Urban dwellers looking for a sporty compact hatch have a number of options, but none are more agile than the Volkswagen Golf. For under $25,000 the Golf TSI SE comes with added standard features, a new infotainment system, and extra safety technology.
Over the weekend, we drove the 2018 Volkswagen Golf TSI SE to see if it’s a good fit for your driving needs.
The Golf Wolfsburg Edition and SEL trim have been discontinued, but the SE trim we drove this weekend is new. The base S and SE get mildly revised styling, a few more standard features, and new infotainment systems.
For the 2018 model year, you get more standard features, including smartphone integration, LED running lights and taillights, automatic headlights and wipers, and a new eight-inch infotainment touchscreen.
Features & Options
The 2018 Volkswagen Golf TSI SE ($23,655) comes standard with halogen headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, automatic rain-sensing wipers, heated side mirrors, and 15-inch alloy wheels. Inside, you get a leather-wrapped steering wheel, manually adjustable seats with lumbar support and power recline, and a rearview camera.
The infotainment system is upgraded with the eight-inch touchscreen that adds a CD player and satellite radio, along with VW’s Security & Service app. It also comes with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and an eight-speaker sound system.
The top-trim SE upgrades to simulated leather upholstery, heated front seats, and keyless entry with push-button start. You also get blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking.
Total MSRP including destination: $24,970. By comparison, the 2018 VW Golf S with a five-speed manual starts at $20,910.
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There’s plenty of soft-touch materials throughout to make it comfortable, and we would describe it as distinctly European. The SE trim adds a bit more comfort with simulated leather upholstery and heated front seats. The seats provide ample support and comfort for longer trips in the compact hatchback. There’s a handy bin ahead of the shifter, perfect for a smartphone.
The power-reclining front seats offer up the perfect driving position for a compact hatch. The rear seats offer plenty of room for average-sized adults and are comfy for longer trips. There’s ample head and shoulder room too, thanks to the higher hatch roof. There’s also a convenient folding rear armrest/cupholder with a pass-through to the back.
Behind the rear seats, this compact hatch comes with 22.8 cubic feet of cargo space, easily accessible through the rear liftgate. With the seats folded flat, it offers up to 52.7 cubic feet of space.
Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs
The 2018 VW Golf TSI SE comes with a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder, producing an ample 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft. of torque. It comes mated with a five-speed manual sending power to the front wheels.
EPA fuel economy estimates are 25/34 city/highway and 29 combined with the manual gearbox. Fuel economy is a strong point of the Golf, although there are others in the segment that rank higher.
The 2018 VW Golf is fun to drive in the city. We easily moved around slower traffic and visibility is excellent for a small hatch. We then chucked it around the tight corners on our commute from the mountains west of Denver where the TSI feels right at home. The hatch’s steering and braking are responsive enough in the curves.
The standard five-speed manual has short shifts and works well with the turbo engine. It has plenty of power for all driving situations and is sportier than most other small hatchbacks. There was enough power to spin the front wheels when we hit the gas hard coming out of a corner.
When pushed, the TSI accelerates quickly as the turbo spools up to utilize every bit of the available 170 horsepower.
The 2018 VW Golf TSI SE is a fun hatch that’s also practical. There’s a lot to like and we would recommend it for those wanting a fuel-efficient and fun commuter.
Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy