San Francisco, California – Wow for its interior, which is less austere with its stunning brushed faux-aluminum appliqués.

Wow for its soundproofing, worthy of a high-end car, and wow for its lower price tag, despite added features.

And last, but certainly not least, wow for the driving experience.

Impeccable steering, smooth, refined engines, a number of transmissions to choose from, superb road handling… wow, wow, WOW.


Those who read my reviews regularly know that I do not mince words, and that I don’t throw “wows” around lightly. But “wow” was the only word on my lips while I was test driving the following four models of the new 2015 Volkswagen Golf: the 2015 Volkswagen GTI performance model (arriving in dealerships across the country as we speak); the 2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI base model (expected in June); the 2015 Volkswagen TDI diesel model (watch for it in August); and the 100 percent electric 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf (unfortunately, North America’s first-ever electric Volkswagen will not be distributed in Canada, at least for now).


And coming next year, the Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon station wagon (called the Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen—with an “e“—in the U.S.) and the ultra high-performance Volkswagen Golf R.

What about a convertible Golf? Don’t count on it too much: VW already has a compact convertible, the Volkswagen Beetle Cabrio. In any case, this category is losing steam, with the folding-hardtop Volkswagen Eos in its final year. We’re more likely to see a Volkswagen Golf 4Motion (all-wheel drive) within the next 18 months.

When it comes to the styling of the Golf, which turns 40 this spring, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, its hallmark quadrilateral shape having been retained. The biggest difference is that the front wheels were moved forward by 4 cm—good luck noticing the difference!

Even when comparing the Mark VI and Mark VII generations side by side, you can barely tell them apart. Once a Golf, always a Golf.

Only, beneath the new, Mark VII’s exterior—which, by the way, raised not a single eyebrow as we drove around the San Francisco area, not even the eyebrows of drivers of the preceding generation—lie the biggest, and perhaps most innovative changes ever made to the Volkswagen Golf.

First, the 170 hp five-cylinder engine has been dropped in favour of the turbocharged, direct injection 1.8-litre four-cylinder TSI engine that already powers the Volkswagen Jetta.

Although this engine’s power is comparable to that of the preceding Golf, it’s worth noting that 170 hp is still at the high end of the power spectrum among compact cars. The four-cylinder TSI delivers an extra 10 lb-ft of torque for a total of 185 lb-ft, more of which is now available at lower engine speed.


You’ll find a completely overhauled four-cylinder diesel engine under the hood of the Volkswagen TDI. It delivers an extra 10 hp for a total of 150 hp, while torque remains unchanged from the previous model at 236 lb-ft.

And lastly (drum roll, please), the 2.0-litre turbocharged direct injection four-cylinder engine powers the 2015 Volkswagen GTI, producing 210 hp and 258 lb-ft. The additional 10 hp generated may not be that big of a deal, but the same can’t be said when it comes to torque, which is up 25 percent.

If you can wait until the end of the year for the “Performance” group, your VW Golf GTI will produce a whopping 220 hp and come with torque-sensing limited-slip differential). For a few extra dollars, you’ll also get an adaptive damping system, a first for Volkswagen in North America.


In addition to the three new engines, the major innovation on the 2015 Volkswagen Golf is its new MQB platform.

MQB is short for Modularer QuerBaukasten, or, if you prefer, modular transverse matrix.

Remember this term, as it could be the next revolution in automaking, just as Toyota’s “Just in time” was in the 1950s. Because not only will this highly versatile architecture underpin two-thirds of Volkswagen’s vehicles (here’s to economies of scale!)…

… and make it possible to extend overall length by 5 cm (which translates into a trunk that is 10 percent larger)…

… but it is also the underlying feature responsible for one of the most engaging driving dynamics on the market today. Nothing less.


The seventh generation of the Volkswagen Golf (which is already available in Europe, where it was named the 2013 Car of the Year) is the very first product by the maker of the “people’s car” to use the MQB.

However, it should be noted that the Audi A3 beat it to the punch by one month in North America…

So, what’s the big deal with the MQB anyway?

Because the MQB platform makes extensive use of ultra lightweight steel, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf is some 30 kg lighter than the preceding generation, while its torsional stiffness has increased by 10 percent—not bad, eh?


Add to this “progressive” steering (i.e. that becomes more precise with speed) and the XDS system (once reserved for the Volkswagen Golf GTI, it acts like an electronic substitute for a mechanical limited-slip differential, applying brake to the driven inside wheel in order to reduce understeer)…

… and tah-dah! You get road handling that is as balanced and smooth as a BMW’s.

No joke: the 2015 Volkswagen Golf ‘s road handling is not only solid, composed and confident, it is exhilarating. Throttle response is immediate, the turbocharger engages vigorously, and the steering is impeccable—sheer handling pleasure.

The engines, be they gasoline or diesel (that’s right, even diesel!), are refined and powerful. It wouldn’t surprise us if they caught the eye of Ward’s, which honours the industry’s 10 best engines, every year.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Golf fares on the track against its competitors, like the Mazda3, or, in the case of the Volkswagen GTI, the Ford Focus ST and the Subaru Impreza WRX.

