In the past, Volkswagen advertising has used the line, “If only everything in life was as reliable as a Golf.” Although the advertising referred to reliability in its traditional sense, the 2019 Volkswagen Golf is reliable in many ways.
The Golf is a car you can rely on to do everything. It’s designed without fuss, at a price that won’t break the bank. And the VW Golf is a bit of an understated legend. Here’s why.
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The exterior styling of the 2019 Volkswagen Golf pretty much tells you everything about the car. Its styling is extremely conservative, but it’s also very modern. The Golf is available in hatchback and wagon body styles. Although the wagon is easily the most practical option, the hatchback is more attractive.
Whichever body style you opt for, every Golf now has five doors. It might not look as sporty as the old three-door hatch did, but those who ride in the back won’t mind. The Golf can be jazzed up a bit in both styling and performance terms with the GTI and the Golf R, but even then, the sporty styling upgrades are subtle and controlled, to say the least.
Models and Trims
At first glance, it might appear the 2019 Golf lineup is extremely limited. After all, the standard Golf is only available in two trim levels of S and SE. However, we then have the Golf Alltrack, which is an all-wheel-drive Golf Wagon available in S, SE and SEL trim. There’s also the Golf Sportwagon, of course, and that one comes in S and SE trims like the hatchback. Just to confuse matters though, the Sportwagon S is also available with all-wheel-drive, like the Alltrack really.
Those wanting more power and performance have always had the Golf GTI to look to, but it’s not even the most powerful Golf in the family anymore. That honor falls to the Golf R, which really is worth a look as it offers genuine sports car performance in a practical, family-friendly package. And if you want a Golf that’s green on the inside, we now also have the all-electric e-Golf too.
Golf hatchbacks and front-drive wagons now have a 1.4-liter turbo-four under their hoods producing 147 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. This adequate amount of power is sent to the wheels through a standard six-speed manual in most cases, although an eight-speed automatic is an available option.
Last year’s standard 1.8-liter turbo-four that develops 168 hp is now only to be found in the all-wheel-drive Sportwagon and the Golf Alltrack, and this one comes mated to a standard six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission option.
A 2.0-liter turbo-four engine powers the Golf GTI, and this year it gets a modest power bump to 228 hp. Once again, a six-speed manual is standard, but the GTI offers the option of VW’s outstanding seven-speed dual clutch automatic. But if you want the Golf with the most available performance, the Golf R has a version of the 2.0-liter turbo-four that’s been tuned to develop 280 hp and powers all four wheels. The Golf R isn’t as mental as something like a Honda Civic Type R or a Ford Focus RS, but with its understated styling and incredible handling, it’s still a performance car to be reckoned with.
The interior of the Golf carries through seamlessly from the styling of the exterior. It’s not got much “wow” factor and it probably won’t win any awards for cutting-edge design, but it more than delivers in every way you would want and hope for in a car in this class. There’s a decent amount of cargo and passenger space available, especially in the wagons, and every bit of available space has been used well by the VW designers.
You will find a bit of shiny plastic trim in some models that doesn’t greatly impress, but on the whole, the quality and fit of materials and trim is of the usual German high standard. The one area of possible contention is the tartan cloth seats found in the GTI. It’s been a styling cue of the GTI since its introduction in the 1980s, but if you don’t like it, real leather is available as a cost option.
There’s plenty of active safety technology in the Golf that helps you avoid having accidents, and even if you are unfortunate to be involved in one, the crash-test results are pretty encouraging. The NHTSA gives the 2019 Volkswagen Golf a full five-star rating for overall safety, and the IIHS names the Golf a Top Safety Pick. Forward-collision warning and automatic emergency braking are standard with all Golfs, apart from the GTI and Sportwagon models where they are optional, and higher trim levels come standard with blind-spot monitors, active lane control and rear cross-traffic alerts.
- Outstanding ride quality
- Comfortable cabin
- Excellent warranty
- Good engines
- Confusingly extensive lineup
- Some engines a little underpowered
- Alltrack has limited extra capability
The Last Word
It has to be said that the Golf GTI, and especially the Golf R, really are fantastic cars that will put a big smile on your face as the driver, while still delivering plenty of family-friendly practicality. However, this is probably a time where the lower trim levels make more sense. An entry-level Golf hatch costs from $21,845, and as well as being a decent amount of car for the money, it’s also a car with good residual values and superb warranty backed up by an enviable reputation for reliability. Then again, if you’re leasing and you can find a good deal, the Golf R can be pretty hard to resist.