The latest iteration of the popular Volkswagen Golf compact hatchback is winning rave reviews for everything from its fuel economy to its low sticker price. Reviewers are stating that the 2021 Golf represents terrific value for consumers and stands out in nearly every area. While there have been some complaints that the newest Golf has an slightly underpowered engine, that quibble pales in comparison to the accolades that are pouring in for this car. The six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic transmission has been singled out for praise. The handling has been called superior. CarAndDriver even named the 2021 VW Golf an “Editors’ Choice” winner, noting the spacious interior and cargo storage capacity. Here we break down the Golf to see if all the hype is justified.

Exterior Styling

When it comes to the exterior styling, not much is new for 2021. The latest and greatest Golf looks much the same as it did in 2020. Of course, there are a few exceptions that take the form of optional upgrades, including 16-inch wheels and a panoramic sunroof. But apart from those high-priced items, the 2021 Golf remains a smart looking hatchback that is most at home in urban environments.

Engine and Performance

If there is one small weakness in the 2021 Golf, it’s the turbocharged inline-four cylinder engine. While capable and reliable, the Golf’s engine is not the most powerful on the market today. In fact, it has been described as “weak” and there have been complaints following test drives that the engine “runs out of breath” when driven at high speeds on highways. The engine aside, the Golf has won laurels for its handling and overall performance. The compact car hugs the road tightly and grips the pavement when going around corners. The steering is quick and smooth, and the overall feel of the car has been called “responsive” and “intuitive.”

Trimlines and Prices

For the 2021 model year, the Volkswagen Golf only comes in two versions. One is a manual transmission that costs $24,190. The other is an automatic transmission that will set you back $24,990. Essentially, Volkswagen has turned the regular Golf into a one-size-fits-all shopping experience. The only difficult decision is whether to stick with the standard manual transmission or spend an extra $800 on the optional eight-speed automatic. Of course, most people will choose the latter. However, those who want maximum engagement will appreciate the manual shifting experience. Other than the transmission selection, the Golf is pretty standard. Most of the features, except for the aforementioned 16-inch wheels and sunroof, come in both editions of the car.

Golf GTI

There is technically another Golf model, although VW considered it a separate product altogether. The Golf GTI comes with a more powerful 2.0L Turbo engine and starts at $28,695. There are also S, SE, and Autobahn trims of the Golf GTI model. The top-range Autobahn model starts at $36,945. These Golf models add a bevy of extra features, both convenience and performance related. You can check out all the details on VW’s website.


The interior of the 2021 Golf is both comfortable and functional. Some reviews have called the interior a bit boring, noting that there is a lack of leather or even leatherette accents in the car. However, the lack of luxury shouldn’t be a problem for anyone who prizes functionality and roominess over style. The interior of this hatchback is very open and feels super spacious. Even the rear seat provides ample leg room for adults passengers, as well as children. Indeed, the Golf contains much more room in the back seats than many competing hatchbacks. Cargo space is also plentiful, with as many as 15 carry-on suitcases fitting easily in the storage area. A definite highlight.


For technology, the Golf boasts standard infotainment systems, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, as well as USB connectivity. A 6.5-inch touchscreen comes standard, along with menu buttons running along the edges of the display, and a physical volume knob. Not fancy, but, again, very functional.

The Golf GTI upgrades things to an eight-inch touchscreen with included navigation. It also adds satellite radio and a push button start.


When it comes to safety features, the 2021 Golf shines. It earned a five-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). While the latest version of the Golf no longer offers adaptive cruise control, it does come with some worthwhile driver-assistance features, including forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking, as well as blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alerts. The Golf GTI adds even more driver assist features.

Warranty Coverage

The warranty coverage provided by Volkswagen is superior to most of its competitors. It includes limited warranty coverage of four years or 50,000 miles, a powertrain warranty that’s good for four years or 50,000 miles, and complimentary scheduled maintenance for two years or 20,000 miles.

Fuel Economy

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates the 2021 Golf can get 29 MPG when driven in the city and 39 MPG on the highway with the standard stick-shift transmission. With the optional automatic, it has ratings of 29 MPG in the city and 36 MPG when driven on a highway. The 2021 Golf’s fuel economy is equivalent to that of the rival Honda Civic hatchback.

The larger Golf GTI’s engine is rated for 23 MPG in the city and 30 MPG on the highway. Still quite impressive.

The Good

  • Great handling and performance.
  • Spacious interior and cargo space.
  • Superior warranty coverage and scheduled maintenance.

The Not-So-Good

  • Weak engine that is not as powerful as its competitors.
  • Plain and basic interior design.
  • No significant changes to the exterior styling.

The Last Word

The 2021 Golf is earning a lot of praise despite a couple noticeable drawbacks. Critics seem to look past these faults and instead focus on the handling, spaciousness, and safety features of the latest edition of VW’s premier compact hatchback. With strong fuel economy and decent technology, the latest Golf is built for functionality. It should provide owners with years of worry-free driving. If you’re looking for an affordable and reliable car, should definitely consider the 2021 Volkswagen Golf. It’s a great option for drivers, both young and old.


Devon is a writer, editor, and veteran of the online publishing world. He has a particular love for classic muscle cars.