Sometimes people forget, you don’t need a lot of money in order to have a good car. The minute you think of German Engineering, the thought of cracking open that wallet a little further is daunting. In the case of Volkswagen and their smallest U.S. compact hatch, the Golf, it just goes to show you too can have a good car for under $30,000. Did we just do our closure in our opening?
If it’s not broken, don’t bother fixing it. And VW makes a good point to that statement – the Golf has always been a tad of an understatement in the design department. Yet, that’s what gives it its charm. Last year in 2015, VW made dramatic changes to the Golf to spice up its personality – it grew up and out – though never really encourage wondering eyes to have a second glance. Even though for 2016 styling remains the same, our top spec’d Golf SEL came in wearing 18-inch shoes, fog lights and a handsome Gray paint job as well as some new technology.
The SEL is the top of line for the 1.8-liter Golf before getting into GTI territory, but that’s a whole other ball game. A base Golf S starts at $20,175 and works its way up to $27,425 SEL. The base 1.8-liter engine is the cream of the crop to the Golf’s 3100lb size, slapped with a turbocharger, and we have 170-horsepower ready for a good time. It’s pretty quick too, nearly 7 and half seconds to 60 mph using a smooth shifting six-speed automatic. If you go for the steering wheel paddle shifters like we do, enthusiasm is heighten and can expect crisp, responsive changes from that sweet gearbox. Unfortunately for the SEL, the six-speed manual is not an option here – that’s okay though, with a manual we’d probably wouldn’t have seen the 25 combined mpg as we did with automatic. A manual can sometimes be a little too much fun.
German Engineering proud – that’s what Volkswagen should be. The light, yet alive leather wrapped steering wheel is just a peek into some good old fashion entertainment. The chassis was greatly improved last year providing a snugger, more composed assembly. It introduces an eager driving tactic to even the dreariest of daily commuting. The independent suspension handles the bumps with composure and absorbing any roughage in the road – while on the open country lanes it maintains a tight delightfulness of fun and comfort.
Even though most automakers lean towards leather interiors when it comes to their top spec trims, Volkswagen sticks to their leatherette seats. It saves costs after all, and at least featured here we still maintain heated front seats and a power adjustable driver seat. For long hauls the seats are absolutely superb – there’s even room in the back for a couple of friends, they can also enjoy some cool air with rear vents – nice added touch. Fit and finish is very Audi-esc – every surface has a soft touch feel where it counts and the use of different finishes adds a comfort premium balance to the interior. The piano black finish on the dash is about the only thing we didn’t like with the Golf – it gets dirty quick with dust and finger prints and given a couple years, they’ll be deep embed scratches.
The biggest news for 2016 isn’t anything we mentioned above but the new technology that’s fitted to the front bumper – driving aids, aside from now having Apple CarPlay. Spring up an extra $1495 for the Driver Assistance Package and you’ll have Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning, Lane Assist, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Blind Spot Monitoring, Front and Rear Parking Sensors and Park Assist (for those that can’t park.) The system fundamentally works well – the adaptive is smooth in acceleration and braking – lucky to our mad driving skills we didn’t get to experience the emergency braking. But what about the biggie here, Park Assist? It works, we’ll admit that – but in all honesty, you can park it yourself much, much faster.
So, yes, you too can have a good car for under $30,000. However, if you go for the Lighting Package, which we’d recommend (not seen here) it will push your Golf over that 30k mark. The other sad news too is that, if you want your Golf in the SEL form with the Lighting and/or Driver Packages, it’ll most likely be a special order as most dealers don’t keep them stocked. So while you can have a good car for less than 30k, you’ll have to patient with your order, cause trust us, it’s all the car you’ll ever need.
|SEL Base Price:||$27,425|
|As Tested (including Options & Destination):||$29,740|
|1.8-liter Turbocharged Four-Cylinder – 170-horsepower/200lb-ft of torque – 0-60MPH: ±7.5 seconds|
|EPA MPG: 25/36/29 (city/highway/combined) – SSB Average: 24 MPG’s – Fuel Range: 300 Miles|