- Functional, roomy interior
- Great powertrains
- Polished road manners
- Big infotainment upgrades
- Conservative looks
- Golf R is pricey
- Rear seats don't fold quite flat
- Alltrack could be more off-roadable
There's a Golf for everyone, and they're even better for 2018 thanks to a big tech upgrade inside.
The 2018 Volkswagen Golf is a perennial favorite—and something of an underdog—among compact cars. It's offered as a four-door hatchback, a wagon with either a standard or slightly raised suspension, and a pair of sporty "hot hatches."
With the 2018 Golf, Volkswagen has taken time to add a boatload more technology to just about every model.
We've scored the Golf range a 6.6, marking it down for its relatively bland looks and class-up price tag, but rewarding it for its excellent driving dynamics, terrific interior, and good use of passenger and cargo space. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Golf lineup sees the addition of new LED taillights on all models for 2018, but they're otherwise indistinguishable from last year's lineup. Even the base five-door, a Euro-style compact car, boasts pert, continental looks. The real standouts, in terms of human and gear-carrying ability, are the SportWagen and Alltrack models. They're as roomy inside as a crossover but far more enjoyable to drive. The Alltrack was a new model added last year that echoes the Subaru Outback in a more compact package: a hint of off-road ability and slightly more butch looks.
There's a dizzying array of models and powertrains on offer, but VW has simplified things a bit for 2018 with fewer trim levels.
A 1.8-liter turbo-4 that puts out 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque (a figure dropped to 184 lb-ft with the standard stick-shift) comes on hatchback and wagon versions. A 5-speed manual is standard and a 6-speed automatic is optional on the hatch, while the Golf SportWagen and Golf Alltrack come with a 5-speed manual, a 6-speed manual, or a 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox depending on if they're optioned with front- or all-wheel drive.
Golf GTIs and Golf Rs are for those who relish carving corners with their firmer suspensions, unique styling, and grippier seats. The GTI is front-wheel drive, like the standard Golf, but it substitutes a 2.0-liter turbo-4 rated at 220 hp and 258 pound-feet and either a 6-speed stick or a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic. The Golf R tops the range with all-wheel drive and 292 hp from its 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. It comes with a 6-speed manual but this year offers a new 7-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Every Golf variant shares the same basic interior, albeit with different trim finishes and seat designs and upholsteries as you work your way up from the low-$20,000 range up to over $40,000 for a loaded Golf R. They offer a business-like cockpit oriented toward the driver and above average room for four or five in a pinch. Wagons deliver the most cargo room, but all models are well-finished and feel like mini luxury cars.
The big tech news for 2018 is a pair of all-new infotainment systems. Lower-spec models are upgraded from a 5.0-inch screen to a 6.5-inch display with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Higher-end Golfs utilize an 8.0-inch screen with even more functionality. And the Golf R replaces its conventional gauges with an highly configurable LCD screen for 2018.
There's also an e-Golf, an electric-only model that we've covered separately.