- Refined ride
- Comfortable interior
- GTI’s still a performance bargain
- You won’t lose it in a parking lot
- Wagons ho no mo’
- Golf R gone, for now
- Redesign due soon
- Few configurations left
features & specs
Even with a pared lineup for a short model year, the 2020 Volkswagen Golf is a solid if stoic choice among compact hatchbacks
The 2020 Volkswagen Golf compact car lineup shrinks from a full 18-hole lineup to a mere par three course as the German automaker readies a new model likely to arrive for 2021.
Even pared down to Golf, Golf GTI, and e-Golf models, the smallest 2020 VW is a refined hatchback with good safety and technology equipment.
Overall, we rate the 2020 Golf lineup at 6.5 out of 10, a figure derived from the GTI that outsells its other siblings. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Gone this year are the likeable SportWagen and off-roady Alltrack wagon variants, as well as the ferocious Golf R. Though immensely rational, the station wagons were met with lukewarm interest. Left in their wake are the Golf Value Edition, GTI S and SE, and e-Golf SE and SEL Premium.
The base Golf retains a 147-horsepower 1.4-liter turbo-4 that pairs with either a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic transmission to shuttle power to the front wheels. Acceleration is brisk enough for easy on-ramp entry, and an EPA-estimated 32 mpg combined is laudable. The base Golf has a soft, luxurious ride a cut above the class norm, a reminder that it’s marketed as a family car and not an economy car in its European home market.
Enthusiasts will want the Golf GTI with its 228-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4, which teams well with either the standard 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. A limited-slip front differential works well to keep the GTI’s acceleration and handling linear and entertaining. Few small cars offer as many thrills as the rorty little GTI. We’ll miss the Golf R’s 288 hp and all-wheel drive, but not its $41,000 price tag.
With just 125 miles of all-electric range, the e-Golf might be a tough sell against the 200-mile-plus Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Bolt EV, not to mention relatively low gas prices. Where the e-Golf stands out is, ironically, in its subtlety: it looks, feels, and mostly drives like a regular Golf. Acceleration is typical EV-quick and silent, and drivers who live near Level 3 chargers can top a depleted battery to 80 percent charge in about an hour.
No matter the badge on the back or what’s underhood, all Golfs share a straightforward, businesslike dash. Touchscreens range from 6.5 to 8.0 inches and feature standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Interior space is well-utilized, and the hatchback can swallow nearly 53 cubic feet of goods with the rear seats flopped forward.
Standard safety gear includes automatic emergency braking and GTIs offer adaptive cruise control. The Golf has performed well in crash tests, albeit with a few blemishes that have kept it from earning big awards.
2020 Volkswagen Golf
True to form, the 2020 VW Golf has two-box Teutonic simplicity down to a fault.
Now available in just one body configuration, the five-door 2020 Volkswagen Golf has a simple, unadorned look that should age well.
We rate it 6 out of 10, giving the 2020 Golf a point above average for its class-up interior design. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The basic two-box shape links the latest Golf to decades of predecessors with the same name. Base Golfs now ride on 16-inch alloy wheels that look small in the wheel wells but are wrapped in tires with tall side profiles that improve ride quality. GTIs swap in 18-inch wheels, a body kit, and hints of red exterior trim. The e-Golfs have their own wheel designs and a different grille, but they hardly stand out. That’s part of their appeal, at least for buyers turned off by the futuristic look of most electric cars.
Inside, the wide dashboard cants slightly toward the driver. Painted plastic trim covers the dash and door panels. Synthetic leather upholstery comes standard on the Golf, while GTIs include plaid cloth on the base S or leather upholstery on the SE. The e-Golf offers a configurable digital instrument cluster but otherwise mirrors its siblings inside.
2020 Volkswagen Golf
The 2020 VW Golf GTI provides plenty of thrills, but other versions are comparatively demure.
Our 7 out of 10 rating for the 2020 Volkswagen Golf lineup applies to the sporty Golf GTI. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Its 228-horsepower turbo-4 provides thrilling acceleration and works well with the standard 6-speed manual and optional 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions. We give it extra points for the turbo’s thrust and for the car’s impressive ride and handling. The tall 18-inch wheels have narrow sidewalls and are wrapped in grippy tires that provide it with fun handling on everything from freeway on-ramps to winding country roads.
It’s a shame that the all-wheel-drive Golf R is no more, but a Golf GTI with winter tires makes good use of its standard limited-slip front differential to slice through snowy roads.
