2018 Volkswagen Golf Review, Specs and Performance

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The 2018 Volkswagen Golf is a perennial favorite—and something of an underdog—among compact cars. It’s offered as a four-door hatchback, a wagon with either a standard or slightly raised suspension, and a pair of sporty “hot hatches.”

With the 2018 Golf, Volkswagen has taken time to add a boatload more technology to just about every model.

2018 Volkswagen Golf Specs

We’ve scored the Golf range a 6.6, marking it down for its relatively bland looks and class-up price tag, but rewarding it for its excellent driving dynamics, terrific interior, and good use of passenger and cargo space.

The Golf lineup sees the addition of new LED taillights on all models for 2018, but they’re otherwise indistinguishable from last year’s lineup. Even the base five-door, a Euro-style compact car, boasts pert, continental looks. The real standouts, in terms of human and gear-carrying ability, are the SportWagen and Alltrack models. They’re as roomy inside as a crossover but far more enjoyable to drive. The Alltrack was a new model added last year that echoes the Subaru Outback in a more compact package: a hint of off-road ability and slightly more butch looks.

There’s a dizzying array of models and powertrains on offer, but VW has simplified things a bit for 2018 with fewer trim levels.

2018 Volkswagen Golf Specs

A 1.8-liter turbo-4 that puts out 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque (a figure dropped to 184 lb-ft with the standard stick-shift) comes on hatchback and wagon versions. A 5-speed manual is standard and a 6-speed automatic is optional on the hatch, while the Golf SportWagen and Golf Alltrack come with a 5-speed manual, a 6-speed manual, or a 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox depending on if they’re optioned with front- or all-wheel drive.

Golf GTIs and Golf Rs are for those who relish carving corners with their firmer suspensions, unique styling, and grippier seats. The GTI is front-wheel drive, like the standard Golf, but it substitutes a 2.0-liter turbo-4 rated at 220 hp and 258 pound-feet and either a 6-speed stick or a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic. The Golf R tops the range with all-wheel drive and 292 hp from its 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. It comes with a 6-speed manual but this year offers a new 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.

The 2018 Volkswagen Golf is a perennial favorite—and something of an underdog—among compact cars. It’s offered as a four-door hatchback, a wagon with either a standard or slightly raised suspension, and a pair of sporty “hot hatches.”

With the 2018 Golf, Volkswagen has taken time to add a boatload more technology to just about every model.

We’ve scored the Golf range a 6.6, marking it down for its relatively bland looks and class-up price tag, but rewarding it for its excellent driving dynamics, terrific interior, and good use of passenger and cargo space.

The Golf lineup sees the addition of new LED taillights on all models for 2018, but they’re otherwise indistinguishable from last year’s lineup. Even the base five-door, a Euro-style compact car, boasts pert, continental looks. The real standouts, in terms of human and gear-carrying ability, are the SportWagen and Alltrack models. They’re as roomy inside as a crossover but far more enjoyable to drive. The Alltrack was a new model added last year that echoes the Subaru Outback in a more compact package: a hint of off-road ability and slightly more butch looks.

There’s a dizzying array of models and powertrains on offer, but VW has simplified things a bit for 2018 with fewer trim levels.

A 1.8-liter turbo-4 that puts out 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque (a figure dropped to 184 lb-ft with the standard stick-shift) comes on hatchback and wagon versions. A 5-speed manual is standard and a 6-speed automatic is optional on the hatch, while the Golf SportWagen and Golf Alltrack come with a 5-speed manual, a 6-speed manual, or a 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox depending on if they’re optioned with front- or all-wheel drive.

Golf GTIs and Golf Rs are for those who relish carving corners with their firmer suspensions, unique styling, and grippier seats. The GTI is front-wheel drive, like the standard Golf, but it substitutes a 2.0-liter turbo-4 rated at 220 hp and 258 pound-feet and either a 6-speed stick or a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic. The Golf R tops the range with all-wheel drive and 292 hp from its 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. It comes with a 6-speed manual but this year offers a new 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.

Every Golf variant shares the same basic interior, albeit with different trim finishes and seat designs and upholsteries as you work your way up from the low-$20,000 range up to over $40,000 for a loaded Golf R. They offer a business-like cockpit oriented toward the driver and above average room for four or five in a pinch. Wagons deliver the most cargo room, but all models are well-finished and feel like mini luxury cars.

The big tech news for 2018 is a pair of all-new infotainment systems. Lower-spec models are upgraded from a 5.0-inch screen to a 6.5-inch display with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Higher-end Golfs utilize an 8.0-inch screen with even more functionality. And the Golf R replaces its conventional gauges with an highly configurable LCD screen for 2018.

Styling

Three years into its current generation, the 2018 Volkswagen Golf remains humble and hardly sexy, even in zippy Golf GTI and Golf R forms.

We’re calling it below average outside and a notch above inside, bringing it to a 5 out of 10.

The Golf follows tradition outside. If you bought a Golf 40 years ago, back when it was called the Volkswagen Rabbit, you’ll be happy with its gentle evolution. Hatchback models follow a traditional two-box form with a massive rear roof pillar. It does rob some over-the-shoulder visibility, but it’s not as bad as some competitors with smaller side windows and a higher belt line. The wagon variants—SportWagen and Alltrack—are a little more interesting to behold, perhaps because they barely have any rivals in our market. They look just as at home in Los Angeles as they do in Berlin.

For 2018, every model has standard LED tail lights, but you’ll have to be behind one to spot the difference compared to last year.

Golf GTIs have a lowered suspension, a rear diffuser, unique side skirts, and twin tailpipes. Red brake calipers and special 17-inch wheels complete the look. The Golf R gets its own badging, four tailpipes, and different wheels.

Inside, they’re all the same aside from seats and trim finishes. Base 2018 Golf S models have grippy cloth seats, but Golf SE and SEL versions of most sub in leatherette. Despite what a salesperson might tell you, there’s no actual hide here unless you go for a well-equipped Golf GTI SE or GTI Autobahn or the Golf R. We love the tartan plaid inside the base GTI, a classic cue that resonates with enthusiasts.

Every version shares the same dash canted toward the driver’s seat. Buttons and controls are logically grouped and generally easy to access. GTIs and Golf Rs have racy trim inside.

The Alltrack stands apart a bit with a slightly raised suspension, body cladding, revised bumpers, and its own grille compared to the more pedestrian Golf SportWagen.

Performance

The 2018 Volkswagen Golf lineup offers a trio of 4-cylinder engines that offer everything from ample to stellar power, along with suspensions to match.

Mass market models share a 1.8-liter turbocharged, direct-injection inline-4 rated at 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque. It’s included on all versions of the Golf hatchback and both the SportWagen and Alltrack wagons. It offers ample power for most needs, a generally refined demeanor, and should return decent fuel economy. Golfs come standard with a 5-speed manual; a 6-speed automatic is on the options list for S and SEs and it’s standard on the Golf SEL. SportWagens with front-wheel drive come with a 5-speed stick or a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic.

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