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2015 Volkswagen Golf vs. 2015 Ford Focus: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro February 2015

If you're interested in a new compact car, we can only assume that you're checking out two of today's newest and most highly recommended models: the 2015 Volkswagen Golf and the 2015 Ford Focus. Both have been heavily revised for the latest model year, and both are certainly worth a spot on your shopping list, but which one is better? We've created a close comparison between the two models to find out, but first let's see what's new with the Golf and the Focus for the 2015 model year.

2015 Volkswagen Golf

The Golf is completely redesigned for 2015. Although the latest Golf still looks a lot like the outgoing model, the new version boasts a larger interior, improved interior materials and a few new features compared to its predecessor.

2015 Ford Focus

While the Focus isn't fully redesigned like the Golf, it gets a facelift that's almost as thorough. There's revised styling inside and out, along with updates to the infotainment and safety systems. There's a new, fuel-efficient engine, too.

Reliability

Neither the Focus nor the Golf are standout cars for reliability. On the contrary, the 2014 Golf, which uses similar engines to the new 2015 model, received only two circles out of five in J.D. Power's Power Circle Ratings, indicating worse-than-average reliability. The Focus didn't do much better, though, earning only three circles for average reliability. Warranty coverage for both models is identical: 3 years or 36,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage and 5 years or 60,000 miles of powertrain protection.

We're giving this category to the Focus but only by a hair, and we don't consider either model to be at the top of the class for reliability.

Fuel Economy

The Volkswagen Golf is offered with several different engines, but shoppers especially interested in fuel economy will want to chose from one of three. First up is the Golf's base engine, a 170-horsepower 1.8-liter 4-cylinder that returns 25 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway with the standard manual transmission and slightly higher numbers with an optional automatic.

The Golf's other two fuel-economy-minded engines use alternative fuel. There's a diesel-powered Golf TDI, which boasts 150 hp and gas mileage numbers as high as 31 mpg city/43 mpg hwy with the automatic transmission. Next, there's the pure electric e-Golf, which boasts 115 hp and an impressive 83-mile fully electric range.

The Focus also offers three engines for fuel-economy-minded shoppers. The Ford's base engine is a 160-hp 2.0-liter 4-cylinder capable of an impressive 27 mpg city/40 mpg hwy in automatic guise or 26 mpg city/36 mpg hwy with the manual. Both numbers beat the Golf by a nose.

Although the Focus doesn't offer a diesel, Ford's next best thing is a 1.0-liter turbocharged 3-cylinder EcoBoost powerplant, which is new for 2015. It makes 123 hp and is capable of a miserly 29 mpg city/40 mpg hwy. Those are good numbers, but they're not quite on the Golf TDI's level.

Finally, there's the Focus Electric, which offers a 143-hp electric motor. Although its range is only 76 miles compared to the Golf's 83 miles, it boasts more power than the e-Golf, along with a lower base price.

As a result, the winner of this category depends on your exact model choice. Go for a base model, and you'll want the Ford. If you're choosing between the TDI or the new EcoBoost, the VW is the right pick, and for electric-vehicle buyers, both the Focus Electric and the e-Golf present a compelling case.

Safety

When it comes to safety, both the Golf and the Focus offer roughly the same level of standard equipment. For instance, anti-lock disc brakes, side airbags, and stability and traction control are standard on both models, but as you consider safety options, the Focus dramatically pulls ahead. It offers a wide range of the latest safety gadgets, including lane-departure warning, a blind spot monitoring system, automatic high-beam control and even parallel-park assist, none of which are available in the surprisingly old-fashioned Golf.

In testing carried out by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, both the 2015 Golf and the 2015 Focus earned a stellar Top Safety Pick designation. Unfortunately, the Golf is too new to have been tested by the government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but the Focus earned a perfect 5-star overall rating.

In our opinion, both the Golf and the Focus have roughly the same level of safety protection, but for technology that can actually help you avoid a crash, the Golf lags far behind the Focus.

Technology

As you might expect given the Golf's weaknesses in safety technology, the Focus boasts a far better overall level of technology and gadgets. Benefits include available remote starting, a better infotainment system with improved app integration, a larger center touchscreen and a standard backup camera.

While the Golf offers a wide range of important high-tech equipment, such as an available navigation system, automatic wipers and a forward-collision warning system, it doesn't have any unique features to hold over the Focus. We therefore give this category to the Ford.

Value

The Ford Focus widens its advantage over the Volkswagen Golf when it comes to pricing. Base-level Focus models are considerably less expensive than base-level Golf trims, even though the two cars offer roughly the same level of features. Move up through the range, and you'll find that this remains consistently true: The Golf is more expensive than the Focus despite having roughly the same level of equipment. This is the case right up to the Focus Electric and the e-Golf, which have a surprisingly high price difference of more than $5,000.

Our opinion here is simple: If value is highly important to you, it's hard to ignore that the Ford Focus seems to offer more for less.

AutoTrader's Advice

We like the 2015 Volkswagen Golf for its improved interior, high-end cabin and sporty driving dynamics, but the 2015 Ford Focus is one of our favorite compact cars, as shown by this comparison. It offers more technology than its Volkswagen rival, along with better fuel economy from its standard engine. There are more safety features, too. The Focus does it all for less money, and while we wouldn't say that the Golf is a bad car, the Focus certainly seems to be a better buy.

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2015 Volkswagen Golf vs. 2015 Ford Focus: Which Is Better? - Autotrader