Rated on its own, the base Golf would score 6 out of 10, with a single point for its composed ride. Acceleration provided by the 147-horsepower 1.4-liter turbo-4 is adequate, and the turbo spools up for decent highway passing. The standard 6-speed manual transmission is our choice, though the optional and likely more popular 8-speed automatic shifts crisply and predictably. The base Golf rides on 16-inch wheels with tall sidewalls that smother bumps in a luxurious way but leave filter out any hint of road feel.
The e-Golf’s electric motor puts out 134 horsepower and 214 pound-feet of torque and its lithium-ion battery is rated at 35.8 kwh, but with no lag from the single-speed transmission, it feels much quicker—to a point, that is. Around town, the e-Golf is zippy. It’ll keep up with highway traffic, though electric range slides quickly.
2020 Volkswagen Golf
Comfort & Quality
With a well-wrought interior, and thoughtful packaging, the 2020 VW Golf is a practical choice
The pared-down 2020 Volkswagen Golf range is reasonably practical, but we already miss the highly rational wagons that were part of last year’s lineup.
We rate the range at 8 out of 10 for good seats and good cargo space. It’s a figure that even applies to the e-Golf since its battery doesn’t intrude on cargo space. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Golf has a small footprint: It stretches just 167.6 inches from bumper to bumper, yet it feels much larger inside. Supportive front seats wrapped in synthetic leather, cloth, or real leather depending on the trim offer a wide range of adjustment and are heated on most versions. GTIs have seats with more bolstering, but they’re not too tight for most drivers.
The second row offers 35.6 inches of leg room, a decent figure for a small car. Head room is about 38 inches in both rows.
With the rear seat upright, the Golf can swallow nearly 23 cubic feet of cargo. Fold row two down and that balloons to an impressive 53.7 cubes, which easily bests like-sized crossover SUVs such as the Chevrolet Trax and Mazda CX-3.
The Golf’s interior materials are generally a cut above the class norm, though competitors are catching up. The standard synthetic leather has a tough, durable feel, and it’s easy to clean. We’re still smitten with the plaid cloth on the GTI S, though.
2020 Volkswagen Golf
The 2020 VW Golf is a safe bet.
The 2020 VW Golf doesn’t earn any special accolades for its crash-test performance from federal and independent testers, though it performs well in most evaluations. Standard automatic emergency braking bumps it to a 7 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The NHTSA rates the Golf at five stars overall, with four-star frontal crash and calculated rollover ratings.
The insurance industry-funded IIHS rates the 2020 Golf “Good” in most categories other than the small-overlap passenger-side test that simulates impact with an object such as a telephone pole. It earned “Acceptable” in that test. The IIHS says that the standard halogen headlights on some versions of the Golf rate “Poor,” but it has not tested the optional LEDs.
2020 Volkswagen Golf
Down to just a few trim levels, the 2020 Volkswagen Golf offers decent value.
Picking a 2020 Volkswagen Golf won’t be very hard this year. That’s because VW halved the number of models it offered and sliced trim levels accordingly.
We rate the lineup at 6 out of 10, awarding them a point for their solid array of standard features on the GTI edition. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
This year, the Golf comes in just one trim: Value Edition. It lives up to its name with synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, a 6.5-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, automatic emergency braking, a sunroof, and keyless ignition. Pick your color, sign some papers, and you’ll be on your way.
Golf GTIs come in S and SE guise. The base S features most of the base Golf’s gear plus cloth-upholstered sports seats and blind-spot monitors. SEs add leather and an 8.0-inch touchscreen, while an Autobahn package throws in navigation, Fender-branded speakers, and a few more goodies.
The e-Golf’s two-tier lineup consists of an SE trim equipped about like the GTI SE and a range-topping SEL Premium that adds a digital instrument cluster, a 9.2-inch touchscreen for infotainment with gesture controls, and a few other high-tech features that somewhat mask its limited range.
VW’s warranty drops this year from six years/72,000 miles to four years/50,000 miles—very good, but not excellent enough to earn an extra point here.
2020 Volkswagen Golf
The 2020 VW Golf is a miserly choice among small cars.
Base 2020 Volkswagen Golfs earn good fuel economy ratings from the EPA, though the better-selling 2020 Golf GTI is the basis for our 5 out of 10 score here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The GTI was rated at 25 mpg city, 31 highway, 27 combined with the automatic transmission last year, and 24/32/27 mpg with the standard 6-speed manual.
Base Golfs came in at 29/37/32 mpg regardless of gearbox.
VW recommends premium fuel to get the most twist out of the GTI, though the car can run on the same regular unleaded it suggests for the standard Golf in a pinch.
The e-Golf has a 125-mile range, which isn’t very impressive anymore.
Other small cars can top 40 mpg on the highway in certain configurations, but they generally require jumping through a few option-package hoops to get there. Among small hatchbacks, the Golf lineup is largely competitive.