2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.8T TSI Automatic Long-Term Road Test

If we were to describe the 19 months and 40,000 miles we spent in Volkswagen’s seventh-generation golf hatchback as a romantic story arc, it would be a crushingly normal courtship. As in normal ward-and-june-cleaver, neither a hot and heavy date nor a bleak arranged marriage. our golf tangle instead felt like a relationship built on foundation, a long-term commitment to rival archie and edith bunker.

We initially professed our love by including the latest version on our 2015 Top 10 Cars list (and, later, our 2016 list). Then we popped the question, and Volkswagen sent us a gas-powered, automatic-transmission-equipped Golf Sel four-door for long-term testing. Our honeymoon with the redesigned Golf for 2015 was textbook, and praise was showered on the VW for its comfortable front seats, premium cabin materials and appearance, and basic straightness. We couldn’t find fault with the Golf’s packaging, either: It can carry four adults in relative comfort, or fold down the rear seats and carry the IKEA swag of an apartment. The car’s understated—we’ll call understated—appearance also came in handy in exercising its planted chassis and precise steering on back roads. It’s not quite as athletic as its sportier GTI sibling, but the Golf holds its own. It’s very complete, just the kind of catch you’d take home to Mom.

Reading: 2015 vw golf review car and driver

the long run

given how popular golf became as a traveler early on, we didn’t marry the vw we eloped. By the end of his stay, the golf had traveled from our headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan to Chicago, Wisconsin, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia (twice), Ohio (many times), and even circled Lake Michigan once to laugh. Granted, most of our long-term cars are put into service on road trips in an effort to keep up with mileage accumulation; The difference with the Golf is that unlike many compact cars we’ve tested, people really wanted to take it on long drives. On the open road, it got up to 36 mpg on a full tank, while we averaged a less spectacular but still good 29 mpg average overall.

Road travelers appreciated the Golf’s comfortable suspension tuning, seemingly laser-guided steering, and quiet interior, which provided convincing impressions of a larger car. The seats that everyone found so supportive certainly got us through the miles without fatigue, and the trunk easily swallowed enough luggage for a week’s vacation. serving as one of many shuttles from ann arbor to virginia international track for last year’s blitz lap track event, golf online executive editor erik johnson and photographer michael simari, and zipped up all of golf’s photographic equipment simari, without the two killing each other during the 11 hour journey, an excellent result.

the daily routine

as the miles racked up, we found a few cracks in the golf’s armor. Like finding out his spouse snores or always leaves dishes in the sink, the VW’s most obvious problems weren’t the killers, just the annoyances. The automatic transmission became a sore spot for its lazy movements and stumbling at low speeds. At the dealership for its 10,000 mile service, the Volkswagen received a computer upgrade intended to resolve the issue. Some of the harshness of the shifts was gone, but the transmission never worked well under the slow throttle of the turbocharged four-cylinder engine. almost all drivers complained about the delay between stepping on the accelerator and the car responding. When the powertrain got the message, the car would sometimes jump forward with more enthusiasm than intended. Noting the diesel-like behavior, and presumably not making a joke about the VW diesel scandal, features editor Jeff Sabatini asked, “Did Volkswagen deliver a diesel with the wrong badge on the back?”

only the central display on the golf course was so universally despised. The passage of time is often a mess with automotive technology, but the 5.8-inch screen and accompanying driver information display in the gauge cluster looked old the day the Golf showed up at our office last night. Late 2014. Today, it might be what a pixelated rock drawing will be like, one that hardly responds to input. the small size of the main unit and the atari-level graphics and screen resolution were also mocked, several staff members experienced failure to run the navigation system, and on one occasion the volume knob filled up during 10 minutes while the screen became completely unresponsive to input. (problem never resurfaced). The infotainment system in our long-term 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI suffered from similar issues, also lacking a USB port, a potential deal-breaker for Golf in this day and age. (Volkswagen offers a silly “media input adapter cable” with a specific connector for an iphone – different cables are available for other devices, but they aren’t cheap.) Those looking to buy a new Golf can at least rest easy that the 2016 models ditched the geriatric system for a larger 6.5-inch touchscreen with USB input and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay phone integration.

