VW’s Seventh Generation Versatile Hatchback
Forty-one years ago Volkswagen introduced the first Golf; over those four decades it has evolved and matured into the hatchback that all others in the segment are compared against.
The 2016 Volkswagen Golf TSI is rated as a compact, but in reality it is a not-so-small car that has spirited performance and is comfortable to drive, handles great, can haul a respectable amount of your stuff, comfortably carry a couple of adults in the back seat and gets excellent fuel economy.
Driving Experience: On the Road
The two-door 2016 Volkswagen Golf TSI S is one of seven models in the Golf family that includes SE, SEL, R, GTI, e-Golf and SportWagen versions. Clean Fleet Report’s Golf TSI was powered by a 16-valve 1.8-liter turbocharged and intercooled inline four-cylinder engine putting out 170 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque driving the front wheels. The torque kicks in at a low 1,600 rpm and pulls strongly in all gears at all speeds. Our test car was mated to a slick-shifting five-speed manual transmission with an EPA fuel economy rated at 25 city /37 highway /30 combined. Ratings for the six-speed automatic transmission for the city are the same, the highway rating is one mpg less and the combined is also one mpg less. In 325 miles of driving throughout Southern California I averaged 35 mpg with a ratio of 80-percent highway /20-percent city driving, which means I easily exceeded the highway mpg rating, maybe even reaching 40+ mpg.
The five-speed manual has short throws, a not-too-heavy and smooth clutch, with gears easy to find; I never had any grinding or hunting. At first I thought it was odd that there was not a sixth
gear as all of the manual transmissions we’ve tested at Clean Fleet Report have the extra gear for fuel economy. But, when I got the Golf TSI out on the highway, I was pleased to see the tachometer reading about 2,000 rpms at 70 mpg. VW has done a good job of engineering this transmission to turn the engine slowly when it counts most—out on the open road.
So what kind of fun can you have in the TSI with a manual? The torque kicks in evenly and smoothly, delivering exactly as hoped for when in the lower gears. There was good pull in 5th gear at highway speeds, for example, when traveling at 65 mph and needing to briefly get to 75 mph+ for passing. When even more oomph was needed, dropping down a gear to 4th and taking the revs towards red line produced excellent acceleration.
The Driving Experience
The 2016 Volkswagen Golf TSI is quiet and smooth, with a sure-footed driving experience. The S model comes with 15-inch alloy wheels and 195/65R15 All-season tires. Seventeen- and 18-inch wheels and tires are available. The handling characteristics, considering the smallest of the wheel/tire combinations, had only a slight push when powered hard through a corner, helped by the strut-type front suspension with coil springs, multi-link and coil springs in the rear and anti-roll bars all the way around. Volkswagen makes sportier versions—the Golf GTI and Golf R—that are absolute rocketships and handle like a slot cars.
Road feel was excellent with rack and pinion electric power steering that thankfully was not programmed to take away the fun of driving. Body roll was almost non-existent, even when pushed above recommended corner speed limits, and highway 70+ mph cruising was solid and confident. The Golf TSI is a well-balanced car that is easy to drive.
A good handling car of course is nothing without good brakes. The Golf TSI comes standard with ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), power-assisted vented front and solid rear discs. Handling and driving confidence was also aided by electronic stability control.
Driving Experience: Interior
Clean Fleet Report was driving the 2016 Volkswagen Golf TSI S model featuring a clean fit and finish that was German-tight, with a good mix of soft and hard plastics. The simple layout of all gauges was uncomplicated by fake woods, plastic chrome pieces or other design gimmicks often found on other cars. Volkswagen says its “driver-centric design focus” begins with the center stack being angled towards the driver. Up until recently this has been a design feature only appearing on premium, luxury or performance vehicles but is now making its way to many lower-level interiors. The white backlighting for the dash gauges also added a premium element.
