Volkswagen makes some great cars. There’s no question about that. The legal problems this German manufacturer is going through can’t discount the value the brand provides and the lasting quality of its products. And nowhere does that notion smack you front and center across your face is with the seemingly immortal 2016 Volkswagen Golf.
VW has been through hell in the last year as it battles back to legitimacy in the wake of its diesel scandal (such good cars; such lousy management). To this day, that issue continues to percolate, yet it seems to many forget Volkswagen has built some mighty fine gas and gas/electric machinery for purchase and, since it is going through these hellish difficulties, deals might be available that U.S. buyers wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to enjoy on such models.
Offered a weekend evaluation with VW’s 2016 Golf TSI® S 2-door, we jumped at the chance. True, this is the runt of VW’s Golf stable, but it’s as well-equipped and solidly constructed as anything available on the 2-door, front-wheel-drive marketplace. Total price including destination – no options – is $20,395.
The VW Golf TSI S is a car with many “ifs”. This Golf is the right car for you if you can drive a manual transmission that has a modestly weighted clutch, easy shift points and excellent gearing. This Golf is the right car for you if your tendencies behind the wheel veer towards a sporting nature and you like a responsive, accurate motoring experience. This Golf is for you if you don’t need every single big-brother option known to the automotive universe and prefer to perform all driving jobs yourself, including turning a key for ignition and turning lights on and off yourself.
Some consider the Volkswagen Golf’s exterior bland or conservative in nature. I have to disagree: the sleek body lines, accentuated by a bold horizontal strake certainly adds panache to the distinct looks of the two-door hatch, making it look coupe-like.
The two very large and wide – not to mention heavy – doors close with a solid thunk that adds veracity of craftsmanship to this Golf S. Seams are tight and allow for a nearly silent interior once closures are performed. After a few years, most VW Golf models look as crisp and contemporary as they did when new and this Golf carries that trait.
With two one-touch windows for driver and passenger, with manual adjustments for seating positions, with comfortable, supportive and breathable and durable looking cloth bucket seats and both space and headrests for three in the rear, this cabin provides livable, over-the-road space with grace.
A 2016 VW Golf TSI S 2-door’s driver enjoys the firm’s wonderful 1.8-liter, directly-injected inline turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower at 4500 rpm and 200 lb-ft of torque at 1600 rpm on tap, the lovely 5-speed manual transmission, all independent suspension bolted to an awesome, tight chassis, superbly precise electro-mechanical power steering and ABS-based all-wheel disc brakes that allow a panic stop to be ever less so.
Add to that handsome twinned and variegated 16-inch alloy wheels mounted on Continental 195/65R rubber that fits this car to a T. The package works well from the outside and from the inside, and the fact that this VW weighs in at 2901 pounds adds to its litheness and quickness. Our vehicle delivery service advised us to think of the 2016 VW Golf TSI as a mini-GTI. That works.
When we picked up this Golf, it had 1190 miles on it, which means it’s not quite broken in yet. Still, the EPA’s fuel economy numbers of 25/37/30 are woefully inaccurate. During our short, 344-mile visit, this Tungsten silver metallic on black Golf returned no less than 38mpg from its 13.2-gallon tank, using regular unleaded fuel. Granted, much of our travel occurred on highways (where the trip computer announced nosebleed numbers like 43mpg), but there was plenty of stop-and-go involved, along with inspired attacks on mountain roads.
The leather steering wheel is sensuous to the touch and serves as impetus to keep both hands on the wheel, which has cruise and audio volume controls on the left side, while trip computer, phone and audio tuning are on the right. VW includes a tachometer with 6,000-rpm redline, temperature, fuel gauges and 160-mph speedometer in the instrument pod directly in front of the driver, dressed in no-nonsense black. VW mixes light and dark interior accents in a flowing, comfortable manner.
The 2016 Golf S model has a 5-inch touch-screen that shows off VW’s standard rearview camera’s crispness and accuracy. There’s touch-screen audio, including satellite radio, Bluetooth® and a variety of power accessories through the App-Connect capability that works in concert with one’s phone. It took a couple of tries to pair our iPhone but once completed, the phone’s battery power and connectivity are noted on the screen and calls are easy to conduct.
The eight-speaker audio system excels with satellite and HD radio as well as CD, available with the touch of a finger, and sounds reverberate well through the tautly constructed cabin. The trip computer on this Golf is quite thorough in its capabilities, taking the driver through all customary and usable information systems and going beyond the pale to record stats from beneath the hood. It’s possible to ratchet up and down, as well as side-to-side to gain information about the Golf and its activities.
Controls, both virtual (on-screen) and physical are easy to use and intuitive in every instance. There are many things we like, such as cruise control that stays on (a screen in the lower left of the central display removes the odometer to tell the driver what speed setting the cruise is using), has the ability to ratchet speed up and down on the steering wheel’s left-side controls and is not radar-based.
The well-formulated Volkswagen information system includes the prerequisite driving information but also includes a compass, audio controls, phone controls and vehicle status, with sub-sections for all but the compass.
While it’s a bit challenging to get into the rear seats, having to move the fronts forward for access, those relegated to the rear have their own air outlets and ingenuous outboard cup holders that, like central front units hold drinks firmly in place. Front seats return to where they were set. The hatch, with its emblem opening, holds 22.8 cubic feet of gear with all seats in place. Carpeting at the hatch is very upscale and a small spare (with tools) lies below the floor. It’s not easy to close the hatch as the grab area has hard-plastics and can’t easily be grabbed.
The 2016 VW Golf TSI 2-door hatchback isn’t the most glamorous car in the world but it certainly takes care of most drivers’ needs and wants. It’s a perky little hatch, with a stiffer and lighter platform than its predecessors, making it a solid-feeling machine. it’s got a stiff suspension that doesn’t transmit harshness into the cabin and provides an exceptionally confident ride.
This hatch provides excellent information to the driver and allows the passengers to enjoy entertainment and world-class heating, ventilation and air conditioning inside. There’s a ton of practicality combined with excellent every-day performance and plenty of sophistication (notice the amount of soft plastics inside the cabin).
If it’s possible to get beyond the current travails suffered by Volkswagen, and to purchase a car based on its merits alone, then the 2016 VW Golf TSI 2-door hatch could easily be a car to live with and enjoy for many, many years. Certainly on our watch it never disappoints.
Photos by Anne Proffitt