“What car should I buy?” It’s a question consumers ask themselves every day, but what would online editor Kelly Pleskot drive? Keep reading for the answer, and see other editors’ picks here.
The Volkswagen Golf isn’t on most people’s radar when shopping for a small car. When it won our 2015 Car of the Year award, I remember getting some puzzled looks. “Does anyone actually buy this car?” people would ask me about the seemingly obscure choice. It remains a small player in the compact segment, with 42,271 Golf family vehicles sold in the U.S. last year, including just 6,642 copies of the standard Golf hatch. But it’s a true hidden gem, and it’s the car I would pick if I were in the market.
The current-generation Golf is remarkably competent given its age, even my favorite version, the standard hatch. After five years on the market, it still holds its own with other compacts thanks to its stable ride, agile handling, confident braking, and smooth powertrain. Perhaps the most significant change the hatch has received in its current iteration is a 1.4-liter turbo-four making 147 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. Although that doesn’t seem like much, the engine packs a strong punch while saving on gas. It nets 29/37 mpg city/highway no matter whether you pick the purist six-speed manual or the quick-shifting eight-speed automatic.
About Kelly: I’m an online editor at MotorTrend and enjoy hiking, rock climbing, traveling, and reading classic literature.
It’s that kind of balanced performance I’m looking for in a car. I also enjoy the Golf’s easy maneuverability when I’m parking in tight spaces in my native Orange County or even tighter spots in my work home of Los Angeles. At the same time, I need plenty of cargo room for weekend luggage, athletic gear, grocery runs, and the semi-complete sweater collection I keep in my car so I’m ready for any weather on the go. The Golf more than fits the bill for my married, kid-free lifestyle. And call it vanity, but I can’t own a car that everybody else has. That means very solid competitors like the Honda Civic and Hyundai Elantra are off my list. And I’m just not interested in a luxury car.
How I’d Spec My 2019 Volkswagen Golf
Sadly, VW may no longer offer the standard Golf and SportWagen in the U.S. as it moves into a new generation. As of May 2019, only the GTI and Golf R have been confirmed for North America. But for now, I would pick the standard hatch for its value proposition. Only two trim levels are available on the 2019 Volkswagen Golf: S ($22,740) and SE ($25,040). I would stick with the base model because it has all I need including a 6.5-inch touchscreen, cloth seats, automatic headlights, and the peace of mind that comes with autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and other key safety features. The SE upgrades to an 8.0-inch touchscreen, leatherette seats with front seat heating, and a panoramic sunroof. If the regular Golf disappears, I could be strong-armed into a GTI, which benefits from a more powerful engine currently making 228 hp.
The eighth-generation Golf will be revealed at the end of this year, and we hope the standard hatch makes its way to the U.S. It’s expected to sit on a lighter version of the existing MQB platform, so it should feature even sharper driving dynamics.
Two other cars I would consider: Volkswagen Beetle, Subaru Impreza
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