May 21, 2014 2:30 PM | By Jeremy Sinek for MSN Autos

2015 Volkswagen Golf first drive



2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)
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  • 2015 Volkswagen Golf (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)
  • 2015 Volkswagen Golf (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)
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2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI

Was the all-new seventh-generation Golf worth the wait?
(or: If you gave up waiting for the new Golf and bought something else, don’t read this)

2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)

San Francisco, Calif. -- If patience is a virtue, then Canadian Volkswagen loyalists must be saints. New and redesigned Volkswagens typically take so long to cross the Atlantic that you’d think they were shipped by row-boat.

In the case of the all-new seventh-generation model, Golf production for our market has shifted to VW’s Puebla complex in Mexico. Yet even though the Mark VII Golf went on sale in Europe in late 2012, only now is it trickling into Canadian showrooms. So I guess now they’re being shipped by burro.

MSN Autos sampled some versions of Golf VII in Europe last November. Now we’re here in San Francisco to discover whether the NAFTA versions perform as well on pavement as they promise on paper.

Built on VW’s new ultra-versatile MQB architecture, this is arguably the newest new Golf since the first-gen Golf (aka Rabbit) 40 years ago. The new body is larger as well as stronger, lighter and more aerodynamic than its predecessor. The interior is usefully wider, though some headroom has gone missing.

More thrust, less thirst

2015 Volkswagen Golf TSI engine (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)

A 1.8-litre turbocharged version of VW’s E888 four-cylinder TSI engine family replaces the previous 2.5-litre five-pot; the GTI gets a revision of its 2.0-litre E888; and, while the available TDI diesel is still a 2.0-litre “four,” it’s an all-new design dubbed E288.

Compared with its predecessor the 1.8 produces the same 170 horsepower but maintains it all the way from 4,800 to 6,200 rpm; torque officially grows from 177 to 185 lb.-ft., though a VW insider hinted it might be more. Either way, it’s more than before and it’s available from 1,600 to 4,200 rpm.

The TDI gains 10 hp to 150 while top torque remains at 236 lb.-ft. between 1,750 and 3,500 rpm; and the GTI grows 10 hp to 210 (from 4.500 to 6,200 rpm!) while dramatically boosting torque from 207 lb.-ft. to 258 lb.-ft.

Available transmission choices are five-speed manual or six-speed automatic on the 1.8, and six-speed manual or six-speed DSG automated manual on the GTI and TDI.

Canadian fuel-consumption has not yet been finalised, and comparisons are muddied by our switch for 2015 to the new tougher five-mode test. Based on U.S. data, fuel-economy gains range from three per cent (TDI manual in the city) to 19 per cent (TSI highway and GTI city).

TDI has space-saver rear suspension

2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI (© Photo: Jeremy Sinek)

Gasoline-engined Golfs ride on independent strut front and multi-link rear suspensions, but the TDIs revert to the simpler torsion-beam rear, similar to that employed on Golfs I through IV. VW calls it a ‘lightweight’ rear axle but the reason it’s there is to make space under the car for the urea tank now needed; VW’s small TDIs are no longer the only diesels that meet emissions standards without needing urea injection into the exhaust stream. VW says a 15.4-L tankful of urea should last 20,000 km and refilling it is an easy D-I-Y proposition. Canadian Tire sells the stuff for about $9 for 9.46 L.

Of course the new Golf family also gets in synch with today’s infocommunitainment expectations. A new swipe-and-pinch enabled 5.8-inch touch-screen is standard, as is Bluetooth. But VW holds back on electronic co-drivers: you can get forward collision warning and park distance control, but that’s a short list compared with some of the aids increasingly available even in small cars. Other such aids are on the way for Golf, we’re told.

All 2015 Golfs do, however, get the previously GTI-exclusive XDS Cross Differential; similar to other automakers’ torque vectoring systems, it sharpens handling by selectively braking the inside front wheel. And a VW exclusive is post-collision braking, which automatically “hits the brakes” to avoid secondary impacts after an initial crash.

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