mechanical things

Mechanically speaking, the Golf proved to be virtually trouble free through 40,000 miles, although service costs for scheduled maintenance were high. Between the 20,000-mile, 30,000-mile, and 40,000-mile services, we spent $998, getting in return only oil changes, rotated tires, inspections, and engine and cabin air filters. (First service, at 10,000 miles, was free.) For comparison, we spent $625 servicing our 2013 Dodge Dart and just $346 servicing our 2014 Ford Focus St on the same number of miles. Outside of scheduled maintenance, our golf got a new fuel rail under recall order at 10,434 miles, mysteriously lost a quart of coolant (topped up for $20.78, we bought a gallon of coolant, at 29,714 miles) and It had a check valve in its evaporative emissions system replaced at 36,591 miles (also free when the dealer extended courtesy coverage since the car’s 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty had just expired).

We also spent $521.12 to fix the rear bumper after a mess in the parking lot and $405 to fix three bent wheels. in fact, crooked wheels plagued the golf throughout its tenure; Perhaps the suspension compliance tricked the staff into forgetting that the car used fairly low-profile tires and that the wheels suffered from careless riding over potholes and speed bumps. In any case, we were able to balance the wheels and tires for most of our test to erase wheel chatter at speed. At 36,450 miles, we were finally forced to service the aforementioned three wheels when they became too off-center to counteract. At the same time, we replaced the right front tire, which had developed a sidewall bulge from abuse, for $180.47.

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However, when the odometer passed the 40,000-mile mark, the old-school touchscreen, frustrating refinement of the slow-revving powertrain, and service costs weren’t enough to dispel the opinion of this post. that the golf is one of the best cars for sale—much less under $30,000. The entire car seems built to a standard, not a price, a perception reinforced every time you open or close one of its solid-feeling doors, or wrap your fingers around the contours of the steering wheel molded to perfectly accept human fingers.

Many of the staff shared the sentiment that if they were only allowed to own one car, the Golf would be on their shortlist. require a manual transmission or more sportiness? Choose a lower-spec Golf with the five-speed GTI model or the equally wonderful 210-hp GTI model (read about our long-term 2015 GTI here). Either way, you better be ready to compromise, because you’re getting a great life partner that’s rock-steady and equipped to handle just about any automotive task. Those following this space may note that we entered our Golf Long Term in a comparison test against another segment favorite, the Mazda 3 Hatchback, earlier this year and the Lost Volkswagen. True, the Mazda is sportier and its automatic transmission more buttoned-down, but the Volkswagen was praised even in defeat: “We love living with it, perhaps even more than we enjoy driving it.” As a car, it’s pure marriage material.

months in fleet: 19 months final mileage: 40,407 milesaverage fuel economy: 29 mpg tank size fuel: 13.2 gal fuel range: 380 miles service: $1018 normal wear: $0 repair: strong> $0 damage and destruction: $1107

What we like: The combination of Golf fuel economy (we get 29 mpg), highway handling, stability and comfort, and the voluminous cargo hold continue to garner universal praise. If the world fell into some dystopian hell where every human being had to choose only one new car that could never be replaced, Golf would easily be on our short list (as long as that dystopia had VW mechanics). whether you pull into a chicago street parking spot, race quietly down the freeway, hollow out our staff with your comfy seats, gobble up ikea purchases, or top your pay grade with your car-like interior quality Audi, Golf is among the best off-road vehicles available. We continue to be delighted with its attention to detail, including the rear wiper that automatically activates when reverse gear is selected if the wipers are on, as well as the reversing camera that hides behind the vw badge on the tailgate until necessary (the badge tilts at just the right time to keep the lens clean!).

