By on July 5, 2014

IMG_6400

Who buys one of these things instead of the brilliant GTI? Sure, in Europe the Golf is a default-mode transportation device the way the Corolla is in the United States — but that doesn’t change the fact that anybody who buys a German(-branded) hatchback on this side of the Atlantic is trying to make a statement, the same way that anybody who eats “Pocky” in the United States is trying to make a statement.

Perhaps the Mk7 Golf TSI, particularly in the metallic blue exterior/cream interior variant we drove in San Francisco, makes the right kind of statement to the right kind of people. The one that says, “I’m not a GTI racer wannabe, I just want to drive exactly what someone in our perfectly enlightened and cultured and correct mother continent of Europe would drive.” Driving a GTI is kind of like eating a salad with a lot of dressing — there’s a suspicion that you might not be into the spirit of the thing. Driving the TSI, on the other hand, is much like telling everybody that you don’t own a television.

IMG_6404

The real-word pricing on these 170hp/200lb-ft tq Golfs is between $19,800 and $28k. On all but the “S” trim, you can get the TDI for an extra grand or so. From a resale and longevity standpoint, it would be wise to do so. Everybody knows that diesel VWs have a very different retained-value profile from gas-powered ones, particularly as they approach their tenth birthday and beyond. As soon as I find my photos of the TDI I’ll do a review on that, but the gist of it will be this: there’s virtually no penalty for the diesel in daily use. In the meantime, let’s go driving this newest 1.8t.

golf4

The combination of light upholstery and the extremely convincing metal-look trim in the Golf is just so right for NorCal. It’s hip, fresh, airy, upscale-feeling, and not at all aggressive. The GTI isn’t classy like this; the GTI is try-hard with its piano-black sportlich dash and golf-ball shifter and extra GTI logos and whatnot. Imagine you were taking a user-interface designer for Facebook on a first date: do you want her to see you in a light-blue Golf or a bright-red GTI? Exactly.

Into “D” and the TSI is immediately impressive with plenty of low-end shove that doesn’t completely strangle a nice rush to the redline. This is a sporting motor in execution if not intent and it has a lot of the revvy friendly character that made the old five-valve 1.8t such an unexpected joy in the MkIV Golf GLS four-door. (Removing completely incorrect paragraph about the transmission, brought on by mis-reading my notes — JB)

This being the widest, most spacious, and most rigid Golf in history, it’s no surprise that the TSI is an exceptionally pleasant companion in traffic and on side roads. The space (up front, anyway) and the refinement are easily on par with the Camcord class above it. That’s reasonable, because when you equip it like a Camry SE it kind of costs Camry SE money. So what do you get in exchange for going down a segment at the same price?

Well, you get the exceptionally tasteful interior, although the temperature knobs wobble a bit too much for my taste and some of the plastics around the seat are very obviously hecho in Mexico. You get the “V-Tex” leatherette which is very good and likely to wear pretty well. (Side note: Calling it “V-Tex” is sort of like of me calling my occasional band “Uranium Zeppelin”. If you want to riff on the legends, you’d better come correct. I’m not sure VW has earned the name.) You get a turbo four and twin-clutch transmission that are more responsive than the big-inch one-bar four-bangers in the Camry and friends and considerably more enjoyable to push hard.

You also get a remarkably composed chassis. A run up a few canyon roads revealed that even without the stiff springs and thick swaybars of the GTI, this is an inherently enthusiastic automobile. It likes to turn, it can be steered with the throttle in the midcorner, it reliably swallows bumps on unfamiliar roads. The brakes seemed solid enough but at the top of one hill they exhaled plumes of smoke through the wheels so perhaps that was pushing them too hard. In deference to my predecessor in this E-I-C position, I should also say something about how the MQB chassis didn’t squeak or rustle (true) and how it’s going to take over the world in the next three minutes (not sure about that one). There is a difference between the old Golfs and the new ones; they felt solid but this one is halfway to a Phaeton in the way it refuses to flex under load. And remember: this is a hatchback. Having that big hole in back doesn’t help matters when it comes to stiffness.

Of course, the latest generation of Camcords is also pretty stiff and light and in the case of the Trope Namers they’re both pretty enthusiastic steers with the proper options selected. So not only is it difficult to make a case for the VW over our market defaults based on the numbers, it’s kind of tough to make it based on the intangibles of chassis stiffness or suspension tuning or back-road charisma. True, you need an “SE” or “Sport” version of a Camcord to keep up with this not-explicitly-sporting Golf, but you won’t have to look very hard to find them at your local dealer.

I wouldn’t buy this particular car. I’d buy a GTI, public image be damned. Or I’d buy the manual-transmission version of the TSI, which Volkswagen continues to offer. Or I’d buy a Camry SE, knowing that it’s just as quick and handles just as well and has more room and will last approximately forever and will be worth real money to any CarMax I can roll it down a hill to in ten years.

But I’m not the market for this car. I’m too old, too track-focused, too unhip, too flyover, too everything. The people who are buying these cars don’t care to acknowledge the existence of the Camry SE. They’ll buy this VW because it’s like a tie from Hickoree’s or having Sun Kill Moon on vinyl or using the word “Murica” ironically in conversation: it sends the right signals to the right people. In that respect, the sacrifices one makes to own a Golf over a Camry — in size, in likely durability, in having to endure the VW dealer body, in resale — are positive because they ensure that no stupid mother of two from Iowa is going to accidentally buy the same Golf TSI that you, the San Jose-based social media consultant, have just purchased.

Go ahead and buy one, then. It’s the right car for you. And more than ever, it’s also a pretty good car. Just know this: that distinct feeling of superiority you get when you see some prole in a Fusion… well, you should keep shaded, because it might not stand the light of day.

IMG_6396

(Volkswagen provided travel and accommodations for this test.)

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

150 Comments on “Review: 2015 Golf TSI Auto...”


  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Good job, Jack. I’ve been debating which model to buy, and I’ve come to the same conclusion you did. Though long in the tooth (and mortified by those wheels), it’s the GTI for me. A no-brainer really.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Agreed on the GTI.

      I hate to admit it, but the whole “boy racer” image that JB references is a serious concern for one who is a late 30s executive. Does the A3 or A4 fit the image better? Absolutely. Will the dealership experience at my local Audi shops be better? Unquestionable. Will the A3 and A4 bore me to tears in a few short months? Yep. That, and the new A3 is DSG only. Nothing against the S-Tronic in the Audi, it’s a great gearbox, but I still prefer rowing my own gears.

      There’s the big issue – the GTI has loads of character, fantastic road manners and plenty of usability. I know that I’ll catch some chuckles from colleagues but I guess that as I get older I find myself caring less about brand/model image and just want something that makes me smile when I turn the key.

      Had a MKIV R32 for about 18 months back in the day. Loved that car, but between the two-door design, the horrible fuel economy and the electric blue blingy (for the time) 18″ wheels didn’t fit with my more buttoned down persona. Wish I could say it didn’t bother me, but in my younger days it did. The new GTI, however, has what I now consider to be just the right amount of boy racer in an otherwise adult-like package.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Most hate the MkVI Jetta for its very existence, but I think the GLI is a great alternative for a potential GTI owner who is just a bit put off by the boy racer looks. Looks more dignified and performs about as well as the outgoing GTI.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Waingrow

        Couldn’t agree more about everything you said, especially about the Audis, of which I had two, both ultimately boring. And just wait until you get much older still vis-a-vis the image issue.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        Maybe it’s because I’m nowhere near being an executive, but I’ve never understood this thinking of worrying about what bosses and colleagues think about my mode of transportation. If you work at a bigger company, will they even see what whip you rode up in? Would it really colour their opinion of how you do your job? Coming to the office decently-dressed is one thing, but judging you on what you drove (presumably, on-time) to work in? Seems like a non-issue to me. And if it is an issue, isn’t coming across as having a bit of a personality a good thing?

        I used to work in an office environment, and if anything, people seemed to think it was cool when I showed up on my white VFR800… except for the days it rained and I walked around the office barefoot while my shoes dried.

        • 0 avatar
          hybridkiller

          “Seems like a non-issue to me.”

