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Tom Crosby: Award-winning Volkswagen Golf adds tweaks for 2018

Tom Crosby

When the seventh generation of the Volkswagen Golf hatchback was launched in 2015, it won a slew of automotive awards with just minor upgrades added each year since.

Those awards kept helping last year when the four-door compact Golf Hatchback had its best sales year ever, contrary to the decline nationally of sales for smaller vehicles.

For 2018, the Golf’s mostly monochromatic exterior changes with some extra chrome and new LED taillights and running lights. The Golf, now offered in several variations, hit the streets in 1974 as a replacement for the VW Beetle.

Also new this year, several features became standard that were previously options such as a new six-year 72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty Volkswagen calls the industry’s best.

We test-drove the front-wheel-drive Golf SE hatchback (there is a base S trim). The six-speed automatic transmission (a $1,100 option) mates with a turbo-charged six-cylinder 1.8-liter engine, peppy from the start or for quick interstate passing, especially when switching to sport driving mode using steering wheel mounted manual shift paddles.

With its smallish wheelbase and low stance (5.3 inches of ground clearance), driving was pleasurable with excellent response using rack-and-pinion steering and a nice turning radius of 35.8 feet.

The ride was quiet, composed and comfortable with MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension.

Visibility is excellent with large windows and thin pillars.

The SE now has standard forward collision warning with emergency braking, rear traffic alert with rearview camera and blind spot monitoring. Navigation and adaptive cruise control would improve the driving experience.

Designated a compact, the Golf has a surprisingly expansive cabin and an adjustable trunk floor that moves 3.9 inches up or down. Nearly 53 cubic feet of cargo space is created with the back seat folded, more than some mid-size sedans.

Inside, fit and finish is excellent, all seats have V-Tex leatherette covering, front seats are heated, and tasteful trim includes chrome, aluminum and soft-touch plastics under a sunroof.

An 8-inch touchscreen with sharp graphics tilted slightly toward the driver is new and handles a number of Volkswagen’s technology features that include SMS texts, smartphone apps, excess speeding alerts and boundary limits for teen drivers.

Neat features include large map pockets with flocking, cowled gauges readable in sunlight and storage space on the left under the dashboard. The Golf is expected to receive a top crash safety rating.

LIKE: Price, quickness, interior, spaciousness, mileage

DISLIKE: Navigation and adaptive cruise assist would be worth the price

BOTTOM LINE: Popularity will increase with 2018 improvements

FACT FILE

2018 VW GOLF SE TSI

Base price with destination fee  $25,605 ($26,705 tested)

Curb weight: 3,003 lbs.

Wheelbase: 103.8 inches

Length: 167.5 inches

Width: 1.8 liters, 4-cyclinder, turbo

Horsepower: 170 hp at 4,500 rpm

Torqu: 199 lbs.-ft. at 1,600 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic wTriptonic and sport mode

EPA rating: 24 mpg city/ 33 mpg highway

Range: 13.2-gallon tank

Performance: 0-60 in just over 6 seconds

 

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996 and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.

 

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