Volkswagen has made lots of changes for the 2017 Golf, most significant being the elimination of SE and SEL models.
That leaves only the four-door hatchback, available in S and Wolfsburg Edition models, which replace the SE and SEL.
Optional adaptive cruise control and automated parking have been eliminated, along with lighting and driver assistance packages. The S trim can no longer be ordered with a sunroof.
This consolidation from four to two trims has resulted in lower prices for the remaining models – approximately $300 less for the base S model with manual transmission, and at least $2,530 less for the new Wolfsburg Edition. Only the SE’s Fender audio system and 17-inch wheels did not make the transition.
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Models now include the entry-level S for $19,895, and Wolfsburg for $21,595, both with a five-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic and Sport mode adds $1,100 to either one.
Both models have a 170-horsepower compact turbocharged direct-injection 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine. Models with the manual transmission are EPA rated at 25 mpg city/36 highway, with a rating of 25/35 for the automatic transmission.
Introduced in 2015, the seventh-generation Golf has the distinctive C-pillar and roofline framing the classic Golf side windows. This generation is set apart by a striking front end with sharper headlight clusters, narrower single-fin grille and steeply sloped hood with a deep crease leading up from the headlight/grille junction to the A-pillar.
A slight crease flows from the outer edge of the headlight along the beltline, with another line from the front quarter to the rear quarter under the door handles.
This generation of Golf is also 2.1-inches longer, 0.5-inches wider, and 1.1-inches shorter from top to bottom. The front wheels sit 1.7-inches further forward, which gives Golf a premium “cab backward” appearance. Altogether, this Golf has a lower visual center of gravity and a more-dynamic stance, along with improved aerodynamics, thanks to the new design.
Seven exterior colors are offered, including Night Blue Metallic, Tornado Red, and Platinum Gray Metallic (the color of my Golf). Interiors come in Titan Black or Beige V-Tex imitation leather, depending on the exterior color chosen.
My Golf had black; beige is not available with Platinum Gray. The S model comes with 15-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with all-season tires, while the Wolfsburg has 16-inch wheels. Special wheels are also available in 16-, 17-, and 18-inches from $716 to $1,520.
My Golf was a discontinued SEL model, which has been replaced by the Wolfsburg Edition, with a couple of changes. SEL had 18-inch alloy wheels, while Wolfsburg has 16-inch wheels. My tester had the discontinued adaptive cruise control, and driver assistance and lighting package.
Interior plastic surfaces were soft to the touch, buttons and switches were located within arm’s length, simple and intuitive. The front seats were ample, while leaving plenty of room for rear passengers with 35.6 inches of legroom – although the low-mounted seat cushions and the large driveshaft tunnel were a bit uncomfortable for a long-legged teen.
With the center stack angled toward the driver – a design usually seen in premium luxury or performance vehicles – and the position of the seat, height of the shifter and spacing between the pedals ergonomically designed, the cockpit was optimized for usability. Backlit controls and trim pieces in Piano Black and carbon fiber added to the upscale ambience.
A standard 6.5-inch touch screen (with pinch and swipe function and proximity sensor) seemed a bit small by 2017 standards, but the intuitive menu structure and large virtual buttons made up for that minor shortcoming.
Standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirror Link (currently only for Android) functionality were another plus, allowing integration, display, and use of compatible apps from a connected smartphone, including Spotify and Audible.
The standard MIB II infotainment system offered AUX-in, an SD card slot, HD radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio capability, and USB multimedia interface with iPhone and iPod integration, backup camera display, Bluetooth technology with audio streaming (able to sync two phones simultaneously), and a comprehensive suite of connected vehicle services and features in VW Car-Net. A Fender Premium Audio System brought eight speakers.
Car-Net features are divided in three key areas – app-connect (smartphone integration), security & service, and guide & inform (navigation and infotainment). Security & service allows owners to access their VW via computer, smartphone (remote door lock/unlock, honk and flash, last parked location, remote status check of doors and windows), or in-car button.
Security features include automatic crash notification, manual emergency call, roadside assistance, and stolen vehicle location assistance. A family guardian suite features speed alert and boundary alert. Vehicle health report alerts the owner when it is time for scheduled service and provides a simple way to schedule an appointment, even identifying the closest dealer.
Safety and driver assistance features included front assist with autonomous emergency braking (carries over to Wolfsburg with audible and visual forward collision warning), blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert, Intelligent Crash Response System (turns off fuel pump, unlocks doors, activates hazard lights if air bags are deployed), automatic post-collision braking, side curtain protection head impact air bags, LATCH for child seats, and rain-sensing front wipers with heated washer nozzles.
Structural safety comes in the form of anti-intrusion side door beams, crash-optimized front end and pedal controls, reinforced safety cage construction, and collapsible/deformable steering column/steering wheel.
Cargo space in the rear was ample for weekend luggage at 22.8 cubic feet (16.5 cubic feet with the cargo cover in place), opening up to a substantial 52.7 cubic feet with the 60/40 rear seatbacks folded flat and the cargo cover removed – enough room for a full-size bike.
The trunk floor could be moved up or down by 3.9 inches for even more storage. An armrest opened up a pass-through when lowered between the outboard seats.
Most of the features of my Golf are carried forward to the new Wolfsburg Edition, including a sunroof (manual cloth shade), heated front seats, paddle shifters for the automatic transmission, partial power front seats, and heated/power outside mirrors.
My Golf had excellent visibility, a smooth, quiet ride, and plenty of space for five passengers (though the middle rear seat legroom was somewhat compromised) and cargo (or lots of cargo without passengers).
The navigation system wasn’t complex, although a little practice in the driveway before taking off was in order.
For the base price of $27,995, $820 destination charges, and $1,995 for the discontinued driver assistance and lighting package, my well-appointed, economical “modern hatchback” delivered for $30,810.
A similarly equipped Wolfsburg (minus the $1,995 package), would deliver for around $24,000.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at email@example.com.