2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI S Review

Every $20,000 car should be this good.

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May 6, 2015

2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI S Review

This is the top-trim coupe, and even though it lacks navigation, it's packed with more than enough to make its $20,000 price tag seem like the bargain of the century. Plus, it's an absolute blast to drive.

Introduction
Sales numbers be damned: This is the year of Volkswagen. The brand has finally brought its much-lauded MQB platform over to America by way of the seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf, a car that had been out in Europe for some two years prior to its North American introduction. However, right after it landed on our shores, the awards started pouring out, and the car eventually went on to claim the North American Car of the Year award. So it's been a good year for the Volkswagen brand, and once more MQB-platform cars make their way here, we think it's going to get even better.

But this isn't a review of VW's modular architecture. No, this is a review of one specific iteration thereof - the 2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI S two-door. Whereas the four-door Golf has many trim levels above the S, this is where the fun stops for the two-door variant. This is the top-trim coupe, and even though it lacks navigation, it's packed with more than enough to make its $20,000 price tag seem like the bargain of the century. Plus, it's an absolute blast to drive.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Interior If there's one complaint you could throw the Golf's way, it's that it's a bit boring. There isn't much variation in interior coloring, leaving it a mostly black-plastic affair. However, the plastic that's there - and there is plenty of it - feels better than the bargain-basement offerings of some of its domestic and Japanese counterparts. The only thing to break up the monotony is some premium-looking aluminum trim, which covers most of the dashboard gauge face and center stack.

Ergonomics-wise, the Golf is about perfect. There's not an overabundance of physical switchgear; instead, there are just enough buttons to help you jump between pages in the standard touchscreen infotainment system (likely preparing for the U.S. backup-camera mandate starting next year, because cameras need screens to, you know, display things). The manual shifter is right where your hand would end up, and the wheel is of the perfect thickness - not too chunky for standard driving or smaller hands, but not so thin you think you're in your grandmother's '92 Buick LeSabre Custom.
2015 Volkswagen Golf Exterior Unless you really love your Volkswagens, you're going to have a hard time noticing all the changes between the sixth and seventh generation cars. The taillamps are thinner, the front fascia has been updated to better emphasize width, but on the whole, the Golf DNA remains the same. It's the same shape you've come to expect from this car. It's a little disappointing that the excellent chassis is hidden under a car that looks more or less the same as the one that came before it, but in that sense, the MQB acts like a well-hidden secret, only available to those that dare give it a go.
2015 Volkswagen Golf On the Road If you're not sold on the car this far into the review, all we can suggest is that you get to a dealership and actually drive the damn thing. Driving this car made the day of every single writer that hopped into it, and considering our week was also occupied by a 2015 Range Rover, that's really saying something about the power this Golf has.

Simply put, the driving experience is straightforward, lively, and engaging. The manual transmission has a bit of the traditional German rubbery feel to it, but gate engagement happens with a flick of the wrist and a snick of the shifter. The clutch grabs somewhere just past the end of the pedal throw, making it easy to modulate in stop-and-go city traffic. The brakes, while seeming small behind 15-inch wheels, are more than capable of stopping the car in short order. All three pedals had great feel and were plenty easy to modulate without a whole lot of trial and error. The same goes for the steering; it's not the rack of a 1994 Civic, but it's direct, if just ever so slightly number than we'd prefer.

Whether you're beating the tar out of it, or just cruising along at low speeds, the Golf's suspension never made the ride uncomfortable. The thick tire sidewall does a good job absorbing some of the road's nastier bumps, and despite the car's lack of weight, it never felt pushed around by inconsistencies in the pavement.

As for the infotainment system, it's straightforward and easy on the eyes. With a few physical buttons on either side of the screen, it's easy to jump from page to page without being distracted. We also found that the black-and-white instrument display between the gauges was one of the best ways to display information without being overbearing. Check out the story behind this link to get our full opinion on the matter.
2015 Volkswagen Golf Final Thoughts There's a lot to like about the 2015 Golf TSI S. It's torquey enough for backroad fun, but still so insanely thrifty on fuel that you can nail 40 mpg on the highway with very little effort. The manual transmission is one of the better ones on the market. Despite being a coupe, the rear seats are spacious enough for adults to spend time in. It's got storage space out the wazoo, as well. If you need a good car for $20,000 out the door, it's hard to recommend anything that isn't this car. We hesitate to call a car 'perfect,' but for what most people need out of an everyday vehicle, this is about as perfect as it gets in this segment.
2015 Volkswagen Golf Specs & Price Engine: 1.8-liter direct-injected turbocharged inline-4

Transmission: Five-speed manual

Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel drive

Power Output: 170 horsepower / 200 lb-ft

Fuel Economy (mpg): 25 city / 37 highway

Base Price: $19,295

As Tested: $20,115 (incl. $820 destination)

Available Features: Six-speed automatic transmission

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