Volkswagen Golf Performance

#9 in Compact Cars Performance Score: 8.4 / 10
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2017 Volkswagen Golf Performance Overview

The 2017 Volkswagen Golf offers agile handling and a comfortable ride over most surfaces. Generally, its steering is quick and the Golf can handle corners with ease. However, when cornering quickly, its steering can feel numb. The Volkswagen Golf's turbocharged four-cylinder is one of the strongest base engines in the class. When accelerating from a stop, however, you may experience a delay between when you press the gas and when the car actually starts moving. The standard manual transmission is outdated and difficult to shift. The available automatic in the base and Wolfsburg Edition is smooth but can occasionally hesitate to downshift. Fuel economy is on par with that of most compact cars.

  • "All in all, driving the Golf is patently more fun than driving the majority of its competition. It's not a terribly fast car, but its nimbleness and balance around turns is sure to brighten up any commute or coffee run." -- Autoblog (2015)
  • "VWs are a cut above. Solid steering feel, muted thumps over bumps, quietness, ride composure, and interior design and materials all befit a car with a premium nameplate." -- Consumer Guide (2015)

Acceleration and Power

The 2017 VW Golf has a 170-horsepower, turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission. A six-speed automatic is available. The 2017 Golf earns an EPA-estimated 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway, with the manual transmission. With the automatic transmission, the Golf achieves 25 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway. Both estimates are typical for a compact car. The Golf diesel model is currently unavailable in the U.S.

The Golf's engine feels stronger than most competitors' engines. Its quick acceleration makes highway passing and merging seemingly effortless. Still, when pulling away from a stop, the 2017 Golf's engine displays some turbo lag. While the automatic transmission shifts smoothly, it can hesitate to downshift at times. The standard manual transmission is hard to shift, and with only five speeds, it feels outdated.

Performance enthusiasts should consider the Golf R, which comes with a 292-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, and a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is available.

  • "Thanks to the 170 hp on tap from its turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the 2017 Volkswagen Golf feels more powerful than most other small hatchbacks or sedans. The punchy engine makes overtaking cars on the highway uneventful, with smooth, quick downshifts coming from the snappy automatic transmission." -- Edmunds
  • "It's a peppy little engine, though you'll feel a bit of turbo lag at very low rpm. It's really only apparent when you're trying to leave a stop aggressively, or if you're lugging the engine in a high gear. With a few more revs on the clock, the motor pulls smoothly and strongly and makes plenty of power to scoot the car around with authority. It's even fairly quiet in the process." -- Motor Trend (2015)
  • "… nail the gas from a stop, and the car moves off the line a bit lazily, quickly followed by a stronger surge that isn't always linear. Furthermore, hit the gas while under way, and the transmission often hesitates to downshift, and when it finally does, engine response again ebbs and flows a bit - something that's particularly noticed accelerating out of corners." -- Consumer Guide (2015)

Handling and Braking

The Golf's small stature makes it easy to maneuver through city streets, winding roads, and parking lots. Steering is accurate and quick, so you'll have no trouble getting the hatchback to go exactly where you want it to go. Still, some drivers may wish for more steering feedback when rounding a corner. The VW Golf's ride quality is gentle over rough roads. The Volkswagen Golf's brakes are smooth, providing firm stopping power when you press the pedal.

  • "On a typical commute, the Golf delivers a comfortable and compliant ride quality that smooths ruts and potholes with ease. Its small footprint and large windows make it an easy car to see out of and park in tight spaces. Around turns, the Golf goes where you point it, but it's not particularly sporty. Competitors such as the Civic, Focus and Mazda 3 feel tauter and are generally more fun to drive with enthusiasm." -- Edmunds
  • "On the road, the Golf feels nimble yet solid, displaying that distinctive Germanic composure at higher speeds. The steering is rather numb in corners, but you can hustle this little hatch along if you feel like it. It has moves." -- AutoTrader (2015)
  • "As with the old Golf, the new car's electric power steering provides surprisingly natural weight in the steering wheel with no slop. Steering response is quick and linear, allowing you to point the car right where you want it without much concentration. There's no torque steer in the wheel, which is always appreciated. Brakes are similarly competent, offering a smooth, linear engagement as you depress the pedal." -- Motor Trend (2015)
Review Last Updated: 2/3/17
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2017 Volkswagen Golf Pictures