By Mike Hagerty
If you could only buy one new car to do everything you do in your life, what would it be?
A lot of people – Americans, especially – would default to the biggest, most capable all-weather machine they could afford and figure if it can handle that, it can handle the rest. In my mid-30s, that way of thinking possessed me to buy a Suburban with four-wheel drive. I owned it seven years. It never left two-wheel drive mode, I never had eight people in it at once, and I never filled the cargo area.
The truth is, the one car for most Americans is a German car that has simply been evolving over 45 years.
That car, of course, is the Volkswagen Golf: seating for five, better-than-average passenger and cargo room, reasonable acceleration and reasonable price.
Let’s do reasonable acceleration first. Zero to 60 mph happens in 7.7 seconds from the new 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It makes 147 horsepower – 23 fewer than the 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder engine it replaces – and yet the new Golf is one-tenth of a second quicker to 60 mph.
Equipped with a six-speed manual transmission as our tester was, the Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy estimates are 28 mpg city, 36 highway.
The rear hatch area holds 17.4 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seat up. It’s hard to find a bigger traditional trunk in a car these days. Fold the rear seat down and the cargo capacity leaps to 53.7 cubic feet.
With seats in place, all five aboard will find plentiful headroom because of the upright design of the Golf, adequate legroom – the front passenger seat in the above photo is all the way back – as well as comfort and support from truly well-designed seats.
Europe got the next-generation Golf a few months ago. The U.S. is most likely in its last year of this generation, so apart from the 228-horsepower GTI and the outrageous 292 horsepower Golf R, there is only one way to get a Golf this year.
There’s one trim level, TSI. The base price is $23,195, and you get a lot for your money. It includes anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, alloy wheels, halogen headlights, LED taillights, a power sunroof, cruise control, an audio system with Apple CarPlay, and a lot more.
Our tester had no extra-cost options. An eight-speed Tiptronic automatic transmission with Sport mode is available for $800, and the rest of the option list is really dealer-installed stuff (mud flaps, cargo organizers, roof racks, etc.). So, with the $920 destination charge, the bottom line on the window sticker reads $24,115.
That, my friends, is a screaming deal – $14,000 below the average price of a new car in this country this year. For a car that is way above average, and that probably meets 90% of the needs of 90% of Americans about 90% of the time.
There’s a reason the Golf, in a form close to the 1975 original, lives on today.