Road Tests

Quick Take: 2018 Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Euro-Spec

Initial impressions of a future mainstay

Gone from the European-market brochure for the facelifted 2018 Volkswagen Golf are the four 1.2- and 1.4-liter engine options. In their place, we find two 1.0-liter three-cylinder units plus a pair of late-arriving 1.5-liter turbo fours. We tried the 148-hp version of the 1.5-liter, which is about on par with its predecessor in terms of performance and consumption.

From behind the wheel, one is hard pressed to tell the difference between old and new. Subjectively, the 1.5-liter is a little quieter and smoother, and the transmissions seem to be somewhat better matched to its torque characteristics.

Even though this Golf is not the rubber burning type, it offers maximum torque where it matters, namely in the 1,500 to 3,500 rpm bracket. As a result, it spares you unpleasantries like turbo lag, reluctant tip-in, or the need to downshift early. True, the absolute performance figures (0 to 60 mph in roughly 8.1 seconds, 135 mph top speed) are not the stuff wet dreams are made of. But in real life, you never get the feeling you’re being short-changed. Fact is, not once did I wish that this Golf were diesel-engined. But I missed the GTI.

2018 Volkswagen Golf European Spec rear three quarter

Autonomous Driving, the Prequel

The new Golf democratizes advanced active and passive safety. For around $1,900, VW will install just about every conceivable driver assistance system available in this vehicle segment. The Plus Pack includes for example adaptive cruise control, LED headlamps with Dynamic Light Assist, blind spot detection, lane assist, front assist with emergency braking in town and park assist. Golfs equipped with the DSG transmission also get traffic jam assist, which marks the first step toward allowing the car to do its own thing. At speeds up to 38 mph, a thus equipped Golf will stay in lane, follow the car ahead, and keep its distance. While lane assist is in charge of changing direction, ACC maintains the correct pace.

Should the driver fall asleep at the wheel, the system will go through different warning stages before decelerating the vehicle to a halt, hazards flashing. Despite its complexity, the system works as intended — at least as long as you don’t expect the car to automatically take a 90-degree turn at a light, assume full control of accelerator and brakes, and to find a safe parking spot at the end of that emergency stopping maneuver.

2018 Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Specifications

ON SALE Summer 2017 (est)
PRICE $20,000 (est)
ENGINE 1.5L turbocharged 16-valve DOHC I-4
148 hp @ 5,000-6,000 rpm, 184 lb-ft @ 1,500-3,500 rpm
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual, 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
LAYOUT 2- or 4-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, FWD hatchback
L x W x H 167.6 x 70.5 x 56.8 in
WHEELBASE 103.1 in
WEIGHT 2,853 lb
0-60 MPH 8.1 sec (est)
TOP SPEED 134 mph