Where Your Author Considers the Finer Points of Golf

where your author considers the finer points of golf

In the concluding chapter of the Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen story the other day, I was asked by a frequent commenter to share some of the things I liked or would miss about the Golf now that it’s gone away. I’m thinking of those things now as I view its dealer listing, recently updated with many photos. They never did replace the cargo area trim panels, I can see the scratches from here!

Anyway, the positives. The most enjoyable thing about the Golf was its fun to drive nature. Even though it didn’t have a lot of power at 147 horses, that just meant you could use more (or all) of the power more of the time. It was one of those cars where there’s not really enough power for anything bad to happen should you floor the throttle. That made it fun to rev up and toss around on back roads, an area where it shone. The steering was communicative enough to let you know what the front wheels were doing, and the brakes strong in the event of a tractor appearing suddenly around a bend (that happens here). Though there wasn’t a ton of grip from the slimmish tires, the power level was well-matched to said grip. There weren’t really any situations on dry pavement where things were going to get out of hand, everything felt planted all the time.

The engine was also a highlight. Smaller than the power plants in the vast majority of cars in this country, it was smooth and had excellent NVH characteristics. At idle it was almost entirely silent from inside the cabin. Handled roughly, the 1.4 provided eager small engine noises and it never sounded as though you were thrashing it too hard, even at the red line. To get the most out of it, it was best to put it in manual mode and shift with the paddles to keep up the revs. Even when you drove it aggressively for some hours in a given tank of fuel, it would still return between 29 and 31 miles per gallon. Over my 18-month experience, it was the most consistent fuel economy of any car I’ve ever owned (hand calculated). Pity that engine was available only on 2019 models, and only on the SE in wagon format. Same goes for the eight-speed automatic, which was not a complicated DSG like in the Alltrack. It was crisp and responsive, not indecisive and jerky like in the current Tiguan.

Fit and finish were great as well, especially considering its compact non-premium class. Everything had a solid feel, and most of the surfaces you touched were of pretty good quality. It was interesting to see how the same climate control knobs across Golf, Passat, Jetta, and Tiguan felt a bit different in each car: They were put together the best in the Golf. Doors made a nice heavy sound and an equally nice sound upon opening them. Touch-sensitive door handles sometimes reacted a bit too slowly, but always had a nice return action. Seats were comfortable enough (the SEL seats were better, but dropped for 2019), and the problem-prone glass roof and light-colored vinyl provided a bright interior. I can’t recommend light interiors enough when the only other option is black.

Having Android Auto was nice as well, though I suspect I’ll get used to not having it like every year before I had the Golf. The large screen was intuitive, and so were the rest of the interior controls. Special shout out to the dials, which were clear and easy to read, and looked slightly nicer than the similar dials in other Volkswagen products. This compliment won’t apply soon though, as all VWs are in process of the switch to fancy screen-based gauges. Speaking of things no more, I liked that it was a regular Golf with a wagon body, which allowed for the aforementioned roof and lots of cargo space. Folding the seats was a breeze from the side or the rear levers, and the cargo area was enormous for such a small car. The interior overall was pretty spacious, especially so with front legroom and acceptably so at the rear.

Overall (and I know it’s cliché to say) it felt like the Golf had a bit of personality in a segment largely devoid of it. I liked that you didn’t see it everywhere, either, but that’s really a reason for its cancellation rather than a positive. I don’t see myself owning another Volkswagen at any point (and the new Golf does not appeal at all per reviews of the thing), or another wagon in the near future. The Golf then will be a one-off, some happy driving times during a pandemic, interspersed with inconvenient factory quality control, and overly complex, fussy German engineering. Until next time.

[Images: Corey Lewis / The Truth About Cars]

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  • Cruster Cruster on Jul 16, 2021

    I have a ‘16 GSW I bought new. Pushing 80k and I’ve never had an issue. Love the giant sunroof. Last year I put turbo out of a GTI (IS20) in it. A set of good tires and it’s a blast to drive fast or slow. Maybe the best daily driver I’ve ever had.

  • Funky D Funky D on Jul 16, 2021

    The problem with VW now is that they don't build anything truly different anymore. Their entire lineup consists of cars that have a nice underdone style to them (an increasing rarity in the market), but little else to compensate the owner for plasticky-parted cars that generally begin to burned the owner in repairs for the owner almost as soon as the warranty runs out. I bought my 2012 Eos at 78k miles, with the complete understanding that the previous and original owner traded the car in just before a major maintenance interval, something that I used in the price negotiation. Fortunately, it also came with a complete set of maintenance records showing that all of it had been performed without fail. So far, this had resulted in an ALMOST trouble-free ownership going on 28k miles so far. The only exception was a water pump (nice of VW to bury it so far down in the engine compartment!) and driver seat motor which has been 2k in repairs over 4 years. I am sure that I am having a above- Still, I doubt that I will own another VW as they just don't offer anything that would justify the ownership costs over the long haul.

  • FreedMike Back in the '70s, the one thing keeping consumers from buying more Datsuns was styling - these guys were bringing over some of the ugliest product imaginable. Remember the F10? As hard as I try to blot that rolling aberration from my memory, it comes back. So the name change to Nissan made sense, and happened right as they started bringing over good-looking product (like the Maxima that will be featured in this series). They made a pretty clean break.
  • Flowerplough Liability - Autonomous vehicles must be programmed to make life-ending decisions, and who wants to risk that? Hit the moose or dive into the steep grassy ditch? Ram the sudden pile up that is occurring mere feet in front of the bumper or scan the oncoming lane and swing left? Ram the rogue machine that suddenly swung into my lane, head on, or hop up onto the sidewalk and maybe bump a pedestrian? With no driver involved, Ford/Volkswagen or GM or whomever will bear full responsibility and, in America, be ambulance-chaser sued into bankruptcy and extinction in well under a decade. Or maybe the yuge corporations will get special, good-faith, immunity laws, nation-wide? Yeah, that's the ticket.
  • FreedMike It's not that consumers wouldn't want this tech in theory - I think they would. Honestly, the idea of a car that can take over the truly tedious driving stuff that drives me bonkers - like sitting in traffic - appeals to me. But there's no way I'd put my property and my life in the hands of tech that's clearly not ready for prime time, and neither would the majority of other drivers. If they want this tech to sell, they need to get it right.
  • TitaniumZ Of course they are starting to "sour" on the idea. That's what happens when cars start to drive better than people. Humanpilots mostly suck and make bad decisions.
  • Inside Looking Out Why not buy Bronco and call it Defender? Who will notice?