2016 Volkswagen Golf

Starting MSRP: $18,495 - $27,425

Estimated MPG: 25 city / 37 hwy

2016 Volkswagen Golf Review

Hot off of last year’s redesign, the 2016 Volkswagen Golf gets a number of new tech and driver-assistance features. There’s no diesel engine this year, but the Golf continues to set the standard for the segment with a premium interior, useful cargo space and an enjoyable driving experience.

By Jim Sharifi
Last Updated 05/24/2016

The Golf is a compact hatchback that’s offered in two- and four-door body styles. A turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual transmission are standard, and a six-speed automatic transmission is available. Four trims are offered: base, S, SE and SEL. The performance-oriented Volkswagen GTI and Golf R are covered separately.

The Volkswagen Golf gets a number of new tech features for 2016, including a USB port and a new infotainment system as standard equipment. Higher trim levels now come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, as well as a rearview camera. Newly available driver-assistance features also debut, including blind-spot monitoring and lane-departure warning.

Exterior

Exterior
8

The Golf was redesigned last year, and as with previous generations the changes to its exterior design represent subtle enhancements to the Golf’s familiar style. Its headlight and taillight assemblies have become more sharply creased since the 2015 redesign, but it’s still instantly recognizable from any angle.

The base Golf includes 15-inch alloy wheels and daytime running lights, while features like a sunroof and 17- and 18-inch alloy wheels are offered. Automatic headlights and windshield wipers are also available, while an optional Lighting Package brings in LED daytime running lights, bi-xenon headlights and an adaptive headlight system that pivots the headlamps up to 15 degrees to provide better illumination around turns.

Interior

Interior
10

The Golf is a study in smart interior packaging. Passenger space is great in both rows, and our test car’s front seats were impressively comfortable and supportive. There’s excellent cargo space too, with up to 52.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the back seat folded. That’s a lot of utility for a small car, especially when you consider that crossovers like the 2016 Mazda CX-3 and Jeep Renegade don’t offer as much overall space.

Interior materials are also outstanding for the class, as our test Golf featured attractive leatherette upholstery and brushed aluminum trim that spans the dashboard, center console and door panels.

The base Golf comes standard with cloth upholstery, while higher trims bring in comfort-oriented features like heated front seats, automatic climate control, front sport seats and a power-adjustable driver’s seat.

Performance

Performance
9

The Volkswagen Golf comes standard with a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive and a five-speed manual transmission are standard and a six-speed automatic is optional. A diesel engine has traditionally been offered, but it’s on hold for the 2016 model year as Volkswagen works to comply with emissions standards.

The EPA reports that the base Golf gets 25/37 mpg city/highway. Models with the automatic transmission get slightly lower estimates of 25/36 mpg.

The Golf truly shines as one of the more refined performers in the compact segment. The turbocharged four-cylinder engine provides plenty of power, and peak torque comes on at a low 1,600 rpm. The result is a compact car that is responsive off the line and on the highway, with smooth power regardless of the driving situation.

The suspension does an excellent job of delivering a comfortable ride, but our test Golf also felt composed enough to please driving enthusiasts who want to have a little fun on a twisty road. The 2016 Mazda3 may feel a bit more athletic, but the Golf is arguably the most well-rounded vehicle in the segment when it comes to performance.

Technology

Technology
8

The base Volkswagen Golf comes standard with Bluetooth, a USB port and an infotainment system with a 5-inch touch screen. All trims except the base model include satellite radio and an upgraded infotainment system with a 6.5-inch display and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Features like keyless access with push-button start, a Fender audio system and navigation are available.

The infotainment system in our test Golf provided straightforward access to phone and audio settings, with dedicated buttons for primary functions flanking either side of the 6.5-inch touch screen. It integrates well with Apple CarPlay, which is quickly becoming one of my must-have features in a new vehicle, specifically for its integration with Apple Maps.

While navigation used to be a costly option, Apple CarPlay provides a user-friendly and low cost alternative for the directionally challenged. It includes traffic updates and quickly provides routing information with voice recognition. I rarely say “Hey Siri” when I’m not driving, but it’s a boon if you need directions on the fly. CarPlay also provides a familiar touchpoint for accessing your address book, music and a handful of supported apps like Pandora.

The flip side is that there were some instances where CarPlay and my iPhone failed to recognize each other. To be fair, the Golf might not be to blame here, as the problem could be with my phone or the aftermarket cable that I brought to the car.

Safety

Safety
10

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2016 Golf a top score of five stars for its overall performance in crash tests.

The Golf also performed well in tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), receiving top scores of Good in all crashworthiness categories. When equipped with the optional forward collision warning system, the Golf also earned an Advanced rating for front crash prevention. As a result, the Golf earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation.

With the exception of the base model, all Volkswagen Golfs come standard with a rearview camera. A Driver Assistance package becomes available at the SE trim level, bringing in adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, front and rear parking sensors and parallel park assist. It adds $1,495 to the bottom line and is well worth the cost.

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
8

The base, two-door Golf starts at $18,495, excluding an $820 destination charge. Four-door Golf S models are available from $20,175 and bring in additional standard equipment like a rearview camera, the upgraded infotainment system and satellite radio. SE and SEL models start at $25,225 and $27,425, respectively. Check off all the options on a fully loaded Golf SEL with Lighting and Driver Assistance packages and you can expect an MSRP of $29,915 plus destination.

Our test Golf SE was configured pretty close to how we would recommend it to compact car shoppers. The SE trim brings in features we’d want, like heated front seats, keyless access with push-button start, rain-sensing windshield wipers and a great-sounding Fender audio system. Our Golf also came with the Driver Assistance and Lighting packages, bringing the grand total to $28,535 after destination.

We might pass on the Lighting package, but the Driver Assistance package is a must-have item. After destination, you can expect a suggested price of about $27,500 for a Golf SE with the Driver Assistance package.

Overall

Overall
9

While the 2016 Golf doesn’t offer the myriad powertrain configurations that were available in years past, there’s still a lot to like about Volkswagen’s storied hatchback. The Golf has a comfortable interior, plenty of cargo space and interior quality that’s exceptional for the segment. Excellent safety ratings and refined performance are also strong selling points. Still, if you want more power, Volkswagen would be happy to point you toward the GTI, which offers just as much utility in a more dynamic package.