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What we don’t like: Digging through the golf logbook looking for complaints is tedious, but we gave it a try and here’s what we could find: The various LCD screens, which appeared dated and low resolution when the car was new, today they have even less brightness. that’s about it, and it’s a subjective feeling that only a few of the staff have. the rest of us don’t really care that the little display in the gauge cluster and touchscreen in the instrument cluster flaunt their pixels with pride; both convey information clearly and with relatively little clutter. otherwise we have nothing, except, perhaps, the wishes of a manual transmission. The Golf’s six-speed automatic transmission (standard on our self-test model) isn’t exceptional but isn’t annoying, while the five-speed manual offered on lower-spec Golfs is more fun and a better companion for driving. four-cylinder turbocharged engine.

what went wrong: okay, we can think of one more complaint: an increase in problems for our golf. It’s not as bad as it sounds given that the VW was problem free for the first half of its 40,000 miles in our care and the problems we’ve experienced since then are few and almost entirely our fault. The first out-of-spec concern came at 23,507 miles, when a staff member noted that the driver’s door felt “loose,” a problem that was fixed in our garage with a few turns of a wrench to tighten a hinge. . This is a rare fault, as the door has never been removed or subjected to other service (as far as we know), which suggests either something went wrong in the assembly, or the Golf’s extremely wide-opening front doors exert a additional pressure on the hinges. Later, just before the 30K mile service, the low coolant dash light came on, causing us to shell out $20.78 for a gallon of VW brand coolant, of which we used less than a pint; Interestingly, when the dealer inspected the Golf for leaks, he found none. we are still looking for the missing coolant.

the fob has started to suffer from what we’ll call “deflation-itis”, where its rubber lock/unlock buttons have crumbled on the fob from constant use; The buttons still work, but their sad state reduces the tactile sensitivity of the fob. We should point out that the key to our recently split long-term Porsche Cayman suffered a similar fate; That key was replaced (free of charge), something we’ll look into with the Golf’s key, doubly due to its finicky proximity-sensing behavior. This became an issue right after the Golf started its 30,000 mile service (costing $274 which includes $189 “labor” for nothing more than an oil change, tire rotation, and inspections). The car started not registering the proximity of the key, intermittently, when we were expecting it to unlock the doors when we touched the door handle. One time we even had to hold the key next to the steering column to get the car to start. (The Golf’s ignition button, like other cars, senses that the key is inside the car to activate; it shouldn’t need to be held near the dash.) We had no problems unlocking or starting the car using our backup key, so we assume a replacement will solve these remote problems.

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Another less serious issue seems to have resolved itself: the tire pressure monitoring system warning light came on in the gauge cluster, despite all four tires maintaining acceptable air pressure, and remained lit for several thousand kilometers. After a while, the light faded, as did concerns about the air holding capacity of the tires. Speaking of round stuff, some of you may or may not have been wondering what happened to the four (!) slightly bent wheels on the Golf that were reported in our last update. We haven’t replaced them yet, largely because it’s still winter in Michigan and we didn’t want to fold a shiny new set of tires into potholes before the spring road crews (hopefully) start repairing our roads.

Where We Went: Since our last update, this golf longtimer has toured Michigan, traveled to Chicago, and ventured to Massachusetts and back through New York state.

Months in fleet: 15 months Current mileage: 34,003 miles Average fuel economy: 29 mpg Tank size fuel: 13.2 gal fuel range: 380 miles service: $610 normal wear: $0 repair: strong> $0 damage and destruction: $0

What we like: Volkswagen seats continue to earn raves, especially during two separate long-haul trips to Virginia from Michigan. Supportive and unrestrictive, golf chairs keep glute numbness at bay and even do a decent job of keeping front occupants in place during spirited driving. in fact, the interior as a whole impresses every day, with pleasant materials and a sober and mature design and layout. It may not be visually stimulating, but we have an impression that the golf cabin will still look contemporary and attractive 10 years from now.

what we don’t like: some anger has been unleashed on the golf infotainment system, which has committed sins ranging from taking too long to wake up after pressing the power button to routing occasional weird browsing. . Those niceties aside, golf has made nothing but friends among the staff.

what went wrong: the golf course is giving its best impression of bedrock: if it’s eroding, the rupture is occurring at such a slow rate that it’s unnoticed by us. nothing has gone wrong, broken or caused us any problems. (In stark contrast to another current long-term hatchback, the Mini Cooper S.) Last time we checked in with VW, a dealer service bulletin fix (update transmission software) hadn’t done a lot to mitigate some of the gearbox’s less logical shift choices. there are still complaints about sometimes clumsy or inopportune shifts. Still, the transmission hasn’t broken or stopped working; it just doesn’t match the smoothness and impeccable manners of the best autoboxes out there.

