Friday, May 29, 2015

Making a swing for the fences: 2015 VW Golf

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 The VW Golf certainly wasn't the first hatchback ever invented, but in its 40 year history, it has become the benchmark. Like other long-standing German cars, the Golf has evolved steadily over time. When you park all 7 generations side by side, you can easily spot how it has changed over the years. Compared to the last generation, you would be hard pressed to find the major changes that have been made.

     Reshaped headlamps and taillights, and side body panels with increased sharpness are the only giveaways that anything has changed. The interior is also the same, with hardly any changes to be made.

     However, underneath that refreshed body is an all new body structure, and a more powerful efficient gasoline engine. The underperforming 2.5 liter 5 cylinder engine is gone, and in comes a 1.8 liter turbo 4 cylinder that delivers good power, and respectable fuel economy. If fuel economy is your game, the TDI also makes a return.

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On the inside, the 2015 VW Golf looks and feels much like the older car, but there is actually more space for you and your things. Material quality is a little bit better, along with a slightly updated interface for infotainment.

     The 2015 VW Golf hatchback comes in 2 or 4 door flavors, with 4 different trim levels with each version.

     The base Golf Launch Edition has limited availability, and comes in a 2 door, with manual transmission only. Standard features include 15-inch steel wheels, heated mirrors, air conditioning, front seat center armrest, cloth seating surfaces, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, 60/40 split folding rear seats, hill hold assist, Bluetooth, a 5.8 inch touchscreen audio interface, satellite radio and iPod connectivity.
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     The Golf S comes in either 2 or 4 doors and adds alloy wheels, cruise control, a leather wrapped steering wheel, premium vinyl seating surfaces, and VW's Car-Net. Power reclining front seats are also included if you select the optional automatic transmission, or the optional sunroof is selected.

     The SE trim only comes as a 4 door with the auto transmission, sunroof and power partial seats. Added goodies include 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlamps, fog lights, automatic wipers, heated front seats, a rearview camera and a premium Fender audio system. The range topping SEL trim adds 18-inch wheels, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone auto ac, sport front seats with 10-way power adjustable settings, a navigation system and interior ambient lighting with LED reading lamps.

     The TDI powertrain equipped vehicles have all of the same options.

     Two package options are available. The Lighting package includes bi-xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lights, cornering lights, and the ambient interior and LED reading lamps. The Driver Assistance package includes front and rear parking sensors, and a forward collision warning system.

     Powering the conventional gasoline Golf, is a turbocharged 1.8 liter 4 cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower and 200 lb.-ft of torque. The Launch Edition trim is only available with a 5-speed manual transmission, while the Golf S can come with a 6-speed automatic. The SE and SEL trims only come with the automatic.

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 The EPA estimates for this powerplant is 29 mpg combined with the automatic, and 30 mpg combined with the manual. In performance testing, the Golf managed to accelerate to 60 mph in about 8 seconds, which is a pretty good time for this class.

     The diesel powered models receive a 2.0 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that makes 150 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard and VW's 6-speed DSG is optional. The EPA estimates currently stand at 36 mpg combined for the automatic, and 36 mpg combined for the manual.

     Standard safety features for the 2015 VW Golf include things like antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, and a driver knee airbag. A post-crash braking system is also standard , while forward collision warning, and front and rear parking sensors are optional.

     On Golf S models and above, VW's Car-Net is standard. Car-Net is VW's version of OnStar, and has many of the same features. In brake testing, the Golf managed to come to a complete stop from 60 mph in 120, which is a solid number for this class. As a plus, the IIHS gave the Golf the highest rating of good.

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 The 2015 VW Golf's interior features well-grained materials that are soft to the touch, and a cabin design that while subdued, is clean and elegant at the same time. Buttons and switches are placed close to the driver and offer intuitive, simple control. The 5.8 inch touchscreen is on the small side compared to others, but it works well and is rather easy to read at a glance. However, the large iPhone connector plug can require you to remove the case on your phone, and is a constant gripe, especially with the popularity of simple USB ports. The navigation system might also disappoint with its inability to overlay traffic info on the map, Instead, it lists traffic info off to the side.

     Front seats provide ample support and comfort, even during long distance stints, and not at the sacrifice of rear seat passengers. The Golf's new added leg and shoulder room make the small hatch feel big, although the low mounted rear seat cushions are best suited to smaller passengers. Up to 22.8 cubic feet of cargo can be shoved in the trunk, while 52.7 cubic feet of stuff can be fit if you fold the rear seats down.

     Power from either the gas or the diesel engine should be enough to satisfy most drivers, and the gas engine is smooth and strong. The diesel TDI however, delivers a healthy train of power at low and medium speeds, but the power drops off as the engine nears the redline. The 6-speed automatic paired with the gas engine is a bit balky however, and is prone to gear hunt when accelerating from a stop. Once underway, gear changes are quick, and almost buttery smooth. The 6-speed manual is easy to shift, thanks to a light clutch pedal and distinct shift gates.
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     On a normal commute, the 2015 VW Golf delivers a comfortable and compliant ride quality the soaks up potholes and bumps with little effort. With a small footprint and great visibility, it is a super easy car to drive and park. On winding roads, the Golf sticks to its intended path, though if you search hard enough, you will find some body roll and the steering can feel light and dull. Competitors like the Ford Focus and Mazda 3 are better drives in this regard.


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