Right from the first door thunk, the Volkswagen Golf exudes a quality feel not found in your average econobox. The Golf has long been a cut above other small cars, being more fun to drive and finished like a more expensive German sedan.
Redesigned for 2015, the latest example continues those virtues and then some, making it the best Golf yet.
Gone is the coarse and antiquated five-cylinder engine that powered the last Golf, replaced by a smoother, more refined 170-hp, 1.8-liter four-cylinder turbo. The punchy new engine delivers 28 mpg overall in our tests.
Inside, you'll find soft-touch materials, quality components, and comfortable, supportive seats. The infotainment system uses simple graphics and menus that make it easy to learn. Other controls are also simple to use.
The accommodating rear seat has room for two adults to fit without complaint. And when nobody is sitting back there, the folding rear seats and hatchback design add cargo-toting versatility.
The sportier GTI version gets much attention for its handling, but the regular Golf is no slouch. It tackles corners with gusto, proving both capable and composed on the track. And just as important, the suspension delivers a more supple ride than most small cars and even some midsized sedans. Meanwhile, the cabin stays commendably quiet.
While all these virtues help set the Golf apart from the crowd, so does its price. Our well-equipped SE version stickered for about $25,000, notably more than most alternatives. But that price included a sunroof, rear camera, heated seats, and other nice tidbits.
If car buying were purely a rational process, a car like the Golf would be the only one most people would need. If you're already considering something in the category, it's worth a hard look. Especially if you think of it not so much as an economy model, but a premium car in a small package.