Class: Compact Car
Miles driven: 468
Fuel used: 13.2 gallons
|CG Report Card
|Room and Comfort
|Power and Performance
|Fit and Finish
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
|Big & Tall Comfort
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Real-world fuel economy: 35.3 mpg
Driving mix: 35% city, 65% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 28/36/31 (city, highway, combined)
Fuel type: Regular gas
Base price: $23,195 (not including $920 destination charge)
Options on test vehicle: none
Price as tested: $24,115
The great: Ride and handling balance; logical control layout; quick, responsive steering; excellent manual transmission and shifter
The good: Interior materials and assembly quality; passenger and cargo space
The not so good: Rear corner visibility; only one trim level available for 2020
The Volkswagen Golf gives off the impression that it’s about to skip town in a hurry. For 2020, it has gotten rid of a few things it can’t carry—wagons, electrics, and the high-performance R model—and it has stuffed all it can hold into one bundle, a new TSI. Listen . . . is that the back window to the fire escape being raised?
The lovable little hatchback that first appeared in America 45 years ago as the Rabbit sure seems destined to jump a midnight freight to parts unknown. While VW has introduced an all-new eighth-generation Golf, the company hasn’t yet confirmed that it will offer that car in the U.S., save for the sporting, popular GTI (which also continues for ’20) and perhaps a revived Golf R.
In 2019 the “basic” Golf came in S and SE trim levels. The TSI that Consumer Guide editors tested is something of a cross between them. Though priced less than a ’19 SE, the TSI—which starts at $24,115 with delivery—salvages some of its standard features, including 16-inch alloy wheels, heated washer nozzles for the rain-sensing windshield wipers, panoramic sunroof, leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, and “KESSY” keyless entry and starting. Plus, the ’20 Golf comes with an updated VW Car-Net telematics system and the addition of Wi-Fi capability.
Other standard equipment is like what was found on the 2019 Golf S. Unfortunately, that includes the lesser of the audio systems, the 6-speaker Composition with a 6.5-inch color touchscreen, AM/FM radio, and a USB port. The remainder consists of automatic halogen headlights, LED taillights, heated power-adjusted side mirrors with integral turn signals, an adjustable cargo floor, manual climate system, leather-wrapped sport steering wheel and gearshift knob, tilt/telescoping steering column, 6-way partial power-adjustable front seats, adjustable console armrest, twin illuminated visor vanity mirrors, multifunction trip computer, Bluetooth audio streaming for compatible devices, three 12-volt power outlets, forward-collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot alert, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Power comes from the 147-horsepower turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that was new to the Golf in 2019. With its peak 184 lb-ft of torque on duty at just 1400 rpm, the engine shakes off a momentary breath of turbo lag for lively street driving. It’s a fairly quiet mill, even in sustained highway cruising, but a little short on passing power. The test car was equipped with the 6-speed manual transmission that is standard but can be replaced by an extra-cost 8-speed automatic. The only problem with the happily cooperative manual was a squeaky clutch pedal that whistled a little “wee-ooo” whenever it moved in either direction. EPA fuel-economy estimates for this powerteam are 28 mpg in city driving, 36 mpg on the highway, and 31 combined, but this driver recorded 43.6 mpg upon filling up after a 74-mile stint with 55 percent city-type operation.
Weighing in at just 2939 pounds (with the manual trans), the TSI’s handling remains as nicely nimble as any recent Golf, especially around town. Steering is easy and quickly responsive, and cornering lean is well managed. The ride from the fully independent suspension is compliant without totally sacrificing the firm ride familiar in European cars, and braking is good.
Throughout its history, the Rabbit/Golf has delivered impressive roominess for a small car. The seventh-generation job, which dates to 2015, is no different. In back, there is a 17.4-cubic-foot load space on a wide, flat floor that can be adjusted to accommodate taller items. Even at its “normal” level, there’s clearance for broad, flat items to rest atop the spare tire below. Open bins at the rear corners of the cargo hold are handy for containing small incidentals, and one of the electrical inputs is installed in back. Lots more space becomes available when the 60/40-split rear seats are retracted (they fold almost flat); with the front passenger seat pushed forward, this tester was able to fit a window screen that was a little more than 5 feet long in the car. A central pass-through in the middle of the rear seat provides more flexibility.
Front passengers have good head- and legroom, and settle into comfortable and supportive seats. Two adults seated in the rear row will find close but not cramped legroom, plus plentiful headroom. Driver vision is fairly open, save to the rear corners, where the wide roof pillars form a considerable block.
The dashboard and front doors present considerable soft, pliable surfaces, though rear door panels are topped by grained plastic. Storage pockets in all four doors have a flocked lining, an uncommon touch at this price level. Other cabin storage facilities are a big glove box, a tiny console cubby, a small covered bin with the USB port at the front of the console, a pull-out tray to the left of the steering column, and a pouch on the back of each front seat. Exposed cup holders reside in the console and the pull-down armrest in the center of the rear seat. Yes, the Golf infotainment system is much more basic than those of many rivals, but it is very easy to use and it has Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone compatibility. The climate system is similarly direct: Three convenient dials set temperature, fan speed, and mode, and a small cluster of buttons handle anything else.
Affordable, functional, and generally fun to drive, a car like the Golf would be sad to lose if it takes a powder. Maybe we should keep a light in the window.
2020 Volkswagen Golf Gallery
2020 Volkswagen Golf