SEE ALSO: Volkswagen Buyer's Guide
I remember loving our old Golf: metallic green, white roof, basically the most fun a 7 year old is likely to have when one's parents are around. And then a mean man, in a big truck, put a big hole in it. And that was the end of our Golf. So, to get back into one of these pocket rockets, this time behind the wheel, was rather exciting.
The Golf has, to my mind, always been one of the front-runners in the 'pocket rocket' category, offering good motoring value for money, in an attractive wrapping, without sparing on the power and the engineering. Its 1.8, DOHC SMPI 20-valve I4 turbo engine is extremely peppy and the turbo kicks in well, after a slight, initial lag, to give great acceleration. With 150 horses (@ 5700 rpm), going hell for leather is no problem and the power carries on and on, through the gears, allowing for great passing power and freeway performance.
The 5-speed manual was a little clunky for my liking, but the clutch was smooth and moving through the gears, effortless. The Gti's sport suspension, utilizing Macpherson struts at front, Independent with torsion beam at rear, was good and firm. Handling could, however, have been better and I fear that this fault lay mainly with a rather poor choice of tires; Michelin P195/65R15. Shove some mean low-profiles on this baby and I think we'd be having an entirely different conversation. Power rack and pinion steering was, however, still light and precise and the 4 wheel disc brakes, with ABS, are excellent.
The Golf looks great, both inside and out. It has one of the most stylish dashboard/dials around - red needles with blue illumination; just all rather sexy really. And driver-friendly features too; adjustable, telescopic steering wheel, central power locking system, heated mirrors and seats, one-touch windows, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, retractable dash cup-holders, A/C, cruise and remote, keyless entry. Also, an excellent, Monsoon sound system, although no CD player.
The interior cabin offers up 87 cu ft, so it really does seat 5 comfortably. And a good-sized trunk means luggage can come too!. Exterior features include body-colour side mouldings and bumpers, grille and mirrors, tinted glass and clear lens halogen headlights, which both look great and offer superior nighttime visibility.
Safety features on the GTi include collapsible steering column, DRL, driver and front passenger side and front-impact airbags, along with supplemental restraint system, traction control and anti-intrusion side door guard beams. The Golf may not be big, but it' sturdy.
It's also wonderfully fuel-efficient, with city averages at 25 mpg, and highway 31 mpg, so it's not just affordable to buy, but cheap to keep, especially if one considers the 2 year or 24,000 miles no charge, scheduled maintenance. Indeed, for the amount of motor that you get, and the amount of enjoyment to be had from the driving, the base price of $17,900 is an excellent one. Just make sure to steer clear of men in big trucks. Because this Golf is far too pretty to put a dent in, especially since the dent it will leave in your pocket is a totally reasonable one.
Facts & Figures Base Price: $17,900 As Tested: $19,900 Engine: 1.8L, DOHC SMPI 20 valve I4 turbocharged Transmission: 5-speed manual w/ OD HP: 150 @ 5700 Torque: 155 @ 1750 Steering: Power rack & pinion Suspension: Track correcting, Independent w/ torsion beam (rear), MacPherson strut (front) Brakes: 4-wheel disc, w/ ABS Luxury Package: $1,225 Monsoon Sound: $ 325 Sport Suspension: $ 200 Cold Weather Pack: $ 150 CA Emissions: $ 100
For additional information about the Volkswagen Golf: www.vw.com