2018 Volkswagen Golf Review

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2018 Volkswagen Golf Overview

Volkswagen’s seventh-generation Golf debuted in 2015 to critical acclaim. Until now, not much has changed. VW upgraded the infotainment system and discontinued the diesel powertrain in 2016, and the two-door model disappeared in 2017. For the 2018 model, VW gives the compact 4-door hatchback a mid-cycle facelift, and despite its subtlety, it feels just right.

Up front, the 2018 Golf features a new bumper cover with a downturned grille and a chrome accent, reflecting the latest in Volkswagen’s design language. Speaking of reflectors, VW has also redesigned both headlight options. The base halogen units now get LED daytime running lamps, and the bi-xenon HID units have been replaced with full LED units. With the LED headlamps, both of the “ring” accents in the housing illuminate; previously, only the outboard ones did. The rear is similarly updated with a redesigned bumper cover and standard LED tail lights, adding chrome highlights toward the bottom that echo the ones on the front end. As a whole, these visual tweaks help the Golf to truly push above its weight.

The most major interior change on this model is the available 8-inch glass-covered infotainment system. Seen in the Atlas and Tiguan during their 2017 debuts, this system has been praised for its snappiness and tactile feel. Otherwise, the interior maintains many of its signature characteristics. The Golf has long been at the forefront of the compact mainstream category in terms of design, fit-and-finish, and materials, putting some luxury marques to shame. The trapezoidal surfaces, soft-touch plastics, and tasteful trim appointments set it apart from other mainstream cars. The ergonomic layout of the cabin places all important functions within easy reach of the driver. Though VW could include typically-standard features like an electronic parking brake and a color display in the instrument panel, it saves those options for its pricier Golf variants, such as the e-Golf, GTI, and Golf R.

Volkswagen offers the Golf in just two trims for 2018, the S and the SE. However, it now offers a host of standard features that weren’t available before. The formerly-premium 6.5-inch infotainment system is now standard on the S. Also standard are 15-inch wheels, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, automatic climate control, and partial power seats. SE models add 16-inch wheels, leatherette seating, heated front seats, keyless entry and start, full LED headlights, fog lights, and a panoramic sunroof.

The Golf also carries over its 2017 powertrain options. The sole engine is a turbocharged 1.8-liter inline 4-cylinder that produces 170 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque, which is fully accessible at a low 4,500 RPM, helping with passing maneuvers and overall drivability. A 5-speed manual transmission comes standard on both S and SE models, but a 6-speed automatic is an optional upgrade. All 2018 Golfs get the company’s “XDS” Cross-differential system, which mimics a mechanical limited-slip differential to reduce understeer and ensure the car goes where intended under stress or intense cornering. At the time of this writing, the 2018 Golf has yet to be rated for fuel economy, but Volkswagen expects it will achieve 25 mpg city and 36 highway with the manual and 24 and 33 on the automatic when using regular 87-octane fuel.

The Golf benefits from six standard airbags, including driver and passenger frontal and side airbags as well as curtain airbags to cover both rows of occupants. The Golf will automatically apply the brakes when a collision is detected in order to prevent additional secondary collisions. Depending upon the nature of the crash, it will also shut off the fuel pumps, switch on the hazard lamps, and unlock the doors. SE models feature standard forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and cross-traffic alert. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) last tested the Golf in 2017, where it scored Good in all categories and earned the agency’s Top Safety Pick rating; the 2018 should fare the same or better.

Across the last 40-odd years, Volkswagen’s Golf has been a purveyor of practicality and style, and the seventh-generation is no different. Its clean, rectilinear design stands out in an arena of compact cars full of visual clutter. The Golf gives up nothing in terms of space or comfort - unlike similar hatchbacks. The smoothness of the drivetrain and the upscale interior are even superior to cars costing twice as much. Furthermore, the 2018 enhancements introduce standard and optional equipment that keeps it competitive against newer rivals while preserving its conservative character. If all of that isn’t enough to sway buyers, there’s one last new feature for 2018: a standard 6-year, 72,000-mile warranty that covers everything. With that, there are few reasons not to make the Golf one’s daily driver.

Updated

Kyree is new to the automotive journalism scene, but has voiced snarky public opinions about cars for quite some time. When he's not drooling over the latest European luxury sled, he's designing web experiences or writing backend code.

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