          That’s because it IS a non-issue, except when you’re talking to car enthusiasts. Passion for cars tends to foster a tendency to project the perceived personality of the car onto its owner, based on preconceived cultural notions and little else. IOW it’s BS – but the beatings continue nonetheless…

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “That’s because it IS a non-issue, except when you’re talking to car enthusiasts.”

            I agree.

            I kind of mentioned this in one of Bark’s articles a few months ago but I’ve never noticed anyone treating me any differently based what I’m driving. Not at work, not on the road, not at the gas station, not in social situations. And that is on the rare occurrence that what I’m driving is even known in the first place.

            I’ll even own up that back when I bought my Firebird “projected image” was a top 3 reason for purchase. But it didn’t do anything. No one treated me like I was exciting for it and on the flip side no one treated me like I was Joe Dirt.

        • 0 avatar
          LeeK

          Exactly JuniperBug. I work for a very large company in the Fortune 20 and have picked up the CIO (later CEO of another company) at the airport after he arrived on the company-leased Learjet. I can attest that his opinion of me wasn’t influenced whatsoever by my personal car. I keep my car clean inside and out, and that probably left more of an impression than the make and model.

          I’ve watched the executive ranks of my company for years now, and they drive everything from Audi R8s to Chevy Suburbans to conversion vans. Despite car enthusiast’s proclamations that their image in a company is related to the vehicle they drive (maturity level frequently cited), my experience is that it makes no difference at all. I’ve seen plant managers come into work on a Harley, and I’ve seen low-level schlubs drive 7 series BMWs. Nobody seems to care.

          My wife works for a top 10 university east coast Law School. What does the dean drive to school every morning? An F-150 4×4 with a bumper sticker that says “Eat New Mexico Beef”.

          • 0 avatar
            Fred

            I once had a MGB that had a license plate frame that read “Eat Western Beef” I got more comments about that than the car itself.

          • 0 avatar

            Yeah I don’t think it matters much most of the time. My father was a VP for large regional bank for a while. He drove absolute crap (a 12 year old cavalier painted 3 colors of primer for a while)Although he was asked to pick up a rental to bring big clients out to lunch after he picked up one client in his crx SI with no AC on a 96 degree day. And yes he was a 60 year old Bank Vp driving a 15 year old CRX SI at the time with a lowering kit and SS exhaust can’t get much more boy racer than that.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Almost without exception, and I deal with many people, the wealthiest people I deal with buy moderately priced new or used cars & drive them for 8 to 12 years.

            The “Stanley Johnsons” of the world who have a McMansion, buy a new expensive vehicle every 3 years, and consume to project an image are, as the credit card commercial states, “in debt up to their eyeballs.”

            Wealthy people build wealth through discipline & rational financial decisions and learn to contender he radar, for the most part.

            Frequent, expensive vehicle purchases carry huge excess transactional costs and are the most expensive way, by a wide margin, to procure transportation needs.

          • 0 avatar
            Spike_in_Brisbane

            I think you are right about management not caring about your car. They seldom care about their own. I lived in SoCal for five years for a company which was successful at the time. The CEO drove a very old Toyota and due to a very good annual result, the board voted to buy him a new car, anything he wanted. He could have had a Ferrari or a Bentley. What did he choose. An Avalon! It fulfilled his needs.

            On the other hand, the average Joes around me definitely did judge people on their car. Growing up in Australia I had heard that Americans had this tendency but I never really believed it until I experienced it. The “car must match your personality or aspirations” is not just an American thing but is much more prevalent there.

          • 0 avatar
            DrGastro997

            Totally agreed. It doesn’t matter where you are on the corporate ladder. Keeping it clean, inside and out, leaves a better impression to anyone. The doctors I work with are driving anything from a Ferrari to a Camry, Accord or even a Corolla. It doesn’t matter because people working with you just don’t care (unless you’re a cash hog plastic surgeon). But, if you’re car looks and smells like shit, then well everyone talks not-so-good things about you…

        • 0 avatar

          Parking Lot Parity sells more cars than anything else. I have a friend who drives his Boxster to work…all 14 miles RT per day…..
          AMG, //M in the US sell because most of your friends already have BMW or M/B, but you need to stand out.

          Likewise, Bentley is because ‘EVERYONE in town has a mercedes’ (See “Tesla”)

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          Yeah, it’s not like we’re talking about a decade-old EVO with orange wheels, a peeling “carbon fibre” hood, orange wheels, and an angled sticker in the rear window proclaiming “No Fat Chicks – Car Will Scrape” (which is usually code for the only time there’ll be two X chromosomes in the car is when his buddy is riding shotgun). I mean, if it’s that much of a concern, maybe avoid the bright red paint and the plaid seats, but I’d wager 9/10 non-car people wouldn’t be able to pick a GTi out of a lineup.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        “the whole “boy racer” image that JB references is a serious concern for one who is a late 30s executive”

        You’re too old. Time to buy a larger, adult car.

  • avatar
    JD23

    “They’ll buy this VW because it’s like a tie from Hickoree’s or having Sun Kill Moon on vinyl or using the word “Murica” ironically in conversation.”

    This line made me chuckle. Some of the B&B cognoscenti will be forming a half-mile long line at VW dealerships once this model is released.

    • 0 avatar
      hybridkiller

      “Almost without exception,…the wealthiest people I deal with buy moderately priced new or used cars & drive them for 8 to 12 years.
      Wealthy people build wealth through discipline & rational financial decisions…”

      This surprising truth has been confirmed by some rather extensive demographic research. Ironically, the average person doesn’t understand this, which is precisely why the average person never accumulates any real wealth.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Having grown up lower middle class in southern Connecticut, my Texan wife is surprised at the low level of auto porn when we visit home (Fairfield county excepted).

        One summer she and her mom visited the Hamptons for a few days, and would point out the varied models of automotive wealth. “That’s the new money” I explained. “See the old semi-discolored Land Cruiser/240D wagon? That’s the real money….”.

        • 0 avatar
          PandaBear

          Indeed, I drove by some “old money” and “new money” neighborhoods often and found that “old money” neighborhoods tend to have lots of 80s and 90s European instead of the “new money” neighborhoods’ brand new cars and SUVs.

  • avatar
    dwford

    It is amazing how much you can stereotype a stranger by the car they drive. Sadly, stereotypes all have a basis in reality, so…

    Basically you’re saying that Golf drivers are annoying hipster entitled fucks showboating their bonafides to their world with the purchase of a Golf.

  • avatar
    Fred

    Personally I’d rather a Golf than a Camcord mostly because with the hatch I can actually put something large in the trunk. At one time I was tempted to get one of these and then modify it to get the A3 I really wanted, with a hatch and a manual.

    • 0 avatar
      V8Roving

      I’m with you on that. I would much prefer the hatch to a sedan.

      Although at the same time I come from a VW family…

    • 0 avatar
      cpthaddock

      It’s tough to make a serious practicality comparison between sedans and hatchbacks and fail to note the very significant advantage hatchbacks have for carrying anything more then groceries or a few pieces of luggage. This is an aspect that’s not fully apparent until you’ve lived with both formats for extended periods, and should you be choosing transportation for a single vehicle family, you have a big answer to the question why crossovers are replacing full size sedans. Practicality.

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        Agreed. When we went to 1 vehicle, we chose to keep the 2012 Accord over the 2007 Outback. I miss the Outback for two things: getting dirty and hauling home an impulse purchase. Of course limiting such purchases as well as an unreliable/costly to maintain vehicle has worked out well financially.

        I think the replacement for the Accord will be a wagon or crossover… But it’ll be a long time.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Exactly this. Sedans are USELESS. USELESS. USELESS. Especially modern swoopy sedans with letter slot trunk openings.

      To me, the Golf is the Swiss Army knife of cars. Big enough to be comfortable, small enough to be convenient. Holds a ton of stuff. Quick enough to be entertaining, comfortable enough to drive all day. Drives like a proper German car, and very reasonably priced.

      My first new car was an ’02 Golf TDI, and I absolutely loved that car. If I could only have ONE car, and I only had $25K to spend it would certainly be another one. Life is too short to drive a Camry, even if they made one in a useful body style.

      • 0 avatar
        hgrunt

        I was about to dispute that sedans were pretty useful until I looked up cubic feet of the current Golf, Camry and Accord–They’re within tenths of a cubic feet of each other!