Our second service, at 20,000 miles, brought new oil to the Golf, a new air filter, a new cabin filter, and a tire rotation for $314.68. This outlay was offset a bit by the free 10K service, but still, that’s a lot of money for simple service on a compact hatchback. The dealer also investigated a slight vibration that we began to experience at highway speeds, and gave a verdict that all four (!) wheels were bent. soon we will be repairing golf shoes.

where we went: since our last report, golf has traveled to virginia twice, once for our annual track blitz lap at virginia international speedway, again for a vacation in williamsburg. Outside of Virginia’s love of golf, golf has largely remained close to our Michigan headquarters, traveling to the northern part of the state several times for summer getaways and to Ohio as well.

months in fleet: 9 months current mileage: 21,393 milesaverage fuel economy: 29 mpg tank size fuel: 13.2 gal fuel range: 380 miles service: $315 normal wear: $0 repair: strong> $0 damage and destruction: $0

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What we like: Inspiration, it seems, can come in all shapes and forms. Take, for example, the actual shape of the Volkswagen Golf. It’s more or less a box with a nose grafted on to hold an engine. this continues to inspire employees to harness the inherent utility of our golf for the long term, with the 22.8 cubic foot cargo compartment in near constant use. The highway miles have slipped by with ease thanks to the Golf’s supple ride quality. With the standard all-season tires swapped back in (we use winter tires on our long-term tires in the colder months), the hatch has regained its Germanic sense of going in a straight line at speed, tracking without swerving. p>

What we don’t like: Multiple logbook comments have complained about the way the golf pulls away from a stop. Some think it’s the transmission’s rapid shifting through the first gears (first feels like it takes half a second before the transmission shifts into second gear with the car barely moving), while others blame apparent throttle lean. In the middle of the Michigan winter, some – well, just its author – wanted a way to beat the Golf’s traction and stability control systems to open the door for serious parking brake shenanigans on snowy roads, but VW won’t allow it. Traction control manipulation.

what went wrong: nothing. The Golf has been completely problem free through just over 13,000 miles of use. The only maintenance-related news concerns the Golf’s 10,000-mile service, which was performed free of charge and included an oil change, tire rotation, and vehicle inspection. The dealer did a fuel rail recall update, installed a new sealing cap to prevent fuel leaks in the engine bay, and a technical service bulletin dictated a transmission software update to cure potential hard shifts. The TSB doesn’t seem to have cured some of golf’s weirder gear selections, and the transmission is still hesitant to downshift quickly, but we’ve noticed fewer abrupt gear changes.

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where we went: golf has seen quite a bit of out-of-state action during his tenure here in c/d, visiting wisconsin, ohio, pennsylvania and illinois on separate trips. those long drives have helped boost our observed fuel economy quite a bit, to 28 mpg, since our last check-in.

months in fleet: 6 monthscurrent mileage: 13,382 miles average fuel economy: 28 mpgtank size fuel: 13.2 gal fuel range: 370 milesservice: $0 normal wear: $0 repair: strong> $0 damage and destruction: $0

The Volkswagen Golf ranks right up there with the Toyota Corolla and Ford F-Series as one of the best-selling nameplates of all time, but you’ll likely see many more Corollas and F-150s dotting the American landscape. That’s because the little Volkswagen has racked up most of its sales in Europe, whose citizens appreciate the car’s polish and sophistication, attributes Americans have only just begun to appreciate in compact cars. A new Golf has arrived for 2015, and VW expects it to make a real play on American customers more concerned with price and fuel economy than Audi’s sturdiness and comfort at triple-digit speeds.

