The Golf delivers a great driving experience and what is reputed to be a very satisfactory ownership experience.
The 2018 Volkswagen Golf Highline comes packed with lots of standard features regardless of trim level. Things like AppConnect (which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth), ESC (electronic stability control), power adjustable and heated mirrors, and rear view camera are all standard, just to name a few. The Golf is a tight little package that is hard to find faults with. For this year, the Golf gets a mid-cycle refresh over last year’s model, with optional LED headlights, newly designed front and rear fasciae, LED taillights, and imitation exhaust diffusers.
The Golf is a great all-round car that’s perfect for every day commuting, short trips, long trips, and just about anything your day might throw at you. Comfort and quality are just what you’d expect from Volkswagen, with spacious front and rear seating that’s very comfortable and simply designed. The front seats hug you just enough, and support in all the right places with adjustable lumbar support. There is ample head and legroom in the rear so even your passengers can remain comfortable as well. Quality goes into the interior components, everything feels nice to the touch, and ergonomically everything seems to be right where it should. Even the submenus within the infotainment system are easy to navigate and understand.
Combined rated fuel economy for the 1.8 TSI with the automatic transmission is 8.1L/100KM, and I was able to significantly surpass that with a whopping 6.5L/100KM over the course of our test. Granted, this was mostly highway driving, but there was still a significant amount of traffic on. The 1.8LTSI engine (TSI stands for “Turbocharged Stratified Engine”, which is a fancy way of saying it combines turbocharging and direct injection) produces 170 horsepower, and 199 lb-ft. of torque with the six-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission, and 184 lb-ft. when optioned with the five-speed manual transmission.
The Golf itself is plenty nimble for all sorts of driving and given its light weight, it’s both surprisingly quick and gracefully comfortable. You’re able to further amplify this in the Infotainment system, simply by selecting one of the four driving modes you wish to assume (Eco, Normal, Comfort and Sport). The different modes adjust the engine tuning, transmission shift points and steering weight to give you the driving style you desire.
As for handling, the Golf is underpinned by the excellent MQB platform that has been in several Volkswagen products dating back to 2015, including the large Atlas SUV (reviewed here). Volkswagen has spent roughly 60 billion dollars developing this platform and it has been seen on Audi applications as well. The result of this investment is a chassis that handles really quite well and offers plenty of rigidity, making driving a pleasure regardless of driving style, a smooth and comfortable ride that gives good road feedback without compromising comfort.
On this particular tester, the Highline model, standard features include 17” Karlskoga-style alloy wheels, ambient lighting which includes the footwell, 12-way power driver’s seat, leather sport seats, LED reading lights front and rear, 8” Discover media touchscreen infotainment system with an eight-speaker Fender premium audio system, adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection with rear traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring and lane assist, automatic high beams, park assist, and park distance control.
Volkswagen’s Lane Assist system works much better than other vehicles I’ve tested in that it actually keeps you in between the lines. If you don’t use your turn signal when changing lanes, the car will give quite a bit of resistance from the steering wheel, stopping you from making your lane change. This system is always on; not just when cruise control is on like other systems. It also only lets you have about 30 seconds before the system intervenes and forces you to put your hands on the steering wheel.
Impressive technology in the Golf doesn’t stop at Lane Assist; the aforementioned park assist works superbly well. I was able to back into a parking space with ease, without having practiced it before hand, or needing to consult the owner’s manual. I simply pulled past the parking space I wished to choose, turned on the turn signal, pressed the park assist button located next to the gear selector, then moved the gear selector into reverse. The only thing left to do is to take your hands off the wheel, and modulate the brake pedal. The Golf is also able to parallel park with the park assist feature, which I unfortunately did not get an opportunity to try.
Competition for the Golf includes strong players such as the Honda Civic (reviewed here), Mazda3 Sport (reviewed here), and the soon-to-launch Toyota Corolla Hatchback. The Golf has always been a very heavy hitter in the compact hatchback segment, offering near-premium levels of feel and overall fit and finish when compared to its Japanese, Korean and North American rivals. This still holds true with the latest model, and upscale features such as a large sunroof and a fully digital (and customizable) instrument cluster only go to added lengths to add to the car’s premium appeal.
Pricing for the 2018 Golf starts at $19,595 for the three-door Trendline, and the five-door tested here starts at $22,295. The loaded Highline only comes in five-door form and starts at $29,095, adding powered leather seats, satellite navigation and more. Adding the six-speed automatic brings the sticker to $30,495. Options include the Light Package for $795 which adds LED headlights, and the $1,750 Driver Assistance Package for active safety such as adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking. The total sticker is a hefty $33,040, slightly higher than the Honda Civic Touring (reviewed here).
The 2018 Volkswagen Golf Highline is still an expensive choice, but you definitely get the quality you pay for. Though built in Mexico now, the Golf sees no obvious cost-cutting measures and delivers a great driving experience and what is reputed to be a very satisfactory ownership experience. The redesigned 2019 Jetta (reviewed here) has just arrived too, and is also a very viable choice if the hatchback body style is not for you. Regardless of where you end up in the Golf family, from the environmentally-conscious e-Golf to the 300-horsepower Golf R, you’re in a good place.