        • 0 avatar
          TheyBeRollin

          The problem comes when you need to put something tall in a sedan that you can’t fit through the front or rear doors.

          If you need to carry something really long, you’re better off with a sedan with fold-down rear seats.

          Where the hatch shines is in maximizing internal space with the smallest possible external dimensions and wheelbase. This is the best solution for cramped European roads/parking but makes no sense in America. It’s also why wagon versions of sedans are so practical.

      • 0 avatar
        LeeK

        I feel ya, krhodes. I’m writing this from a coffee shop that I stopped in on my way home from Home Depot, the rear hatch section of my 2010 GTI is stuffed to the gills with lumber, two shovels, plastic storage bins, and a bunch of 5 gallon paint cans. Just yesterday I took about forty broken-down moving boxes, a stack of newspapers two feet high, and some old lamps to the town recycling center. Hatchbacks are amazingly useful vehicles and I always favor them over sedans. When you get some performance as well, like with your Abarth or Focus GT or GTI well, it’s just icing on the cake. Hatchbacks uber alles!

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        I don’t see how fitting a family in a car, and all our stuff, is useless. I’d much rather have the longer wheelbase of the Accord vs a smaller, yet roomier, hatchback. We do a lot of traveling across the west and a sedan is at home on that kind of travel. After 3 non-sedans, this is the first and I’m happy. I resolved the hauling bikes issue with a hitched mounted rack and have a little Thule utility trailer for other stuff. We average 32 mpg while cruising 80-85 mph between destinations, that may not be impressive to you but it is to me. 1 tank, Boise to Sacramento or Boise to Bellevue.

        Yeah, it’s an appliance car for my wife but I like appliances too as they have a motor and electronics. I like things that are mechanical and make life easier. Samsung is making some cool stuff for the home!

  • avatar
    fuehnsch

    baruth simply has no peer in auto journalism. straight-up truth, always wittily delivered.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Waingrow

      Boy, do I agree with you. He’s got it all: wit, style, smarts, and an ever-developing modesty. He’s the best auto journalist I’ve yet encountered over a long number of years (and he keeps getting better).

      • 0 avatar
        deanst

        Jack can be interesting, but he’s no Dan Neil.

        • 0 avatar
          TEXN3

          HAHA!

        • 0 avatar
          James2

          Dan Neil can write, but he can go off-road (and I’m not talking about Jeep) a little too frequently for my taste.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          What Dan Neil knows about cars wouldn’t constitute a run-on sentence.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Regardless as to one agrees or disagrees with A, SOME, MOST or even ALL (theoretically speaking) of the opinions and/or points and/or assertions made by Jack, he’s in the top tier of writers opining on automobile-dom, IMO.

            1) He turns what other automotive “journalists” would sterilize into clinical, antiseptic boredom into entertaining & engaging reading material.

            2) He uses sarcasm & snark in an intelligent, surgical manner to prompt feedback from the reader, and not in a pious manner or as a blunt object.

            3) He is able to effectively weave long-standing social aspects of our larger culture into his essays on, and reviews of, particular vehicles (some vehicles lend themselves to this purpose far more so than others do).

            4) He wrote one of the best essays relating to motor vehicles that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, to wit;

            http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/avoidable-contact-the-watery-big-bang-the-32-step-power-steering-fluid-check-disposable-faux-ury/

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Site won’t me edit comment above, so (because I was remiss to not mention it):

            5) Jack’s method of reviewing certain vehicles (whose manufacturers have lamely blacklisted him) via the rental counter method is a refreshing tactic that allows readers to avail themselves of decisively more honest reviews (IMO) since no graft/swag has been introduced to “steer” the review, and it also ha the added bonus of allowing readers to see how a particular vehicle (admittedly, a sample size of one, though) has held up with rental miles abuse on the odometer.

          • 0 avatar
            redav

            Deadweight, another reason I like rental reviews is that it’s never the gussied up trim. It’s a plain, ordinary car that’s more similar to what most people will buy. Without all the tech bells/whistles, the review can be more about the car itself.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      Truth. I’d sworn off Road & Track over a decade ago as geriatric snoozefest, but I happened to pick up the June (I believe) issue a couple of months ago just before a flight. Jack’s “Big in Malaysia” feature was pure gold. The rest of the issue was solid, too, and I’m tempted to re-subscribe after a long hiatus, especially if he’s a regular contributor.

  • avatar
    71 MKIV

    I have a TV. It’s ancient, sitting in a corner of the basement where to watch it I have to consciously go look at it, and it only has a set of rabbit ears, hooked to a digital converter box, so the selection of channels is in the single digits.
    I will more than likely, never own a VW of any model. Not that I have a particular thing about VW, but nothing that company produces fills any of my transportation needs for a price that I am willing to pay for a level of “whats left before it falls completely apart”.

  • avatar
    ...m...

    …oh, that one pushed a lot of buttons: skin-crawlingly well-played, jack…

    …so is your take that volkswagen have well and truly left their turn-of-the-millennium nadir behind them at this point, or do we still need to see where these cars stand as a long-term ownership prospect three or four years hence?..

  • avatar
    TheyBeRollin

    So what you’re saying is that this is the mass-produced “craft beer” of the automotive world, or possibly more fitting, the PBR/Rainier.

    As a funny aside, for increased effect, I sometimes add “hell yeah!” to that “Murica”. I suspect this came from something I can’t watch because I don’t own the device one watches it upon (and never have).

    For those of you reading this in the distant future: What he’s saying is that this is the car for selling-out without the appearance of selling-out within your appearance-conscious stereotypical non-conformist social group. It’s sort of the automotive equivalent of those senseless tattoos and piercings your parents have or technological parachronisms that they cling to. It’s a way to fit in among their peers without suffering through a Volvo built before the turn of the century.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    “Or I’d buy a Camry SE, knowing that it’s just as quick and handles just as well”

    Jack, you’re never going to get onto the hallowed pages of Car and Driver writing stuff like that. Put you into the stockade, they will. in enthusiast circles, Camries are for burying, not praising, and always will be.

    • 0 avatar
      TheyBeRollin

      In his defense, the Camry is an incredibly solid car these days. If it wasn’t for the badges/styling, it’d be hard to tell the difference between the Camry and an Accord or Malibu. For basic transportation, you could do so much worse and the value proposition is a big point if you really don’t care about appearances.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        I agree, I actually quite like the Camry SE. But the snarky quip-machines at the magazines have been keeping to their agendas and writing the same recycled trash about it anyway. Toyota could secretly reskin an E39 5-Series, put Camry badges on it, and C&D would hate it anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I’ve never driven a Camry SE. Unless it’s very different from the regular Camry of this generation I don’t understand why Jack praises it so much. I’ve had more than my share of Camry LE/XLE rentals and I find them to be quite unsatisfying, with a mushy feeling in both steering and handling, cheap materials, and a sense of no joy throughout. I much prefer the current Accord or even the too-heavy Fusion.

        • 0 avatar
          Brian P

          In my mind, the Golf is closer to the Corolla in size, although perhaps more like the Camry in pricing and equipment. I haven’t had a Camry yet as a rental car but I’ve had a Corolla (not 2014, the outgoing one), and although I will grant that the Corolla drove better than the journalists and enthusiast websites would have one believe, my 2006 Jetta and dad’s 2011 Golf both blow it out of the water in ways that no amount of checking off boxes on the option sheet of the Corolla would fix.

          I don’t want a car the size of today’s Accord, Camry, Passat, or Fusion. I’d take the Golf over a Corolla, Civic, or Cruze any day, although the Focus and Mazda 3 would be on the short list if I were in the market. Part of it is that the Focus and 3 are also decent cars to drive, and part of it is … hatch!!!

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          The SE is quite a bit different. “Joy” would be overstating it, but it frankly doesn’t feel like a Toyota. Edmunds had an SE long termer prior to their complete neutering, and did a pretty good job explaining why they liked it so much.

        • 0 avatar
          George B

          The Camry SE gets a firmer suspension and better wheels and tires than the Camry LE. It’s no sports sedan, but it solves the soft but disconnected ride issue without being too harsh for long road trips. The Accord and Fusion get more attention to detail on steering feel and interior design.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Very hard to tell the difference between a Camry, an Accord, or a Malibu, because they are all shades of beige. Roughly as interesting as a white dishwasher. Which is all fine and good if you care about cars as much as you care about your dishwasher.