To make the seventh-generation Golf more palatable to American and European consumers alike, Volkswagen shed some weight, replacing the previous model’s standard 2.5-liter five-cylinder bulk with a new turbocharged four-cylinder and reinforced hatchback. list of driver assistance functions. Oh, and to keep costs down, VW is building North American Golf models in Mexico. The car’s 10Best award this year proves assimilation didn’t require breaking with what made it so good before.

A 10best award is reason enough to enter a car in long-term testing, but this golf evaluation is special. Remember how much of a Volkswagen US-focused mixed play with the newer Passat it was? In addition to growing in size to meet Americans’ idea of ​​a midsize sedan, the Passat was first spun off from the European model, made cheaper, and then assembled in Tennessee. sales skyrocketed but then stagnated; More worrisome is that our long-term 2013 Passat Tdi test car suffered from a variety of glitches and maladies familiar to German luxury car owners—issues that simply won’t cut it for mainstream buyers hooked on reliability surveys and the like. . Will the new golf be the same? We got a four-door golf with a gasoline engine and automatic equipment to find out.

more doors, more sel, more automatic!

The 2015 Golf lineup consists of two body styles (two-door and four-door hatchback), two engines (a turbo gasoline four and a TDI diesel), and two transmission options (a five-speed manual and a six-speed). automatic). The Golf trim level structure offers the choice of S, Sunroof S, SE and SEL options on gas models, while the TDI Diesel offers the same lineup except for the Sunroof S. We settled on the four-door SEL with the gasoline-turbocharged 1.8-liter “TSI” four and a six-speed automatic transmission.

We’d prefer a manual, and we know from our experience with a base model that the golf’s stick shifter is good. But most Americans will choose the turbo/automatic powertrain combo, and we look for well-equipped cars, so the asking price of $27,815 was an easy choice. It’s loaded with 18-inch wheels, navigation, automatic climate control, keyless entry with push button start, 12-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, ambient cabin lighting, moonroof, sensor wipers rain, fog lights, a backup camera and fender audio. Our choices were limited to color (Tornado Red is spicy and looks great on the angular Golf) and two packages: Lighting ($995) and Driver Assistance ($695). We skipped the latter because we didn’t see a need for parking sensors in a car as compact and easy-to-see as the Golf, but we stuck with the former for its adaptive bi-xenon headlights and distinctive LED running lights.

low fuel, high praise

First impressions have been positive, as expected. Virtually every editor who has wrapped their hands around the edge of the Golf’s leather-wrapped, padded steering wheel has been impressed by the car’s rigid structure, comfortable ride, and confident handling. The handling portion was borne out on the track, where the golf’s maiden skidpad run resulted in an excellent 0.88g. Our VW’s other performance metrics weren’t as bright, with a 7.5 second sprint to 60 mph and a 173 foot stop from 70 mph. However, they’re consistent with a similar Golf TSI automatic we tested last year, which posted a 0-60 time of 7.7 seconds and identical stopping distance. Like other Volkswagens, the Golf’s brake pedal is a bit soft and doesn’t bite through the first inch or two of its travel; it’s the only dynamic trait we don’t like.

So far, the hatchback has left the Detroit metropolitan area only once, for a quick trip to Chicago. Since the Golf has logged almost all of its 5600+ miles locally on the streets and highways around the Ann Arbor headquarters of cars and drivers, its 27 mpg fuel economy is surprising and commendable. Our reported efficiency exceeds the EPA’s 25-mpg city rating and approaches the combined 29-mpg figure. As Michigan’s deep freeze thaws, you can bet the Golf will start to venture farther afield, as the crew takes advantage of its eminently practical 22.8-cubic-foot cargo hold and composed road demeanor. Longer trips are likely to further increase our fuel economy figure.

months in fleet: 2 months current mileage: 5635 miles average fuel economy: 27 mpg fuel tank size fuel: 13.2 gal fuel range: 360 miles service: $0 normal wear: $0 repair: > $0 damage and destruction: $0

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