The compact class: VW Golf 1.5 TSI driving report

The undisputed favorite of German drivers was called the VW Golf for decades. But electronic trends and weaknesses in detail have shaken the Wolfsburg man’s legendary status. The latest facelift shows that the Golf is almost perfect.

50 years of golf – finally an anniversary in the automotive industry that is truly worth celebrating. Germany, Europe or the reference to the compact class – all this is somehow also the birthplace of the Golf, Wolfsburg. It doesn’t always have to be a GTI to make the driver dream, because even the entry-level versions have been setting the standard for five decades and causing plenty of headaches for the competition. In a war of classes, a Golf is no longer just competing against the Ford Focus or the Opel Astra, but also against them Tesla Model 3, Peugeot e-3008, Mini Cooper S or its own electric sibling VW ID3.

Dynamic and efficient

The 4.28m long Golf is something for almost every customer because it is compact, somehow flawless, comfortable, fun to drive and is also a first, second or third car. For many years, at least in Europe, the best Golf was a TDI variant, which at the time was as economical as it was torquey and fast. Gasoline engines now play the main role, and the more powerful 1.5-liter version with 110 kW / 150 hp is probably the version that will appeal to most customers. This VW Golf 1.5 TSI is – perhaps somewhat surprisingly – still available with a six-speed manual gearbox. An automated gearbox, a double clutch in Volkswagen, is objectively the best version, because it not only saves the driver from annoying manual work that often occurs in traffic jams, but there are also significant advantages in terms of comfort, dynamics and performance . But the base of the 1.5 TSI in the 110 kW version is a manual switch and that the manual gearbox is fun to operate because the turbocharged four-cylinder is well dependent on the driver’s mind, hand and gas.

The 1.5 is no athlete, but it was tuned for efficiency and cleanliness not least because of its mandatory particulate filter. Peak torque of 250Nm doesn’t come close to the thrust of previous diesel versions of the Golf, but the low 1,500rpm ensure reserved use of the low rev range. No customer driving a regular Golf without a sports badge needs more steam underneath. The manual transmission works, and the driver only notices at higher load requirements that the 1.5 liters of combustion chamber, spread over four combustion chambers, is not that much. But the turbocharger makes up for the combustion chamber deficit impressively, and the acceleration potential from 0 to 100 km/h in 8.6 seconds or a top speed of 224 km/h will make any driver of an electric VW ID3 cry when braking suddenly at 160 km. /h.

Convincing overall package

What the VW Golf 1.5 TSI, which costs at least 31,530 euros, can do in its latest generation with admittedly rather thin basic equipment is the almost perfect symbiosis of comfort and sportiness. Of course, it’s the successful tuning of the springs and shock absorbers as well as the excellent steering and good wheel-tire combination, but compared to many electric competitors or to models with hybrid units, the low weight of under 1.4 tons is a big deal . . Unpleasant transverse joints, broken roads or uneven asphalt – the eighth generation of the Golf may not be as perfect in many details as the seventh, but when it comes to chassis and tuning, the king of the compact class is a real show. Hardly anyone will be bothered by the fact that almost nothing has happened to the latest facelift apart from design details front and rear, and that you can only see the new LED headlights if you look closely. The turbo engine is not only quiet and free-revving, but also economical, with standard consumption of 5.4 liters per 100 kilometers allowing a range of 900 kilometers with a full 50 liter tank.

The low interior noise level, anti-slip steering wheel and easy-to-read instruments ensure that such long journeys can be fun even in a compact class model. There is no doubt that it should be the larger of the two operating systems called “Discover”, because the 12.9-inch diagonal is not large, but more modern than the small 10.4-inch version. The screen is clear and the software is quick to expand to include illuminated sliders for volume and temperature. Reasonable: the head-up display, which appears quite sparse. Space is adequate for this class in the front and back, the seats are not only well-shaped, but also very comfortable. Nobody in this class needs more luggage space than 381 litres, which can be expanded to over 1,200 liters by folding it down.

The bottom line is that the latest generation VW Golf 1.5 TSI is the best volume model you can buy in this class. The more stylish Audi A3 with premium standard alone probably offers even more – for more money. But if you’re considering a VW ID3, you should probably sit in a VW Golf again – you’ll definitely have some thoughts, because it doesn’t allow itself any real weakness and it’s one thing in particular: a VW Golf.

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