The cloth front seats have better-than-average bolstering and include a manual height-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment. There was a good choice of seat settings that, when combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, made finding a comfortable position for long drives a breeze. The front seats, separated by a center console, has a height-adjustable armrest and storage area. Head, leg, elbow and shoulder room was accommodating, even for 6’+ drivers and passengers. The trunk space is more than can be found on the largest midsize sedan. If it is only the driver and front seat passenger on a long weekender, the rear seat, with a ski pass-through opening, has a very handy system for lowering the 60/40 split seatback to an almost-flat position, providing 52.7 cu ft of cargo capacity—large enough for a full-size bicycle. Rear seat access in the two-door model is tight, making the four-door Golf an option for those that will be using the rear seats on a regular basis. When visiting your VW dealer take the time to configure the seats to see the options and spaciousness of the interior for sitting or storage.
Taking center stage on the dash of our S trim level Golf is the capacitive and proximity sensor 6.5-inch color touchscreen that handles the rear view camera. Capacitive technology is similar to what
is found on smartphones and tablets and allows for functions such as swiping and pinch-zooming. While all this modern touchscreen technology is nice, Clean Fleet Report are big fans of knobs and switches for the radio and climate controls. VW does a nice job of making it easy to operate the radio and single zone HVAC system with the turn of a few knobs. The black dash has accents of chrome, aluminum and piano-black finishes, and a leather-wrapped gearshift knob and hand brake handle.
The centerpiece of the infotainment system is the eight-speaker sound system. This well-balanced system delivers deep, full crisp tones for the AM/FM radio and CD player, with MP3 playback. Also part of the infotainment system is SiriusXM (a must for those long, fuel-efficient road trips), Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music, and VW’s Media Device Interface, or MDI, which includes a SD card and USB slots.
Other conveniences are power windows with one touch operation and pinch protection, keyless access, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, power adjustable and manual folding heated exterior mirrors, multi-function car analytics and trip computer display, multiple power ports, front and rear reading lights and front and rear carpeted floor mats. Standard on all Golf trim levels is VW CarNet, a connected car technology that provides a seamless link between the car and an iPhone, Android smartphone or computer. As Volkswagen says, it “keeps you connected with your car even when you’re apart.” It comes with a full-feature introductory trial; of course, a subscription is available.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The Golf TSI exterior was refreshed for 2015 and continued over to 2016, beginning with the recognizable steeply sloped hood. The front end leads off with a narrow grill and sleek, Halogen headlights on the outer edges that begin the character line leading to the horizontal tail lamps. The roof has a shark fin antenna and an integrated spoiler. This design is based on the MQB (Modular Transverse Matrix) architecture and has a “cab backward” look that gives it a lower visual center of gravity. All this creates a drag coefficient of .029, the same as the 2015 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta. The rear window is large, providing excellent sightlines and has a wiper. Personally I found the Golf to be clean and simple, but a bit plain.
Safety and Convenience
All 2016 Volkswagen Golfs come with six airbags, a tire pressure monitoring system, the Intelligent Crash Response System and the Automatic Post Collision Braking System. The SE and SEL models have automatic headlights and daytime running lights, front fog lights, and rear parking distance control sensors. Additional safety features include driver assistance systems and a Lighting Package.
Pricing and Warranties
2016 Volkswagen Golf TSI prices range from $18,495 to $25,225. Clean Fleet Report’s test car had a MSRP of $19,575. All prices do not include the $820 destination charge.
All 2016 Volkswagen Golf models come with these warranties:
- Basic – Three years/36,000 miles
- Powertrain – Five years/60,000 miles
- Scheduled Maintenance – One year/12,000 miles
- Roadside Assistance – Three years/36,000 miles
- Corrosion Perforation – 12 years/Unlimited miles
Observations: 2016 Volkswagen Golf TSI S, 2-Door with Five-speed Manual
The seventh-generation VW Golf continues the long heritage of fun, nimble compact hatchbacks, a favorite of drivers Worldwide. When considering the standard equipment, large interior and trunk space and excellent fuel economy, the 2016 Volkswagen Golf TSI should be on your shopping list. Go to your local Volkswagen dealer and take the Golf TSI on the open highway and experience it for yourself.
Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
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