Expert Reviews

Long-Term Test Arrival: 2015 Volkswagen Golf

Odometer at pick-up: 6,788 km
Observed Fuel Consumption: 8.2 L/100 km

As many of our frequent readers can attest to, the Volkswagen Golf occupies a special place in our hearts here at autoTRADER.

Welcome to a long-term test like no other we have done before. Volkswagen has afforded us the unique opportunity to essentially test their entire current Golf lineup to experience the full range of its flexibility and flavours. We start with a modestly equipped Golf 1.8TSI, then we’ll spend a month in the efficient yet engaging 2.0 TDI clean diesel, and cap off our experience with a few weeks in the GTI.

As many of our frequent readers can attest to, the Volkswagen Golf occupies a special place in our hearts here at autoTRADER. If I may be so bold as to quote myself: “We are biased in favour of refined, well-rounded vehicles that also offer an enjoyable driving experience.” Others are biased in favour of value, quality, outright efficiency, reliability, styling, brand cachet or power, and the Golf lineup offers hints or flavours of each of those. Okay, except perhaps reliability, where Volkswagen has a reputation for scraping by with CELs aglow and gremlins galore.

So this long-term car comes in with some big expectations, having recently won a pair of comparisons in two distinct trims, the GTI in Everyday Fun Cars, and the Golf 1.8TSI in Compact Hatchbacks.

We start our long-term test in the heart of the lineup, a value-conscious Golf 1.8TSI in Comfortline trim with the base five-speed manual transmission and a modest Convenience Package.

But let’s work our way up the Golf ladder to see where it fits in the lineup. The Golf line in Canada starts with a 3-door Trendline trim at $18,995 and a mandatory $1,395 Freight & PDI fee, with such amenities as three doors, four wheels (15-inch alloys) with disc brakes all around, five-speed manual transmission and a turbocharged 1.8L four-cylinder making 170 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. Along with that sweetheart of an engine, which feels more like 200 hp and 200 lb-ft when paired with the manual transmission, it is the very structure of the Golf that justifies its price.

The newly engineered flexible MQB small-car architecture will underpin virtually all small VWs and Audis eventually, spawning over 40 variants when all is told, and each one will feel more solid than the last I’d warrant.

On the more superficial side, Trendline cars come standard with Bluetooth phone connectivity, trip computer, 5.8-inch colour touchscreen, AM/FM/Sirius satellite radio (with three months limited complimentary subscription – just enough to get you hooked!) over eight speakers, plus CD/SD card input, MDI connection (not USB), voice control, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, eight-way adjustable front seats (with lumbar support!) and tilt/telescopic steering column and adjustable front armrest (height and reach). On the outside, no cheap door handles and mirrors as those are body coloured, as is the subtle spoiler, the exhaust dual-tipped, and all Golfs include front and rear wipers with intermittent function. For $1,400 you can add a six-speed automatic transmission, heated seats for $250, and cruise control for $400. That’s it for 3-door Golf options in Canada.

Moving forward: 2015 Volkswagen Golf Long-Term Test: Update 1 | Update 2 | Update 3 | Wrap-Up

For an extra $1,000 you can add two doors, heated seats and air conditioning as standard in the 2015 Golf 5-door Trendline, but you also get a host of other options, trims, powertrains and packages at your disposal. As with the 3-door, the automatic transmission is a $1,400 option on any 5-door trim, whether it is the tiptronic auto with the 1.8T gasoline or dual clutch DSG with the TDI diesel or 2.0TSI in the GTI. The TDI is a rather steep upgrade at $23,095 in Trendline trim ($3,100 over the gas 1.8T), but isn’t such a stretch in Comfortline or Highline trims or Highline trims (+$2,500). I’ll go into greater detail on the TDI and GTI trims in later updates, so let’s get back to the 1.8T order sheet.

The first trim upgrade is the Comfortline at $22,895, which adds useful features like rearview camera, cruise control, multifunction steering wheel and fog lights that double as cornering lamps, 16-inch wheels, leatherette seats with power recline adjustability in front. Plus you can add packages like the $1,695 Convenience Package on our car, which adds perks like auto headlights, dual-zone auto climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power sunroof and rain-sensing wipers. That is as fancy as our tester gets, a refreshingly basic trim, limited to the inherent goodness of the engine, chassis and interior quality with which we were impressed in our comparisons. The Comfortline can be further kitted out with the $2,195 Multimedia Package, including navigation, adaptive bi-xenon lighting, Fender premium audio and signature LED DRLs.

The Highline leads with keyless access with push-button start, power sunroof, leather seats with 12-way power adjustability for the driver, 17-inch alloys for $28,495. You still have to spend the same $2,195 to get the Multimedia Package with nav and HID headlights, and with the automatic at $1,400 and Freight at $1,395, you can run your Golf 1.8T over $33K, and if you really want to splurge, you can chell out another couple grand for some nice 19-inch wheels, cracking $40K with Ontario taxes applied.

But we don’t need navigation, and we don’t need 12-way adjustable leather seats. We are more than happy with this simple, manual transmission, peppy, snorty little turbo engine, basic accommodating seats and high quality cabin, if a little short on features compared to the Golf Highline that won our Compact Hatchbacks Comparison.

Still, first impressions are very positive. We’ve spent enough time in the new generation, and it is consistent enough with previous Golfs and Volkswagens that it is easy to find an ergonomically please position – the adjustable seat, steering column and armrest help in that capacity.

We have our child seats installed, and the hatchback trunk is a welcome return after spending extended time in a pair of sedans. Although we often like to test the mettle of all-wheel-drive systems in the snowy winter months, the front-wheel-drive Golf is winter-ready on a set of Continental Extreme Winter Contact winter tires, and we recently had occasion to see how much superior winter tires are over even AWD vehicles on all-seasons with our recent snowfall in the GTA.

Early readings for fuel consumption showed 8.2 L/100 km, but we’ll see what each of these trims can do in worst-case scenario driving conditions: mid-winter, urban commuting in stop-and-go traffic. When we switch into the TDI Clean Diesel, we’ll find out if it can better the 1.8T by enough to offset the high diesel fuel costs in winter (currently almost 20 cents more than regular gas in the GTA), and hopefully, we’ll get an early spring so that we can see how much we can extract from the GTI from a performance perspective.

Pricing: 2015 Volkswagen Golf
Base Price (3-door Trendline): $18,995
Base Price (5-door Comfortline): $22,895
Options: $1,695 (Convenience Package: automatic headlights, auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone electronic climate control, light assist, power sunroof and rain-sensing wipers)
A/C Tax: $100
Freight and PDI: $1,395
Price as Tested: $26,085

4 years/80,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km Powertrain; 12 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/80,000 km 24-hour roadside assistance

Ford Focus
Hyundai Elantra GT
Kia Forte5
Mazda3 Sport
Nissan Juke
Subaru Impreza 5-door