        • 0 avatar
          TEXN3

          I do, see response above. Appliances make life easier and are mechanical… Like a car.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          Wait a minute, you told me a week or so ago you were enough of an enthusiast to find driving enjoyment in rush hour traffic, but you aren’t capable of telling the difference between a Camry, Accord, and Malibu when behind the wheel?

          And if they are all shades of beige, aren’t they roughly as interesting as a *beige* dishwasher? I’m getting my car guy stereotypes confused here, so clarify: which is more boring, beige or white? Dishwashers or refrigerators?

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I can find driving an interesting car enjoyable in rush hour traffic. Boring is boring. I probably wouldn’t hate a manual transmission Accord, but they barely exist and I don’t do sedans. I actually much prefer the Malibu to the Camry, at least the interior is nice in the more interesting color schemes. Still a total snore to drive.

            I have never seen a beige dishwasher, but that would certainly be worse than white.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      And when it comes to styling, VWs are far more drab & boring than Toyotas.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        True. This car looks like it’s teetering around on its spindly wheels and narrow track, almost like an Austin Metro. It looks positively uncomfortable in its drab sheet metal, and it’s the first Golf to make a new Corolla look like a Gallardo by comparison.

  • avatar
    turbosaab

    Minor point, but I believe the interior photo shows leather, not V-Tex. (V-Tex has perforations, among other differences).

    • 0 avatar
      cpthaddock

      I remain very curious about German manufacturers full embrace of ingeniously named vinyl seat materials, especially as the asking price for their vehicles reaches greater heights.

      In my mind, Vinyl seat covering went out in the late 60’s. Why are they going back? If honest leather is an extra cost option, let me have it as an option to some decent fabric. What gives? Is it some hip nostalgia for the past or to make cars more like taxis and police cars?

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        German vinyl is better than leather. It is eternal, and requires no care. You can’t kill the stuff. I would have preferred the vinyl in my BMW, if BMW made it available in non-blah colors.

        In an ideal world, I too would prefer cloth, but we play the hand we are dealt.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Had to use a stock photo. The car I drove was cream V-Tex.

      Good catch.

    • 0 avatar
      turbosaab

      Personally, I like the V-Tex, it is easy to clean and does not wear out. Real leather is a bit nicer for the first few years but then starts looking worn. Usually not a fan of fabric, but if more manufacturers offered high-quality, non-fuzzy options, I might be swayed.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Interesting conclusion about this car. A short automotive generation ago, buying a Golf or Jetta or Passat gave you a very refined, quiet, high-quality feeling car that also handled quite well. That combination wasn’t really easy to find elsewhere. Just five or so years later and you can get that same feeling in a Cruze, Focus, Dart, new 200, Fusion. This Golf seems like the best representative of those former VW strong points, but it isn’t alone in the market anymore. The interior quality alone still gives these cars a strong case against a Camcord, though.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      This was the brilliance of the MK IV Golfs and Jettas: Volkswagen found a way to exploit a big hole in the mass market, mainly “touch points” and when you stepped into one made you feel as though you were buying something significantly more expensive. Nothing else at the time came close.

      A few (dozen) trips to the service department later you realized that you were paying for soft-touch materials at the expense of O2 sensors that would last longer than 3 months.

      The Japanese knew that Americans want steady and reliable, so they didn’t lose much to the Germans at the time. They then did what I expected: co-opted VW’s angle and stepped up the materials and ‘emotion’ to a point that negated the perceived VW advantage.

      Going back to the MQB architecture: I think that this was less about lowering the price of VW automobiles and more about reducing development and production costs so as to afford VW the ability to increase content and give them an edge with features at comparable prices. If the new GTI and Golf are anything to base this on, the future looks good for the next generation Jetta, Passat and Tiguan.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    I can think of a reason to get one over Camcord/fusion. Hatchback practicability. Also size. I was in the market recently and test drove the new Accord. Is a great car and was close to pulling trigger on a manual one, but it was just too large. I don’t need the ability to comfortably fit large people in the back, just wanted something to commute to work in and fit twin 4 year olds in. Even though the largess came without penalty in performance or fuel economy it was more car size wise than wanted.
    Didn’t get current Golf as no manual in 4dr with gas motor, didn’t want maintenance cost of TDI, and didn’t want to spend money for GTI with new one around the corner.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “Hatchback practicability.”

      this…. one thing this review misses is that this golf is one of the very few current hatches that hasn’t been styled into uselessness.. nice boxy rear on it. you don’t have to be an america-hating, japan-scorning dweeb to want it, and i do like its looks.

      before i was all ate up with family i drove hatches and as a recent empty-nester i’m reducing my material encumbrances. i’m interested.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Hatchbacks are nice on those few occasions when you want the car to swallow something bigger than a sedan trunk, but the rest of the time they’re annoying. Coming back from the gym or a hike? Congratulations, you get to smell your sweaty clothes the whole way home! Want to leave your car parked for a bit with something in the back? Either everyone can see what you’ve got, or you put on the cargo cover which is functionally equivalent to a giant “BREAK INTO ME” sign in the back glass. Carrying something that rattles? You’ll hear every rattle the whole way. I’ll take the sedan over the hatch every time, particularly since we already have one CUV in the family.

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        “Hatchbacks are nice on those few occasions when you want the car to swallow something bigger than a sedan trunk…”

        They’re especially nice for those of us who want that on NUMEROUS occasions.

        “Want to leave your car parked for a bit with something in the back? Either everyone can see what you’ve got, or you put on the cargo cover which is functionally equivalent to a giant “BREAK INTO ME” sign in the back glass.”

        Yes, because no one’s ever broken into a sedan trunk before.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          The difference is that a closed sedan trunk doesn’t shout “BREAK INTO ME” at the top of its lungs like a cargo cover.

          • 0 avatar
            sproc

            Assuming you don’t leave valuables visible in your hatch, I fail to see any security advantage for a sedan unless you have fixed rear seatbacks AND no interior trunk release AND the power locks can’t be activated following a break in. For the most part, if you can break a window, anything in a modern sedan is yours.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            “Assuming you don’t leave valuables visible…”

            That’s the whole issue.

            In a hatch, there is no way to leave anything (valuable or not) in the car without advertising it. Either your stuff is visible or it’s under a cargo cover which says “I WOULDN’T BE HERE IF I WEREN’T HIDING SOMETHING.” A sedan looks the same whether or not you’ve left something in the trunk.

            Of course there’s no security advantage to either once the thief decides to break in. The issue is that they’re more likely to break into your hatch.

          • 0 avatar
            Maymar

            You know, I can’t think of a single modern hatchback that doesn’t have a standard-issue cargo cover that basically never gets removed except in the occurrences something big gets hauled. So, it more shouts “I’M A HATCHBACK” than “BREAK INTO ME.”

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Walk around in the streets of any large city. Look inside all the hatchbacks and CUVs you see. Tell me how many cargo covers you find. The answer will be somewhere between zero and very few, because the owners remove them, because they look too conspicuous.

            Sometimes I feel like everyone on this site lives in the middle of nowhere and never parks anywhere but their own garage and a busy Wal-Mart parking lot.

          • 0 avatar
            Maymar

            I live in a large city (over 2.5 million people, if you include the population contained within the unbroken sprawl, it’s more like 6 million), and that’s never been something I’ve noticed. Maybe you just live somewhere that sucks. Admittedly, at my last place, I street-parked my motorcycle, and once left it out with the keys in the ignition for like two days, and, well, it’s still my motorcycle.

            I mean, if anything, I’d attribute it to the path of least resistance. Most wagons and CUVs go with the retractable piece of vinyl, where it’s easier to leave it unused (and yes, that one sort of suggests when it’s in place, it’s to cover something up), but with the fitted parcel shelf panel most hatches have, it just looks like it’s there because where else would it be? I’ve left mine in my back seat for weeks on end out of laziness after I’ve hauled something, but I’ve never felt actively compelled to leave it off.

