The 2016 Volkswagen Golf comes to us with a host of tech updates on top of all that was new with the 2015 model. And this is good, because the Golf lost a vital engine option in the 2.0 liter TDI due to the Dieselgate scandal, leaving a turbocharged gasoline engine the sole choice.
While diesel fans might be disappointed, the upside is that the standard 1.8 liter TSI third-generation EA-888 engine or optional 2.0 liter versions in the GTI and Golf R are some of the most celebrated in the automotive realm, winning plenty of awards to date.
Our tester was a near fully loaded Golf SEL which had the Driver Assistance Package new for this year, bringing the total sticker price to $29,740. The SEL comes with more inside and out, like chrome accents on the front grilles, 18-inch alloy wheels with wider rubber, and upgraded interior trims.
If you want HID headlamps however you will still need to option the Lighting Package for $995 as the SEL still comes with old school halogen reflectors.
Inside, the SLE comes with piano black trims on the dash and center console. Other trim grades offer a brushed aluminum look or a carbon fiber look. Seats feature leatherette surfaces that look like leather, but doesn’t smell or wear like it in the heat. Unfortunately Volkswagen does not even offer leather here as an option.
The good news is that the seats are very comfortable and offer a wide range of adjustment. They are not the sport seats you will find in the GTI but they are close, offering firm and supportive hand around you feel and a great place to sit all day long.
The rear seat features a versatile center opening for long items like skis in addition to its 60/40 split fold down capability for a near flat cargo floor in the rear. Under the deck is a temporary spare tire which is always good. In the center of it, the woofer for the Fender audio system.
The cabin’s materials are top notch in our view. Switchgear is a class up in its technical prowess and quality feel and storage is plentiful. The interior earns 5 of 5 stars.
Under hood is the sole engine available in the Golf right now, a 1.8 liter turbocharged and direct-injected gasoline engine. It’s good for 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. That’s more than the old base 2.5 liter five-cylinder engine, even though it’s smaller.
It’s available with both a six-speed manual transmission and a six-speed TipTronic automatic as ours was equipped with. In such, we found power to be plentiful from the refined and smooth engine. In our week we achieved 29 mpg combined, exactly matching the EPA estimate.
The engine was one of Ward’s 10 best and I can see why. It’s very refined, runs on regular unleaded and is really a class up from its price point, especially in light that it’s the standard engine here. The powertrain earns 5 of 5 stars.
As the chassis of the 2015 and up Golf VII is indeed all-new, based on the MQB architecture which will underpin almost all new Volkswagen’s, handling is as good as it has been for Golf. It’s wheelbase is stretched, it’s wider and standard now is a multi-link rear suspension for more precision.
Steering is electric now, but the good news is that while it remains very light in feel it still has a good amount of feeling and communication to go with the overall feeling of quality and refinement. Whether you are at speed on a windy road, traversing the pot holes of a rough street, or hitting 70 mph on the highway, it feels carved from a solid piece of steel. Chassis earns 5 of 5 stars.
Technologies on our Golf included the Driver Assistance Package that has radar cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic braking, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping assistance and Parking Pilot which can warn and alert, but also assist in steering if asked.
The infotainment system as you saw has a very good backup camera, but the new MIB II touchscreen system is vastly improved over previous generations with better menus, more sensitive to your touch, and now offers Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and USB connectivity. The Fender Audio system is top of the game too. Technologies earn 5 of 5 stars.
When it comes to safety, the new Golf’s improved structure in addition to all the new safety and technology features available this year help it to earn a Top Safety Pick + status with the IIHS, with Good ratings on their full battery of tests.
Good too is the quality. Looked over closely, picked at and driven over rough surfaces the Volkswagen Golf is top of class when it comes to body panel fit, quality of finishes, and the interior materials. Not a rattle or squeak could be heard, earning it a quality feel score at 5 of 5 stars.
We admit we were smitten with the new Golf from the first time we drove one in 2014. Our staff has owned many Volkswagens so we do tend to have a soft spot for them and a reverence. That said we still have the ability to see clearly.
Is the car perfect? No, but it’s very close. It’s certainly class leading in almost every measure with exception of having the lowest price or the most features for the dough. If you want that go so see Kia or Ford.
With the Volkswagen you are buying a level of premium engineering and quality that does figure into its price. The thing to keep in mind is that even if you start with a Golf S at $20,175 you get the same sense of quality and driving experience you get in the top level SEL.
The engine is the same, the transmissions are the same and the quality of materials inside and out is the same. You won’t feel like you got the cheap seats in the base grade like many brands will hand you. In that way, we put value at 5 of 5 stars.
This makes the 2016 Volkswagen Golf a 5 star car for our review. Topping it off, we add it to our “Id Buy It” list for 2016, our highest honor.