2018 VW Golf SE carries on a long tradition
Way back in 1974, Volkswagen made the most dramatic change in the company's history. The German economy automaker brought out a new model with a water-cooled engine and front-wheel-drive. Here in America, the new model was called a Rabbit, but the rest of the world called the same car a Golf. Now 44 years later, the Golf is on its seventh generation, but it's still as fresh and compelling as the day the model first arrived.
The 2018 Golf is powered by a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, rated at 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. That's a pretty mild tune these days, and VW has been refining this engine for decades, so it's going to be reliable. But don't think for a moment that the Golf will be underpowered. The test vehicle had a 6-speed automatic transmission that makes great use of the available power. The Golf SE was quick, smooth, and delightfully fun to drive. Manual transmission enthusiasts can also save a few dollars by getting the Golf with a 5-speed stick.
Many people will tell you that hatchbacks will never be successful in America. I think VW's successful 44-year run with the Golf disproves that notion entirely. You can get the 2018 Golf as a three-door or a five-door hatch, and it's incredibly convenient to have the access and storage capacity of a small SUV in a much smaller and more nimble package. The Golf includes 22.8 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the rear seats, and 52.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down.
Buyers won't have to sacrifice safety with the Golf. The little hatchback gets five stars from NHTSA, and comes with all the basic safety gear like air bags and VW's Intelligent Crash Response System as standard equipment. One thing that's missing is all the advanced stuff like blind spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking. The Golf SE doesn't have those available even as an option.
Inside, the Golf SE gives you a premium feeling at an economy price. The seats are leatherette, but they feel like real leather. The touch surfaces feel solid and everything is well-made. The car is comfortable for full-size adults and the ride is smooth and quiet. For the money, VW is giving its customers a premium interior.
On the road, the Golf SE is seriously fun to drive. There's plenty of power under your foot and the car is tight and agile in corners. You'll love driving the Golf, and it feels solid on the road. With fuel economy at 25 MPG city and 37 MPG on the highway, the 2018 VW Golf SE is a great choice for a fun commuter car.
2018 VW Golf SE
Base price: $24,505
Price as tested: $25,605
Type: Compact hatchback
Engine: 1.8-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder (170 hp, 84 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic; 5-speed manual
EPA estimated mileage: 25/37
Overall length: 167.5 inches
Curb weight: 2,901 pounds
Final assembly: Puebla, Mexico