        • 0 avatar
          mshenzi

          Every car I’ve owned (and I’m on my fifth) has been a compact or mid-sized hatchback. I’m grateful for the utility on pretty much a weekly basis. I’ve lived in economically mixed parts of Los Angeles, the SF Bay area, and DC, and none of the cars has been broken into yet. Keeping the cover is pretty routine by my eyeball test, and my experience has been that using it doesn’t scream ‘fancy stuff back there!’

      • 0 avatar
        mechaman

        I haven’t had anyone break into my trunk (and I live in a somewhat higher crime area of Chicago) since 1987. And I suspect that a relative who knew what was in it (tools) did that. Later on, my Audi 5K beater wagon had no cargo cover; no one touched it, no matter what was back there. Luck of the draw, I think. I’d keep a proper trunk for the reasons mentioned .. relative quiet, relative odorlessness(?) No matter what size. The Dodge Shadow that came in between was pretty much a hatchback when you got down to it. I wished someone had stolen the whole thing.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        1. Your gym clothes must be REALLY smelly.

        2. Move to a safer place, or don’t drive to sketchy places with expensive goods in your trunk.

        3. How often are you transporting full toolboxes and chandeliers?

        For me at least, the benefits of the hatch far outweigh the downsides. Bikes, furniture, full grown adults… my wife’s Rabbit transports all with ease. In even a big sedan, furniture is pretty much a no go. 1 bike is so-so and 2 is a definite no go. And some sedans can’t even seat 4 adults comfortably. Most of the time, people drive alone with nothing in the trunk… so to me, for the average person, there only seem to be upsides. Which is why so many folks drive small SUVs, which are just lifted hatchbacks.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          No place is safe from car break-ins except maybe the sort of ultra-rich suburb that has CCTV at every road leading in.

          The city is the city. Property crime (unlike violent crime) is pretty evenly distributed among city neighborhoods.

          Most of the suburbs have caught up to the city in property crime rates. This isn’t 1985 anymore; crime rates have gone down in the city, and the suburbs have been getting slowly poorer and crime-ier.

          Exurbs and rural areas: meth. Nuff said.

          Break-ins are just a fact of life. I’ll do what I can to reduce my vulnerability.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I think you are overthinking this.

          • 0 avatar
            sportyaccordy

            The two times someone broke into my cars they had conventional trunks. 1 time wasn’t even in a bad neighborhood. For me its not that big of a deal. The other stuff (smelly gym clothes?) is just a little silly.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I think regular car reviews summed up the VW demographic nicely:

    “Meanwhile, the spherical Beetle seemed insistent about its hipness, with its sleek finish, its surround sound, and touch controls, all in service of playing music that sounds like something and nothing all at once. This delivers a pre-programmed idea of hipster success, the automotive representation of an impossibly beautiful man buying vinyl. His jeans are too small and his sunglasses are too big. He drums Neon Trees on the steering wheel and ignores his girlfriend, elevating himself another rung on the douchebag ladder. It’s ambition that never risks getting out of control.”

    http://jalopnik.com/regular-car-reviews-explains-why-auto-shows-are-bullshi-1569652041

  • avatar
    TheyBeRollin

    On a completely-separate train of thought: Is that a slightly-flat-bottomed steering wheel I see? What are they trying to say here?

  • avatar
    kosmo

    Another fun read, but wouldn’t the more “peer-like” comparison be to a hatchback Focus?

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    One of the few Baruth reviews where so many of the details are beautiful, yet so much of the actual argument is completely off.

    Yes, cars tell stories about who we are; no, we are not all Americans who take practicality above all and drive Camry’s.

    The premise of the article that Golfers avoid Camry’s because of image is a little ludicrous. Yes, it is possible that a bigger car will meet all your needs a little better. But why is it so hard for so many of you to understand that mid-size cars DO NOT EXIST for a reasonably large swath of the driving population which includes me?

    Ok, here’s how I think. I love driving, and over time I have come to believe that bigger cars are detrimental to better driving. One argument against Accords that isn’t mentioned here, or really has nothing to do with anything about ‘Murica.

    I am married with no children (yet – it’s a wagon or crossover then), and we aspire to a one-car household to as long as we can manage it, for environmental and financial reasons, in that order.

    We find that hatches or compact sedans offer all we need. Yeah, there’s not a lot of knee room in the back, but we don’t drive extended family often, so it’s a terrific bargain for driving a smaller car. Do you see where this is going? VW manages that better than Honda or Toyota… to the point that they have an almost captive audience just because they know how to make smaller cars feel substantial.

    Bottomline, I love the idea of this car not to make sure no one mistakes my wife for “a stupid mother of two from Iowa.” I love the idea of this car because there is so little competition for what it does: smaller than midsize, sporty by your own admission, and a feel of a substantial highway car that other companies struggle to match.

    Now, how’s that fifth gear in the stick shift?

    • 0 avatar
      Truckducken

      tl;dr: Baruth nailed it.

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        He nailed the lazy stereotype.

        Carry on.

        • 0 avatar
          TEXN3

          So, Jack’s argument is wrong because you don’t agree with it? Got it. Wait until you do have kids, if you choose, and those rear facing seats have you up against the steering wheel. That was one of the reasons we went midsize.

          • 0 avatar
            Nick_515

            It’s not a big “disagree” TEXN3. Of course Jack is wonderful in pointing social trends. But he got lured into the hipster bashing that’s so fashionable these days by, you know, us authentic ‘Muricans.

            I mean, look at the review. It’s kind of an wonderful car on so many grounds. Why does it have to read like jerks buy it to put down rednecks?

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            “… he got lured into the hipster bashing that’s so fashionable these days…”

            VERY well said.

          • 0 avatar
            TEXN3

            Okay, I misunderstood the intent of your original comment.

          • 0 avatar
            seth1065

            I have a jetta wagon , plenty of room for my kids in the back ( 9 and 12) looked at a golf when I bought the wagon, just needed more room in the hatch than the golf had. Another reason to buy this over a camary is on the east coast it seems every 3 car is a camary .

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            In other news, pretentious people hate it when they’re the butt of the joke.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            hybridkiller, it’s just my opinion, but I think you’re overreacting to Jack’s comments regarding the “stereotypical” Golf buyer, etc.

            I don’t believe that even a majority of Golf buyers conform, in anything near perfect measure, to the stereotype Jack has described, nor do I believe that Jack believes such things about the majority of these buyers (though he should correct me if my assumption is incorrect).

            In the context of car/vehicle reviews, and especially ones that flow into matter other than technically specific measurements about the vehicle itself, context of some form or another is typically given on the general “types” of buyers who purchase the subject vehicle, whether a Volvo, BMW, Scion FRS, Saab, BMW, Mustang, F-150, Hyundai Veloster, Mitsu Evc, etc.

            While I believe there are some specific elements of these stereotypes that tend to ring more true of buyers of certain vehicles (more common than not attributes, if you will, whether social or economic), this isn’t to say that there’s any precise metric that can quantify these elements relative to the purchasers in any perfect way.

            I think that it should be at least implicitly understood that Jack is using a large measure of satire/parody in voicing the stereotype, rather than in any way insisting that it holds true in any hard and fast way.

            This is obviously my opinion, but my purchase considerations have been all over the board for 24 years, from Mustangs to Saabs to BMWs to Mazdas to Jeeps to VWs (purchased a B6 Passat 2.0T btw) and everything in between.

            I never even remotely fell into a neat & clean stereotype of any vehicle I considered buying, or that I ultimately did purchase.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            “hybridkiller, it’s just my opinion, but I think you’re overreacting to Jack’s comments regarding the “stereotypical” Golf buyer, etc.”

            You could be right, although it’s clear that I wasn’t alone in thinking it was a bit over the top.

            Relative to most of JB’s reviews that I’ve read, it just seemed to me that he devoted an inordinate amount of space to the stereotype thing, and it was more of an ongoing theme in the piece than simply a few clever quips.

            I enthusiastically concur with everything else you said.

            It has occurred to me that perhaps since the Golf (and more so the GTI) is such a well-regarded and iconic car (globally) that Jack felt no one could possibly take any real offense to his characterizations – that it would be obvious that such characterizations are complete nonsense. If that IS the case, then my read of him was WAY off.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Do gas-powered automatic-equipped Golf owners really think of those in Toyotas and Fords as proles?

