Redesigned and improved from the platform up, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf and 2015 Volkswagen GTI mark the beginning of the seventh generation of these compact, front-wheel-drive cars. The all-new 2015 Golf is bigger, lighter and more powerful and starts at a slightly lower price compared with 2014 models.
Volkswagen sees the Golf lineup as the core of its brand, and as such, has spawned a number of variants and powertrains: Gasoline-powered Golf TSI and peppy GTI models come in two- and four-door body styles, and the four-door Golf TDI offers efficient diesel power. These are to be followed with the all-electric Golf-e, the high-performance, 290-hp Golf R, and the roomy SportWagon, the latter of which rides on the Golf platform with the body of a more traditional station wagon.
All gasoline-powered 2015 Golf models use an updated version of VW's 1.8-liter turbocharged, direct-injected inline-4, good for 170 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque. And while other carmakers seem to be dropping manual transmissions, Volkswagen keeps its standard 5-speed manual as well as an optional 6-speed automatic. Fuel economy is EPA-estimated 25/37 mpg City/Highway with the manual and 25/36 mpg City/Highway with the automatic.
Whether in two- or four-door styles, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf is fun to drive, with a ride that's firm but still comfortable.
The Golf TDI Clean Diesel uses an updated version of VW's turbocharged 2.0-liter direct-injected inline-4, which makes 150 hp and 236 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission (DSG). It's smooth and quiet, and achieves good fuel economy, as expected from a diesel: 31/45 mpg City/Highway with the manual transmission. Volkswagen dropped the starting price of the 2015 Golf TDI by more than $3,000 compared with the previous model, but not without compromises. For one, the Golf TDI loses its sportier (and more expensive) multi-link rear suspension in favor of a less sophisticated torsion beam rear setup, which we found to be much less composed on the road. On the plus side, the new packaging also allows more space than before, bringing total cargo capacity in line with other 2015 Golf models.
The GTI, which Volkswagen claims inspired the hot hatch segment, is as good as ever with its 210-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged power plant, bigger brakes, sport-tuned suspension and precise steering. A new performance package adds even more agility and grip thanks to an electronically controlled electronic slip differential, the first of its kind on a front-wheel-drive vehicle. Fuel economy understandably slips a bit compared to its tamer Golf counterparts, at 25/34 mpg City/Highway with the manual and 25/33 mpg City/Highway with the automatic.
Underneath all these models lies a new architecture, VW's MQB platform, which is flexible enough to accommodate a variety of powertrains and body shapes from the ground-up, instead of forcing engineers to shoehorn in modifications that can take up space (such as the battery pack in the electric e-Golf).
Inside, all 2015 Golf models get comfortable seats, a tasteful interior with thoughtfully placed controls, a new standard touchscreen and plenty of space for people and cargo. We found even the tallest drivers are comfortable in the back seat, with ample headroom and sufficient legroom. Cargo space measures 22.8 cubic feet, and the Golf's boxier shape allows stuff to be stacked nearly all the way to the roof.
Competitors to the 2015 Volkswagen Golf include hatchback versions of the Ford Focus, Kia Forte, Mazda3, and the Hyundai Elantra GT. Alternatives to the GTI include the Ford Focus ST and Honda Civic Si. Golf TDI models are in a class by themselves; looking for diesel power would have to go to a four-door sedan like the Chevrolet Cruze diesel, or step up to a more expensive luxury vehicle like the BMW 328d SportWagen.
The 2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI is powered by a 1.8-liter turbocharged, direct-injected inline-4 that makes 170 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque.
Golf Launch Edition ($17,995) comes only in the 2-door body style with a 5-speed manual transmission. Standard features include manually operated air conditioning, cloth upholstery, power windows/door locks/outside mirrors, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, manually adjustable seats with lumbar, Bluetooth connectivity, touch screen display, audio system with CD player, satellite radio capability and iPod integration, rear wiper, split folding rear seats with center armrest and pass-through, dual exhaust tips and 15-inch steel wheels.
Golf S is available as a 2-door with a 5-speed manual transmission ($18,995) or with a 6-speed automatic ($20,095). A 4-door body style is equipped with the automatic transmission only ($20,695). Additional standard features include leatherette upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with multifunction controls, leather-wrapped shift knob and handbrake lever, cruise control and VW Car-Net connected features. Wheels are 15-inch alloys. Four-door Golf S models can also come equipped with a power sunroof.
Golf SE ($24,495) is available only as a four-door model and comes with the 6-speed automatic transmission, heated front seats, Fender premium audio system, rain-sensing headlights, heated front washer nozzles, automatic headlights, front foglights and 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels.
Golf SEL ($26,995) also comes exclusively in the 4-door style with the automatic transmission and adds automatic climate control, keyless entry, pushbutton start, sport comfort seats with 12-way power driver's seat, ambient lighting with LED interior reading lights and 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels.
Golf TDI models are available in the four-door body style only and are powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter direct-injected inline-4, which makes 150 hp and 236 lb.-ft. of torque.
Golf TDI S models include all standard features found on Golf S, with a choice of either a five-speed manual ($21,995) or a 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission ($23,095).
Golf TDI SE models can be equipped with a 6-speed manual ($25,495) or DSG ($26,595) add the Fender premium audio system, heated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, front foglights, rearview camera, heated front washer nozzles a power sunroof and 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels.
Golf TDI SEL manual ($27,995) and DSG ($29,995) trims add automatic climate control, keyless entry, pushbutton start, sport comfort seats with 12-way power driver's seat, ambient lighting with LED interior reading lights and 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels.
Options include the Driver Assistance Package ($695), which adds front and rear parking sensors and forward collision warning.
GTI models are powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 that produces 210 hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. It's available in a 2-door body style with a 6-speed manual ($24,395) or 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual, or DSG ($24,995), or as a 4-door with the same manual ($25,495) or DSG ($26,095) gearboxes. Standard features on the GTI include manually operated air conditioning, cloth upholstery, manually adjustable seats with lumbar support (4-door models get partial power front seats), power windows/door locks/outside mirrors, a manual tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, leather-wrapped steering wheel with multifunction controls, leather-wrapped shift knob and handbrake lever, ambient lighting with LED reading lights, adjustable driving modes, cruise control, touchscreen display, audio system with CD player, satellite radio capability and iPod interface, Bluetooth connectivity, VW Car-Net connected services, split-folding rear seats with center armrest and pass-through, a lowered sport suspension, dual chrome-look exhaust tips, rear spoiler, red brake calipers and 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels.
Golf GTI SE 2-door manual ($27,395), 2-door automatic ($28,495), 4-door manual ($27,995) and 4-door automatic ($29,095) add leather upholstery, keyless entry, pushbutton start, the Fender premium audio system, a power sunroof, rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights. Four door models get partial power seats.
Golf GTI Autobahn manual ($29,595) and automatic ($30,695) models add automatic climate control, a 12-way power driver's seat and navigation.
Options for the 2015 Volkswagen GTI include a Performance Package ($1,495), which bumps up horsepower by 10 hp for a total of 220 hp and adds larger brakes and a torque-sensing limited-slip differential which electronically adjusts power to wheels while cornering for increased grip.
Safety equipment on all models includes dual front airbags, front seat-mounted side impact airbags, side air curtain airbags, antilock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, electronic stability control and hill-hold assist.