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2019 Volkswagen Golf SE Story Review By John Heilig

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By John Heilig
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Mid-Atlantic Bureau
The Auto Channel

REVIEWED MODEL: 2019 Volkswagen Golf SE
ENGINE: 1.4-liter turbocharged 4
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 147 hp @ 5,000 rpm/184 lb.-ft. @ 1,400 rpm
WHEELBASE: 103.8 in.
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 167.6 x 70,8 x 58.2 in.
TIRES: P225/45R17
CARGO CAPACITY: 22.8 cu. ft.
ECONOMY: 29 mpg city/37 mpg highway/18.2 mpg test
FUEL TANK: 13.2 gal.
CURB WEIGHT: 2,945 lbs.
TOWING CAPACITY: Not recommended
COMPETITIVE CLASS: Honda Civic, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Corolla
STICKER: $27,435 (includes $895 delivery, $1,295 options)
BOTTOM LINE: The Volkswagen Golf, as the successor to the Beetle, has a lot to offer, but it also has issues that question the validity of the sticker, especially when compared to sister vehicles like the Jetta.

In today’s society, where parking and road space is at a premium, small cars are eminently practical. In that regard, the VW Golf fits the bill.  Our tester was the SE trim level, which is built on the “basic” Golf platform, that is also the basis for a wide variety of other Golfs.

However, despite its overall practicality, our tester had so many things that didn’t work the way they’re supposed to work that we were disappointed with the car. First, the air conditioner simply didn’t cut it. In mid-90-degree weather it seemed to take forever to cool down, and then it would shut off when you came to a stop sign or red light. 

The start/stop button was another issue. It’s supposed to make life easier, but we had several instances where one push didn’t start or stop the engine. 

The 1.4-liter four works fine. Basically it’s the same engine in the Jetta we tested earlier, but in the Golf it’s noisier. I guess that’s to emphasize that  you’re in a compact car, but since we know it can be quieter, it was annoying when it was noisy.

Golf is a hatchback, and therefore offers very good cargo capacity. I don't think hatchbacks are pretty, but they make efficient use of space. However, I had to lower one of the rear seat backs (they lower 1/3-2/3) just to get my golf clubs in. It seems like that’s one feature a Golf should offer.

The ride is firm, which leads to good handling. The Golf did a great job on my hillclimb test. The 8-speed automatic transmission offers manual shifters behind the wheel that I didn’t need on the twists and turns because the automatic worked well.  Parking is also easy because of the overall size of the car.

The manual front seats are comfortable after fiddling with them to reach good comfort levels. They don’t offer a lot of side support. Rear seat legroom is adequate, and the rear seats offer more side support than the fronts. Our tester didn’t have HVAC for rear seat passengers. The audio is okay. We used Bluetooth and our iPhone in the absence of SiriusXM. Sound quality is good.

The flat-bottomed steering-wheel has all the usual functions - cruise control, audio, plus scanning of the information panel, which we kept at a digital speedometer. The basic instrument panel is simple with a tachometer, speedometer and the aforementioned information panel.  In the middle of the dash is a large infotainment screen with VW’s proprietary system controlling many of the functions.

For interior storage, there’s a large cubby at the base of the center stack, room for water in all the doors and a small center console/arm rest.

As noted, cargo capacity is very good. There’s no power hatch, but access to the inside is obtained by releasing the lock using the VW logo.

Overall,, the Volkswagen Golf is a good compact hatchback. Sadly, it could be a lot better.

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