    I could maybe see that kind of thinking from TDI, GTI, or A3 owners; but the two 6A 2.5L Golf owners I know can name about 6 cars in total, would have believed my Diplomat was a Bentley if I claimed it was, and are about as Europeans as dinner at Taco Bell.

    • 0 avatar
      hybridkiller

      “In other news, pretentious people hate it when they’re the butt of the joke.”

      Right… like there’s nothing pretentious about pejorative stereotyping.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff Waingrow

        Maybe some folks are taking this all too seriously. My reaction is that Jack usually has his tongue in his cheek and just wants to juice things up a bit. He never seems to mean any harm by it. Frankly, it’s silly stuff, much of which I enjoy. Of course, years back when he narrowly missed hitting that grandmother getting her mail by the roadside…

        • 0 avatar
          hybridkiller

          I agree it’s silly stuff, and normally the kind of thing I find amusing, even if not realistic. But he spent the better part of four paragraphs hammering the point, so it’s a little hard to believe some part of him doesn’t really feel that way.
          And I’ll admit, if I wasn’t a Golf owner who is almost the complete antithesis of Jack’s stereotype I probably would’ve taken a pass.

  • avatar
    jwvw89

    Good review, however one glaring inaccuracy (found even in the title) made me question the truth of the remainder of it.

    The Golf 1.8T TSI does not have a DSG transmission! It is a standard torque converter automatic. Only the GTI and TDI come with a DSG as their automatic option.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      You caught me bigtime — I completely misread my notes which were on the same page for TSI and TDI.

      The TDI has the same brilliant DSG. The TSI has the torque-converter automatic as it does in the Passat.

      As a consequence, you win a free TTAC T-shirt, so shoot us a note with your preferred size.

      • 0 avatar
        TheyBeRollin

        Does this mean the praise lavished upon the transmission was incorrect?

        “You get a turbo four and twin-clutch transmission that are more responsive than the big-inch one-bar four-bangers in the Camry and friends and considerably more enjoyable to push hard.”

        It looks like you removed the other part praising the DSG that I recall from the first read.

        • 0 avatar
          hybridkiller

          The thing that gets me about this is, how can a guy with Jack’s expertise confuse a slushbox with a DSG – WHILE DRIVING IT? To a car guy they are dramatically different in feel. Makes me wonder if he was half asleep or on pain meds when he drove it.

          • 0 avatar
            Brian P

            Many of the newer-design torque-converter automatics – including this one – are calibrated to lock up the torque converter early and shift quickly. All VW automatics, whether DSG or not, have the same type of manual shift mode, too. In these respects, they feel similar to DSG, and it’s not surprising that one would not necessarily pick out the difference when driving them.

          • 0 avatar
            Jack Baruth

            It’s simpler than that.

            I drove nine different cars in 24hours during the VW event.

            As a result I had quite a few scribbled notes on various aspects of the various cars.

            My notes for the diesel and tsi were together on one page. I wrote “DSG SHIFT TIME SAME AS GTI TUNE. ” after reviewing the notes I can see that it refers to the tdi.

            Not that I haven’t confused some of the shift slurring DCTs with automatics before but with the VW that’s a tough mistake to make at the time.

            I should have just rewritten the press release they gave us which makes it plain!

          • 0 avatar
            05lgt

            No Jack, anything but that! If I want to re-read press releases I can just go to the google news page. I come here for the writing and opinions, even if they get stirred together at times.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    Hah! Apparently I’m a stereotype, and Jack nailed it. Had this Golf been available when I was in the market year ago, I might have bought it, despite the painful ownership experience of VWs past.

    Some of us like a car that is small outside but big inside, has the refined road manners of a sport sedan without a brand name that registers on the cockometer (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yw7D9cDQqHo), and has a hatchback (aka dog compartment).

    Speaking of which, when are we going to get a follow-up on the long-term C-Max?

  • avatar
    PRNDLOL

    I like the massaged style job, it’s got sophistication and swank. But inside, the centre stack is vaguely 2008 Passat, and the passenger side dash could not be more devoid of style if it were a wooden apple box with a slat removed for storage.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I’m glad to review the chassis is nice and stiff. I was always shocked at my MKV GTI when I would angle it over a speed bump or something. You could hear the doors creaking… Had a couple rattles that bugged me too. So big plus on the new platform here.

    This car seems to make sense if you want a hatchback. I don’t see people cross-shopping this much with any family sedan. If you like hatchbacks, this makes a lot of sense I think. Sure, we all want the GTI, but some people just like a modestly sized hatchback with some zip. This fits.

  • avatar
    hybridkiller

    “…but that doesn’t change the fact that anybody who buys a German(-branded) hatchback on this side of the Atlantic is trying to make a statement…
    They’ll buy this VW because it’s like a tie from Hickoree’s or having Sun Kill Moon on vinyl or using the word “Murica” ironically in conversation: it sends the right signals to the right people.”

    Jack, I realize that you were referring specifically to the TSI, but dialing back the heavy-handed rhetoric just a bit would be much appreciated. I’m a pragmatic, middle-aged, independent thinker who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about what people think of my automotive choices – I bought my Golf because I wanted a turbo diesel passenger car and there were simply no other US-market options (than German) at the time. And I’m an avid MTBer – thus the hatchback.

    I’ve never really wanted a German car, and never been a VW fan. I am now though, to me the car is just brilliant.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Lol you are really taking this hard. It’s not that serious.

      And whether you want to admit it or not, the car you drive does make a statement about you.

      – Fellow VW hatchback driver.

      • 0 avatar
        hybridkiller

        “And whether you want to admit it or not, the car you drive does make a statement about you.”

        Only in your mind. If you think you know anything about me (or anyone else) based on the car you’re a fool.

        • 0 avatar
          brenschluss

          “I’m a pragmatic, middle-aged, independent thinker,” just like everyone else with a VW who will be sure to mention those traits given half a chance. If you’ve got any “University of ______” stickers in the rear window, you’re at total absorption.

          You can’t avoid “making a statement” simply by not wanting to in this case.

          Not that there’s anything wrong with this, far worse stereotypes to meet than “owner of a new VW,” but pretending you don’t externalize aspects of your personality with the car you choose, especially so if you actually care about cars is silly, pretending.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            Nice try Sherlock, but there are two problems with trying to use information I provided to make your point. #1, you don’t seem to know what the word “pragmatic” means. #2, if you’re suggesting that only middle-aged people buy VWs then you’re not only contradicting the author JB (“But I’m not the market for this car. I’m too old…”) but you must not get out much (or if you do you’re blind).

            I’m a first-year college drop-out, so your one-and-only true attempt to deductively confirm the stereotype is a rather spectacular fail.

            Please feel free to try again though, and thanks for playing.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            What if I was blind?

            Either way.

            I do know what pragmatic means, however it doesn’t matter if you chose this car only because it met your needs. It makes the statement that this was the only car that fit your lifestyle. Yes, that’s a statement.

            Nor did I say that “only” a certain age group will buy these- the “hipsters” of today are the “pragmatic, middle-aged, independent thinkers” of tomorrow. They’re all the same people.

            A certain type of person may buy a VW, because certain types of people want or need the types of cars they make. This isn’t a negative statement, and doesn’t make any value judgement.

            Go to any trailhead near me and it’s likely to look like a meet of TDI wagon and Subaru owners. They’re mostly really nice people, and they all fit neatly into a stereotype. They probably wouldn’t care, and neither should you.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            “Nor did I say that “only” a certain age group will buy these- the “hipsters” of today are the “pragmatic, middle-aged, independent thinkers” of tomorrow. They’re all the same people.”

            Seriously? You’re really going to try to fly that one?

            “It makes the statement that this was the only car that fit your lifestyle. Yes, that’s a statement.”

            I think we need to make a distinction between logical deduction and stereotyping.

            When you see someone wearing running shoes, It MIGHT be making the “statement” that they’re a runner. You can’t then extrapolate from that any other assumptions about the person. Not if you’re old enough and experienced enough to know better.

            “Go to any trailhead near me and it’s likely to look like a meet of TDI wagon and Subaru owners.”

            Go to any trailhead near me and it’s likely to look like a meet of Jeep and assorted pickup truck and SUV owners.

