trip computer, a rear wiper and washer, steel wheels and an 8-speaker system with an auxiliary input. A Convenience Package adds heated front seats, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and a front armrest, while a top level adds a sunroof, premium sound, SIRIUS satellite radio and iPod interface.

Golf TDI models come standard with more-- including 17-inch alloy wheels, heated washer nozzles, and footwell lighting--while a sunroof and navigation system come with a middle trim. Loaded TDI models include a Tech Package with bi-xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, a Dynaudio sound system and push-button start.

Editors' Review

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The Golf is a hallmark of Volkswagen's lineup. It's been sold in some form or another since 1974, changing its name to Rabbit on occasion depending on the market. And though our love for this car tends to focus on the hotter GTI and R variants, as well as the electric E-Golf, a week with the standard version reminds me that even the most basic Golf is still a sprightly and entertaining little car.

For 2019, the Golf is only available as a five-door hatch (the three-door model was discontinued for the 2017 model year) and you can buy it in base S or upgraded SE trims, the latter of which is pictured here. The old 1.8-liter turbo-four engine has been replaced by a smaller, 1.4-liter turbocharged I4, which is the same one used in the new Jetta sedan. A new, six-speed manual transmission is standard, which is what I'm testing here. An eight-speed automatic is also available for 2019.

With 147 horsepower, the 1.4T engine is less powerful than its 1.8T predecessor, but it makes up for that horsepower discrepancy with a healthy 184 pound-feet of torque. Plus, every Golf comes with Volkswagen's XDS cross-differential system, which brakes individual front wheels to better manage power delivery. The XDS reduces understeer and sharpens up the Golf's reflexes, while the light but direct steering allows me to chuck this little guy into a corner. This makes the Golf one of the most fun-to-drive cars you can buy for less than $25,000.

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The Good The 2019 VW Golf offers lots of hatchback practicality in a fun-to-drive package. Starting just under $22,000, it's super affordable, too.

The Bad The interior looks and feels outdated, and the infotainment tech isn't as robust as what's offered elsewhere in the compact hatch segment.

The Bottom Line The Golf offers solid value and performance for less than $25,000. Get one before it's gone.

Editors' Rating
  • Performance 7.5
  • Features 8
  • Design 7
  • Media 7

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