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2020 Volkswagen Golf Review

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author photo by Autotrader October 2019

The Volkswagen Golf has long been one of the most overachieving vehicles in its segment. At the price tag of a mainstream hatchback, the 2020 Volkswagen Golf offers a slightly nicer interior and slightly better driving dynamics than you'd expect.

An all-new Golf is about to debut and will likely be sold as a 2020 model in the European market. Here in the U.S., the eighth-generation Golf will likely debut in the back half of 2020 as a 2021 model. But even as it's being phased out, the current seventh-generation Golf remains one of the finer compact hatchbacks for sale in the U.S. today.

What's New for 2020?

The Golf is offered in just one trim level for 2020: the Golf TSI. Volkswagen's next-gen Car-Net telematics system and Wi-Fi hotspot capability are standard -- if you pay for the subscription. Both features have been updated across VW's lineup for 2020. See the 2020 Volkswagen Golf models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Perfect size
  • Sophisticated character
  • Fuel-efficient engine
  • Adult-sized back seat
  • Practical hatchback body
  • Decent four-year/50,000-mile warranty

What We Don't

  • No more six-year/72,000-mile warranty
  • Only one 2020 trim
  • Lack of high-level options like parking assistance and navigation

How Much?

$24,115-$24,915

Fuel Economy

The front-wheel-drive-only Golf is propelled by a turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, which generates 147 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque and runs on regular gas. The standard transmission is a 6-speed manual, while an 8-speed automatic is optional. With either transmission, the EPA rates the Golf at 29 mpg in the city, 37 mpg on the highway and 32 mpg in combined driving.

Standard Features & Options

The 2020 Golf only comes in one trim: the Golf TSI. (TSI is how VW brands its turbocharged engines).

The 2020 Golf comes standard with a variety of features, including proximity keyless entry with push-button start, leatherette seating surfaces, heated front seats, a tilt-and-slide panoramic sunroof, heated windshield washer nozzles, LED daytime running lights and taillights, forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, 16-in alloy wheels and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

The only option on the 2020 Golf TSI is an automatic transmission. With the base manual transmission, the Golf TSI runs $24,115 when factoring in VW's $920 destination fee. The optional $800 eight-speed automatic brings the total cost to $24,915.

The Golf's cargo capacity is impressive, with 16.5 cu ft behind the rear seats up to the level of the rear cargo cover -- as large as a midsize sedan's trunk -- and 22.8 cu ft. up to the ceiling. Fold the rear seats down and the cargo area grows to a remarkable 52.7 cu ft -- easily enough space to haul a bike.

Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the Golf its maximum score of 5 stars. The Golf scored 4 stars on front-impact tests and 5 stars on side-impact tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tabbed the Golf as a Top Safety Pick.

The active safety features offered on the 2020 Golf TSI are automatic emergency braking with forward-collision warning and pedestrian detection and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic detection. The Golf also comes with stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, six airbags and an automatic post-collision braking system that applies the brakes after an impact, reducing the risk of damage from subsequent collisions.

Behind the Wheel

The premium feel of the Golf's interior -- the soft-touch plastics of the dashboard, the rich door-panel materials, the subtle brushed aluminum accents -- is impressive. This doesn't feel like an economy car. It feels more like a downsized entry-level luxury vehicle.

The touchscreen incorporates a capacitive touch sensor with swipe and pinch-to-zoom functions, just like a smartphone. It also has a proximity sensor that automatically calls up a more user-friendly layout when a hand approaches.

Long trips are no problem. The front seats provide the kind sturdy support VW fans are familiar with. The back seat is remarkably adult-friendly, given the car's modest dimensions.

The drive is nimble yet solid. The Golf stays composed and remains completely comfortable at higher speeds -- it's built to be driven on the Autobahn, after all. The steering is rather numb -- a symptom of the electronic steering assistance -- which becomes more apparent through turns. But the Golf is ready and eager to transition from one direction to the other.

Other Cars to Consider

2020 Honda Civic -- There's a hatchback version now. The Civic's quality and affordability make it a great choice.

2020 Hyundai Elantra GT -- The Elantra is well-priced, well-equipped and well-made. And it comes with the best warranty in the industry.

2020 Kia Forte -- The recently redesigned Forte is compelling and keenly priced for being so generously equipped. It offers the same warranty as the Elantra, too.

2020 Mazda3 -- The Golf's only true competitor with regard to overall refinement and experience, the Mazda3 comes in hatchback and sedan variants and offers sportier handling. Its back seat is cramped, though.

2020 Subaru Impreza -- The Impreza comes standard with all-wheel drive, which might appeal to those living in more northern latitudes. It's available as a sedan or a hatchback.

2020 Volkswagen Jetta -- If the VW brand is tempting but you have greater need for a sedan, the recently redesigned Jetta fits your bill.

Used Volkswagen Golf GTI -- For more equipment and power, consider a GTI that's around two years old and investigate Volkswagen's certified pre-owned program.

Autotrader's Advice

Given how simplified the 2020 offering is, Golf buyers need only choose between the manual and automatic transmissions. Though it's on its way out, the seventh-generation Golf is still a compelling product. Just make sure that you're getting a great deal if you pick up a Golf in its final model year for this generation. Find a Volkswagen Golf for sale

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2020 Volkswagen Golf Review - Autotrader
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