            If you think that tells you anything collectively about their age, occupation, politics, education, social or financial status, personal preferences in food or attire, or anything else that doesn’t relate to the purpose/functionality of the vehicle, you’d be breathtakingly wrong.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            “Seriously? You’re really going to try to fly that one?”

            Yes sir. I guess if I were trying to be precise I would have […]ed the “middle-age” bit since a Golf is an all ages car but whatever.

            A “stereotype” isn’t a concrete thing, and taking a conversation about them seriously is a mistake. I fall into several, myself, depending on preexisting prejudice or bias.

            How complete does a cliche need to be? Or are we supposed to avoid them altogether? OK, a TDI at a trail doesn’t tell me much about the owner. What if it’s covered in expressive bumper stickers and dog hair? Am I allowed to have expectations when I meet the owner? If most of the TDIs I see have homogeneous bumper stickers and bikes on top, that’s my reference. I know it’s not fair to project anything onto anyone who hasn’t directly expressed it, but it happens.

            Here’s the thing: a statement means nothing but what others hear, and there’s no car that makes no statement of its owner, whether that’s as simple they’re someone looking for a reliable car that seats 5, on to bold political or social statements. No matter what you drive, different people will make different assumptions about you, whether you want them to or not. It’s not very noble, and kudos if you’ve never had an impure thought that passed judgement on someone who cut you off in traffic.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            “A “stereotype” isn’t a concrete thing, and taking a conversation about them seriously is a mistake.”

            Agreed, that’s precisely my point – they’re not to be taken seriously. So why are you making such a vigorous argument trying to justify them?

            “What if it’s covered in expressive bumper stickers and dog hair?”

            Then the bumper stickers and dog hair just told you something about the owner, not the car itself (goes back to my comment on “logical deduction”).

            “No matter what you drive, different people will make different assumptions about you.”

            Again agreed, but they’re not very smart people and their assumptions will just as likely be wrong.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            This ain’t that vigorous.

            You seemed to take umbrage with someone saying that this car is bought to “[send] the right message to the right people,” and using some cliches that would apply to his assumptions. None of these applied to you, but you still like the car, so you call it “heavy-handed rhetoric.”

            Meanwhile, the folks I know with TDIs hatches and wagons will often make a point of telling me all about how pragmatic and independent they are, so my assumptions are reinforced, and it sounds to me like you’re putting out a signal to like-minded individuals that you share their lifestyle, whether you care to or not.

            I make no bones about being “not very smart,” but if you’ve never made an internal assumption, just a passing thought, about someone who’s rude in traffic based on negligible info, I don’t think you’re human.

          • 0 avatar
            hybridkiller

            I characterized myself as an independent thinker only to indicate that my choices and views are not affected by how others might perceive them. You have implied more than once now that there’s something disingenuous about that statement. I did not say it because I think it makes me sound cool, and given your pitbull-like fixation on the phrase I now regret having said it.
            I could have said “unconventional” or “nonconformist”, but those words really start to venture into poser territory, and you no doubt would have seized on them as well.

            As to making assumptions, I agree, we all make thousands of assumptions every day – if we didn’t it would take forever to get anywhere or get anything done. My only beef is with making assumptions that are based solely on your own preconceived notions and personal prejudices. Such assumptions generally have the same accuracy as a roulette wheel.

            Peace brother.

        • 0 avatar
          05lgt

          Let me put on a rain suit so I don’t get too involved in this match. My avatar should make it clear I like hatch/wagon, and one reason is I can put a few bikes IN it without the rack. I seriously fell in love with a 14 Camry SE rental though. So, imagine this with me; Camry SE wagon. 4 pot, slush box, gas motor and white. I have an auto-stiffie just thinking about so much awesome. It could be so good that it rewrote the meme away from the brown diesel MT wagon.

          HEY TOYOTA! Mad at Fuji about the breakup? Make a Camry SE wagon and eat Subaru’s lunch all week. High 30’s MPG hwy, 300k reliability and decent driving dynamics trumps AWD. We’ll cross the street for it. Fuji will be begging you to let her build Camry’s again. She’ll crawl back to you, and won’t even give up when you pull that “Zachary Disease” joke on her. It will be awesome.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    It’s a little too short for me. I’d wait for the Sportwagen (whether they retain the Jetta name or go with Golf, as they do elsewhere)…

  • avatar
    smm3292

    Looking back, when I almost bought a new car I put my deposit on a TDI over a GTI for the exact reasons Jack mentioned here, down to the hypothetical date scenario. I hate to say it but us young hip types aren’t as interesting as we think.

  • avatar
    trecoolx

    As a recent reader of the website, this is the first review to make me wonder about the aims and intent of the writer.

    (For the tl;dr commentators, I like the actual comments about the feel and looks of the car–good low-end torque, firm but compliant ride, stiff structure, good handling, but I could do without the image bias.)

    There are lots of cars that are bought to make a statement, much like how most items are purchased based on the customer’s intentions. I’m not sure what the buyer’s self-consciousness regarding their choice has to do with the merits of the item itself. People buy a Prius for the mpg, the image as a eco-conscious driver, the hatch’s flexibility, the backseat space, reliability, etc., but judging the buyer and not the car adds little to a review on the actual car itself.

    I agree that there are lots of worthy competitors to the Golf–the Focus, Mazda3, Impreza, Fit–in the compact and subcompact field–but those are all hatchbacks and not midsized sedans. While the Golf and higher-end small cars compete in the same cost bracket as the Camcords, the mainstream mags downplaying the Camry at least compare the car to its classmates. I’d imagine there are few people cross-shopping a Golf TSI to a Camry, as they’d trade off a lot of things (space and flexibility, for example) with either choice.

    I’m a single guy and own a MkIV Golf 2.0. I made my choice despite higher mpg and better reliability from competitors (I cross-shopped an Impreza, Civic, Elantra, Protege 5, and Pontiac Vibe) because of the combination of interior refinement, hatch space, ride, handling and cost. That refinement was partly an image-based choice for me as well as those seeing the car, sure, but I knew that I wanted something I could look at for 10 years–not be embarrassed by after aging out of the boy-racer phase.

    I enjoyed the nuts-and-bolts portions of the review, as I read the mainstream mags and websites for the numbers and tactile opinions. If this review predicts what will come with the Golf TDI review, I anticipate knocks against fuel-conscious hippies and comparisons to the Nissan CrossCabriolet.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I am one of those smug coastal types and Jack’s assessment is mostly accurate. But I don’t think the cult following of the Golf is hot air. It has all the practicality of an SUV, with better handling and fuel economy. Also doesn’t feel like a penalty box or some chintzy imitation of luxury.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    If something should happen to my Mazda 5, I would probably replace it with one of these, but I’d probably go for the TDI. Once you have hatchback practicality, a trunk just doesn’t cut it. My Altima had a large trunk, but unless it was something flat, you weren’t getting it past the package shelf. Also, the rear speakers and associated wiring.

    Also, I believe Kenmore pointed out this car is styled for practical use. Still a boxy car, boring perhaps, but clean and functional. I like the looks of the CTS wagon, but as a wagon it’s not so great. That sculpting certainly cuts the usefulness of the back. Not quite Dodge Magnum like, but nearly as close.

    I do miss my MkIV Jetta wagon 1.8 more after reading this.

  • avatar
    billfrombuckhead

    The Golf is simply the best compact car in the world, far better than any JapanInc or KoreaInc appliances. The Peugeot 308 looks interesting but is sort of a Gallic doppleganger. The Detroit 3 are getting closer but the Golf is definitely in a class by itself.

    Shame VW can’t bring more of it’s goodness to the rest of it’s lineup

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      There is a reason the Golf is one of the best selling cars in the world, and it is not because hipsters like them.

      • 0 avatar
        Wheatridger

        One of those reasons, I believe, is because the Golf has been through six revisions without any major, disruptive changes.As an owner of Golfs vintage Mk II, IV and V, I’m happy that the Golf has matured and (ahem) enlarged, as I have over those years.

