Golf’s new TDI engine, included on my test car, produces 150 horsepower, up 10 from the previous generation, and is rated at 30 mpg in the city and 45 on the highway (36 combined), slightly better than before.
A six-speed manual or a six-speed DSG (direct shift gearbox) dual-clutch automatic transmission is available. An XDS Cross Differential System is standard and uses the brakes to help improve cornering performance.
This generation Golf is 2.1 inches longer, 0.5 inches wider, and 1.1 inches lower, with the front wheels now 1.7 inches farther forward, for a "cab backward" design, a lower visual center of gravity, a more-dynamic stance, and an overall more-premium appearance.
Golf is better equipped than before, at every trim level. The Automatic Post-Collision Braking System is standard on all models, and new comfort and convenience features include Climatronic automatic air conditioning with pollen filter and Fender Premium Audio System with eight speakers and subwoofer.
This new braking system applies the brakes when the initial collision is detected by the air bag sensors, reducing residual kinetic energy, thus reducing the chance of additional damage from secondary collisions.
Interior space has also increased by approximately one cubic foot. The cargo area will hold 22.8 cubic feet of stuff (more than any midsize sedan in America) with the 60/40 folding seat up, and 52.7 cubic feet with the seatback folded down. That’s plenty of room for hauling DIY or gardening supplies.
The new exterior is totally modern, yet still definitely a Volkswagen, with distinctive C-pillars, roofline, and classic Golf side windows. The striking new front end has sharper headlight clusters featuring bisecting horizontal graphics and a narrower grille leading to a strong line flowing along the side over the wheel arches to the taillights.
My vehicle for this review was a lovely Blue Silk Metallic TDI SE (base price $26,995), with Beige Leatherette interior, brushed-aluminum interior trim, standard power tilt/slide panoramic sunroof with manual fabric sunshade and integrated wind screen.
V-Tex Leatherette is a soft, supple vinyl, which is less expensive, easier to clean and maintain, and longer lasting than leather. My tester had a leather-wrapped multi-control steering wheel, handbrake, and shifter knob.
A chrome crossbar trimmed the front grille, accented by a chrome VW logo, which was repeated on the rear hatch handle. The integrated handle pushed in at the top to lift the hatch up by the lower edge of the logo.
My tester had a Lighting Package, a $995 option available on the SE and SEL models, with Bi-Xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, Adaptive Front-lighting System, and ambient interior lighting with LED reading lights.
With AFS, the headlights swivel up to 15 percent as the steering wheel is turned, illuminating curves in the road more effectively when traveling more than 6 mph. My Golf also had automatic headlights and automatic rain-sensing windshield wipers with heated washer nozzles.
Standard safety equipment, which I am always happy to report I did not need, included front and side air bags for the driver and front passenger, side-curtain head air bags for both rows, and three-point safety belts for all five seating positions. Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren (LATCH) were included for the three rear seating positions.
The Intelligent Crash Response System activates in the event a collision occurs that causes the air bags to deploy, automatically unlocking the doors, disabling the fuel pump and turning on the hazard lights. Golf also has standard antilock braking, electronic stability control, and tire-pressure monitoring.
The center stack was angled slightly toward the driver, and white backlighting made the controls easier to see. A new 5.8-inch touchscreen infotainment system is standard on all models, and features capacitive touch as found on smartphones and tablets, which enables gesture controls like swiping and pinch-zooming.
An SD card-based navigation system is available with 3-D imaging. The infotainment system included all the expected audio functions including satellite radio, along with vehicle analytics and settings.
The rearview camera used the screen to display objects behind the vehicle while in reverse. The Media Device interface for iPod and iPhone was under the center stack, but included the old-style iPhone plug rather than the current Lightning plug. CDs were inserted into a slot in the glovebox. The glovebox also had an adjustable cooling function.
An adjustable front armrest with storage, two cupholders, and card slots were easy to reach on the center console, and the multifunction display in the instrument panel was directly behind the steering wheel for easy access to information, such as miles-to-empty and mpg.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.