There is only one drawback (of course, there had to be at least one):


On California’s winding (sometimes bumpy) roads, the different 2015 Volkswagen Golfs we test drove, shod with tires in just about every size possible (ranging from 15 to 18 inches), were sometimes “bouncy,” exhibiting more suspension rebound than we expected over wavy pavement.

And they were that way regardless of whether they were equipped with the independent rear suspension that comes on all models with gasoline engines or the torsion-beam suspension that we must settle for on the Volkswagen Golf TDI diesel, as it serves to accommodate the TDI’s new emission control system. (That’s right: oil changes on the 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI will cost a few dollars more in order to top off the urea…)

So, yeah, a few bounces. Is what we have here a case of suspensions being tuned for the North American market, guaranteeing comfort in just about every situation? That said, response is controlled, disciplined even. We would have preferred a little less vertical movement, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it spoiled our drive.

“Once a Golf, always a Golf” applies to the interior, too. And that’s a good thing, because it means that the compact’s seventh generation has not been stripped of content, as was the case with the Volkswagen Jetta and Volkswagen Passat.

The materials used are of good quality and, depending on the version, the all-Teutonic sobriety is embellished with brushed faux-aluminum appliqués that brighten up the interior, adding a touch of sophistication that is not expected of vehicles in this category.

The interior’s best feature? The soundproofing.


Having misplaced a cell phone that was left on vibration mode, I can attest that when the doors, windows and roof (supposedly panoramic, but more like dual panel) are closed, you can truly hear a pin drop.

Or a cell phone vibrate.


It might be a good time to talk prices. Especially since, for the first time in its history, the Volkswagen Golf is being assembled at VW’s Puebla plant in Mexico, alongside the Jetta and Beetle.

We therefore expected a drop in price reflecting the relocation of Germany’s Wolfsburg plant to Nacho-Land.

But no: at $18,995 (three-door version) and $19,995 (five-door version), the 2015 Volkswagen Golf’s starting price is barely a thousand dollars less than when it was built in the Sauerkraut Nation.

(Did current VW Golf owners, who feared the resale value of their cars would plummet, just breathe a huge sigh of relief? You bet they did.)


The compact retains its European cachet, though, making it harder on the wallet than the competition, but seeks to justify its price tag by being well equipped. The base model comes with power windows, air conditioning, heated front seats (five-door version), a touch screen and satellite radio, but… no cruise control.

A new “safety” feature comes standard: upon impact, the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System helps prevent a second collision. Competitors will no doubt quickly come up with their own versions of this technology.

So… which one should you go for?

We’ll go with the first one that won us over: the 2015 Volkswagen Golf base model, with its refined 170 hp TSI engine and sufficient torque (surely it can muster more than 185 lb-ft?) delivering ultimate smoothness, especially when paired with a slick-shifting manual transmission.


By the way, this 2015 Volkswagen Golf “base model” delivers as much horsepower and torque as the third-generation (Mark III) Volkswagen Golf GTI and its 2.8-litre V6 from two decades ago…

That said, we wish that the standard manual transmission had six speeds (instead of only five), especially since second gear is too tall for most starts. Such gear spacing may very well help with fuel economy (according to VW, fuel economy is improved by 16 percent on the highway versus the former five-cylinder engine), but this still needs to be confirmed with further testing.

Of course, the Volkswagen Golf TDI remains the preferred choice of those who do a lot—A LOT— of highway driving. And, good news: the Trendline trim is now available on the diesel version, with an entry-level price of $23,095—that’s nearly $3,000 less than before.

We especially love this TDI since it welcomes the line’s most sophisticated transmissions, namely the six-speed manual and the dual-clutch six-speed automatic transmissions. With this last one, shifts happen with an immediacy that keeps the revs in place, making us wish that such a DSG was offered on all Golfs.


What about the Volkswagen Golf GTI, you ask? At the risk of being pummelled with tomatoes by diehard fans, we didn’t experience the thrills we expected behind the wheel.

Yes, the Volkswagen Golf GTI with its red accents enjoys a surplus of power, wider brakes and stabilizer bars, a suspension lowered by 15 mm, and sport-mode stability control. And yes, it still comes with performance seats, a flattened-bottom steering wheel, stainless steel pedals and, for those who don’t opt for the leather interior, the legendary plaid cloth trim.

But, what can I say: the other 2015 Volkswagen Golfs are so impressive on every count that the performance models have a hard time setting themselves apart.


You should also know that it was the Volkswagen Golf GTD (184 hp, 280 lb-ft) that delivered on the big thrills during another California test drive last fall. Ladies and gentlemen, all I can say about the torque generated by the Golf GTD is… wow.

In any case, this diesel performance model is not (yet) available in Canada. But we can take comfort in the fact that, as of next year, we will be able to get our hands on a Volkswagen Golf R, with its close to 300 hp and 4Motion all-wheel drive, taking you from 0 to 100 km/h in under five seconds.

Thrills guaranteed.