        How should a Golf’s door hinge be designed? They’ve worked that out. The HVAC system? Getting better all the time, like the rest of the car. Compare that with Detroit’s approach to building an economy car. They did completely new models every 5-10 years, names changed in hope you’d forget the old car.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    I was eating a salad when I read this and you almost made me squirt dressing out my nose! Because I know of what you speak. But let me just say that back in the day (mid-’50s), there was a delivery truck that brought one-gallon jugs of a sweet, artificially orange French dressing right to our door. It hooked me on eating green salads — sans meat or cheese — ever since. It’s one of the healthier indulgences, like dessert with extra roughage.

    A spicy mix of the good and the naughty, that’s what I want from a meal, or a car. That’s why I drive a Mk V GTI, though I would have taken the GTI if available I’m my price range. But I’m not a poser, certainly not a street racer, and I’m not out to inflame those who are. My driving experience was much improved since I removed those three provocative letters from the tailgate. “I’m a little white hatch… you don’t know what I got.”

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Wow, so much hate for the coasts. Sorry about your weather. I’m pretty sure the Camry outsells the Golf in the hipster infested craft beer loving coastal regions. I’ll drink that watery lager if it’s free or the only way to drink beer with a friend, but the craft stuff is better if you know what you like. Jack, if I have to stop drinking good beer to be a real murican, you have to play Fenders. And listen to Katy Perry without the video.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Hey, I have a Dale Wilson FCS Masterbuilt Jazzmaster!

      Wait, I’m undermining myself.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        OK, read the whole thing again without getting my knickers knotted this time, and I have a question. Can you tell us any more about this San Jose based social media consultant who apparently wasn’t feeling your game? In my fevered imagination she was really hot and really snarky/condescending/aloof/snobby/vicious . It takes so many letters to avoid the forbidden words.

  • avatar
    otaku

    Don’t care what anyone says; this thing still looks like a refrigerator on wheels.

  • avatar

    I’m confused about all this psycho-analysis. This is TTAC not The Truth About The Scene.

    If I have 25k to spend/finance, i’ll look at what I can get at 25k that meets my needs (commuter/grocery getter/auto so my girlfriend-future-fiance can drive it as well since i’m nice, decent MPG, etc.)

    That’ll be stuff like a Camry SE, Accord Sport, Golf 1.8T, maybe an Elantra GT or a Sonata? Perhaps a 2.4 Verano?

    Then i’ll pick the one I like driving the best.

    So either the Accord or the Golf.

    no psycho analysis required, buy what you like DRIVING. Sure some people will buy what they like being seen in, but they’re the minority, and usually SOMEONE ELSE is buying it for them.

    Believe me I don’t drive an old ass Volvo because I want to project an image. I just love driving it.

  • avatar
    hybridkiller

    “Sure some people will buy what they like being seen in, but they’re the minority…”

    +1

    One of the hardest things to do in this world is to get someone to abandon their preconceived notions and embrace the reality. It can be done if they’re open minded enough, but still not easy.
    It’s just part of human nature.

  • avatar
    bortlicenseplate

    Yikes – VW decides to spoil us for choice a little, with 2 different turbocharged Golf’s, and we bite the hand that feeds us.

    When I briefly looked at the Golf/GTI (before I determined it was too short for my hauling needs), I quickly eliminated the GTI because I found the $5k price gulf between it and the 1.8TSI to be too much, given how much I enjoyed the performance of even the base 5-speed 1.8T.

    How come there was no mention in the article of that sizeable price difference? $5k is a lot – it could comfortably keep this Coastal hipster in premium skinny jeans/lattes for at least a couple of months.

    As much as the GTI is a revelation as a hot hatch, the 1.8TSI golf is equally so in a slightly different segment: refined, versatile, exquisitely built, affordable, fun-to-drive and enormously practical transportation.

    Also: hipster-baiting is fun, but for sheer entertainment value, it’s kinda low-hanging fruit. (See also: Foxworthy, Jeff, Redneck Jokes)

  • avatar
    the passenger

    While I appreciate this review, I don’t believe potential buyers of this car will be comparing it with Camrys and Accords, and so I don’t think it’s helpful to make those comparisons. It would be more helpful to hear how this car compares to the Mazda3, the Subaru Impreza, possibly the Hyundai Elantra (because that car is available as a hatch, though I think I already know the answer to that one). I’m in a one-car household with two adults and no children, and we will probably be looking to replace an ’07 Mazda3 in eight to 12 months. We don’t need anything larger than a compact, but a more involved driving experience is definitely a requirement.

  • avatar
    PandaBear

    Growing up with Pocky on the other side of the Pacific, I didn’t realize eating it here in the US is “making a statement”.

  • avatar
    Charlie84

    Funny. I loved my ’10 Golf 2.5 because I thought it to be one of the most humble, class-transcending cars available. I also thought it was darned good transportation. Maybe the fact that it had the 5-cylinder/manual combo made it less elitist?

    Those damned kids and their turbos…

  • avatar
    spoonie

    Interesting take, Jack. I’ve been considering one of these to replace my aging ’07 Rabbit, which has been pretty darn great in the reliability “non-volkwagony” way..but the more and more I read about the GTI i feel that extra jump in $ may be worth it in the long run. The problem is, up here in Canuckistan, i’ll have to wait until Jan/Feb for a PP version.

    I can’t compare a Golf to any camry/accord as they dont come in a small hatchback. I’m also not interested in a larger car like the S/V 60 vehicles from Volvo.

    Subaru decided to exclude themselves from consideration by making their fairly entertaining WRX in sedan format only.

    I, more than occasionally, haul shit. Sedans are dead to me.

    Your article mentioned a dual-clutch unit – was that in the TDI? The TSI allegedly uses a torque-converting Aisin box, no?

  • avatar
    mslerner2002

    Jack: Thank you for taking the time to review the new VW Golf. While I think you made some interesting points, I have a couple of my own for your consideration: Point 1: I am surprised that you would suggest cross-shopping a Golf with a Camry. I have owned a Camry and driving dynamics and Toyota Camry are words that never crossed my mind. Grass Roots Motorsports magazine “attempted” to track prep a Camry and all they succeeded in doing was blowing it up. If you want to compare a driver’s car with the Golf, next time consider the Honda Civic. Point 2: I think TTAC could be more useful to its readers if there was less of an emphasis on out-and-out performance, ala the GTi and more on driveability. I would venture to guess that most of your readers are not driving on glass smooth roads and would sacrifice a few tenths on the skidpad for a car that didn’t have aspirations of coming back in its next life as a go-kart. I have owned my share of cars with sport suspensions and I think it is time to kill the skid-pad and come up with a better metric. The Golf doesn’t need to have 18″ rims and beefier shocks, springs and swaybars to be an enjoyable daily driver. If you “wanted” to track it, go see how many coilovers are offered for the Golf versus the Camry. Point 3 – As probably mentioned by other responders, the Golf has the Aisin automatic and the GTi has the DSG. While there are people that only want to shift their own gears, there are also plenty of us that are tired of pumping clutch pedals in stop-and-go traffic. I would much prefer the Aisin to the DSG if I were stuck in traffic.

  • avatar
    ReflexMkVII

    This reviewer is an idiot. The Camry doesn’t drive anywhere near to a VW. Camry is cheaply built plastic everything. It has the styling of a toad, it drives like one, has the same powertrain from 10 years ago. The Golf and GTI are quality made and driving. The reason people should and do pay for the Golf and GTI is because it offers something different. It is fun to drive, it will age well because it has a timeless design, VW hasn’t been the subject to a rash of recalls like Toyota, it offers as much or more cargo space as any midsize sedan, it has tons of room but is much easier to park or drive in a city, it is built by a company that prides itself on technology, safety and the environment (Toyota’s Prius pollutes more than people think because of the amount of enegh it takes to make the batteries and all of the harsh chemicals in them). The Golf gets great fuel economy but is as fast as a Camry V6 that only gets around 30MPG HWY. You can get a manual transmission, a DSG, a diesel, etc… What Camry have you driven that is designed and built to conquer the autobahn on a daily basis? The GTI is what I own and I love it. It has tons of grip, no torque steer or bump steer, is super quiet on the highway but when you mash the throttle it awakens with a growl, it can easily be tuned to increase power, and it doesn’t look like something your grandma has. The Golf and Golf GTI/R are all great cars that offer whatever anyone could want. Advanced safety features? Check! Great fuel economy? Check! Lots of power and torque? Check! High quality interior? Check. What more could anyone want?


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States