2020 Volkswagen Golf
2020 Volkswagen Golf
The 2020 Volkswagen Golf is a compact hatchback with responsive and firm handling, fantastic cargo space, and a legendary sport hatchback edition, the GTI.
For 2020 the Golf has been cut to just three versions, including the electric e-Golf, since a redesign is coming in 2021. Gone are the highly rational SportWagen, the super-versatile Alltrack wagon, and the very high-performance Golf R.
The base front-wheel-drive Golf uses a 147-horsepower, 1.4-liter turbo-4 that pairs with either a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic transmission to enable brisk acceleration. The ride is better than the standard for compact cars.
The Golf GTI’s 228-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 works well with either the standard 6-speed manual or great 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. A limited-slip front differential reduces torque steer to keep the acceleration and handling linear and trouble-free. Few small cars offer thrills like the polished and perfected GTI.
The all-electric e-Golf is the model that might change the most in 2021, as its range is just 125 miles. Around town, the e-Golf is still zippy.
The Golf with the base engine and either the manual or automatic transmission is EPA-rated at 29/37/32 mpg, on regular fuel. The GTI gets 25 mpg city, 31 highway, 27 combined with the automatic transmission, and 24/32/27 mpg with the standard 6-speed manual. VW recommends premium fuel to get the optimum engine performance, but it’s not required.
The NHTSA gives the Golf five stars in safety, with four stars for frontal crash and calculated rollover. The insurance industry-funded IIHS gives the 2020 Golf its top “Good” rating in most categories, but only an Acceptable in the small-overlap passenger-side test that simulates impact with an object such as a telephone pole. The IIHS says that the standard halogen headlights on the Golf are “Poor,” but it hasn’t tested the optional LEDs.
Standard safety equipment includes automatic emergency braking, and GTIs offer adaptive cruise control.
The base Golf is called the Value Edition, while the GTI has two models, the S and SE, and e-Golf has the SE and SEL Premium.
The Value Edition lives up to its name, with synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, a 6.5-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, automatic emergency braking, a sunroof, and keyless ignition.
The Golf GTI S comes equipped like the base Golf but with cloth sport seats and blind-spot monitors. Golf SEs add leather and an 8.0-inch touchscreen, while an Autobahn package throws in navigation, Fender speakers, and more.
The e-Golf SE is like the GTI SE. The SEL Premium adds a digital instrument cluster, a 9.2-inch touchscreen for infotainment with gesture controls, and a few other high-tech features.
VW’s warranty drops this year from 6 years/72,000 miles to 4 years/50,000 miles.
The five-door 2020 Volkswagen Golf has a simple, unadorned look that has aged well.
The 16-inch alloy wheels on the Value Edition look small in the wheel wells. The GTI uses 18-inch wheels, a body kit, and hints of red exterior trim. The e-Golfs have their own wheel designs and a different grille, but except for that look the same. That’s part of their appeal, at least for buyers turned off by the futuristic look of most electric cars.
The Golf’s interior materials are better than most. The wide dashboard is businesslike, and cants slightly toward the driver. Painted plastic trim covers the dash and door panels. Durable and easy-cleaning synthetic leather upholstery comes standard on the Value Edition, while GTIs use charming plaid cloth on the base S or leather on the SE. The e-Golf offers a configurable digital instrument cluster but otherwise mirrors the others. Touchscreens range from 6.5 to 8.0 inches and feature standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
The supportive front seats offer a wide range of adjustment and are heated on most versions. GTIs have seats with more bolstering, but they’re not too tight for wide backs. The second row provides a decent 35.6 inches of leg room, while head room is about 38 inches in both rows.
The Golf has a small footprint, stretching just 168 inches from bumper to bumper, but it feels much larger inside. There is nearly 23 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat, and when it’s folded an impressive 53.7 cubic feet becomes available. That easily beats crossover SUVs such as the Chevrolet Trax and Mazda CX-3. The e-Golf gets the same, as its battery pack doesn’t intrude.
In the base Golf Value Edition, the 147-horsepower 1.4-liter turbo-4 provides adequate acceleration, with the turbo being there for highway passing. The standard 6-speed manual transmission is excellent and fun, while the available and more prevalent 8-speed automatic shifts crisply and predictably. The base Golf rides on 16-inch alloy wheels whose tires with tall sidewalls do a good job of absorbing bumps, leading to a composed ride.
The GTI uses a 228-horsepower turbo-4 that provides thrilling acceleration, and works well with the standard 6-speed manual, but exceptionally well with the optional 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. You can feel the turbo’s thrust when you floor it.
The ride is impressive and the handling is fun. The tall 18-inch wheels have grippy summer tires that bring happiness to winding country roads. A GTI with winter tires makes good use of its standard limited-slip front differential to bring confidence to snowy roads.
The e-Golf’s electric motor puts out 134 horsepower and 214 pound-feet of torque, while its lithium-ion battery is rated at 35.8 kwh. With no lag from the single-speed transmission, it’s quick, up to a point. It will keep up with highway traffic, although running at higher speeds significantly cuts into its already small electric range of 125 miles. Drivers who live near high-speed chargers can top a depleted battery to 80 percent charge in about an hour.
The 2020 VW Golf is as solid as compact hatchbacks come. It’s well built, has a taut ride and composed handling, feels roomy inside, and offers a choice of three engines and three transmissions. The GTI with a strong turbo-4 engine and sharp 7-speed twin-clutch transmission is impressive.
—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection