Auto123 reviews the 2019 Volkswagen Golf, a model at the intersection of mature and aging as it does one last lap before the eighth-generation Golf arrives
The seventh-generation 2019 Volkswagen Golf is with us one last time before it heads to the retirement home, as it makes way next year for the new and improved Golf, generation 8. Feeling mushy and soft-hearted, we’re ready to forgive this mature model all sorts of little faults and foibles due to its advanced age – but we discover there’s not really all that much to forgive.
The very definition of a sure bet
With its replacement already in the pipeline, the 2019 Golf gets few changes of any substance (as with last year’s model, in fact). But design-wise, there was precious little need for much tweaking, really. If ain’t broke, they say… and this, the top-selling model in Volkswagen history, most definitely wasn’t broken. So the look stays the same (spoiler: it’s not changing all that much for the mk8 either). This version especially is a security blanket of sorts for those who like timeless design and aren’t drawn to the flame that is contemporaneity.
VW is offering its last current Golf in several exterior colours ranging from a sober metallic grey to a bold(ish) metallic green. The standard wheels are 15-inch aluminum alloys, with higher trims getting 16-inch and 17-inch wheels.
Inside, the 2019 Golf keeps the same general design as previous, which we’ll call Classic VW. The design is, if not sparse, relatively sober and simple, which I continue to find refreshing at a time when many interiors suffer from an overdose of stuff, angles, compartments and whatnot. Leather-wrapped steering wheel in hand, I was happy to have most of the commands I needed for the infotainment system available to allow me to keep my hands where they were.
In terms of technology, again, this last go-round for the mk7 doesn’t get any big updates, but the 8-inch infotainment touchscreen is as straightforward of use as the interior writ large, wonderfully designed to allow you to keep your focus on the road.
Everything – the physical as well as the digital stuff - is organized so that it’s within easy reach. And that’s precisely what’s so nice about “mature” models: all the little design weaknesses have been ironed out over the years, the conception getting a little more perfect every year, and through every generation.
Also worthy of mention is the excellent Fender audio system. To these ears it’s one of, if not THE best systems on the market, outside of the luxury brands of course.
You can also enhance your experience with the Golf by checking the option for the power sunroof for those warm sunny days or to enjoy some fresh autumn air.
In terms of space, the 2019 Golf is as versatile as ever, it being to accommodate five passengers comfortably while leaving 493 litres of space for cargo in back. The back row is 60/40 split fold-down and when all of it is folded down you get a healthy 1,521 litres of space – healthy indeed, for a zippy small city car.
Safety-wise, we’re fortunately not dealing with an end-of-cycle paucity of technologies. You get a post-collision automatic braking system (that tightens the seatbelts and activates the emergency brake avoid further damage), plus there’s blind spot monitor, rear traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, forward pedestrian detection or a parking assistant as an option.
Yes, there’s actually something new for 2019. The 1.8L 4-cylinder turbo engine has made way for a 1,4L turbo unit. This leads to a reduction in power from 170 hp and 147 hp, along with 184 lb-ft of torque.
On paper it seems illogical to introduce this kind of power drop, but in reality the difference is not noticeable behind the wheel of the 2019 Golf. The powertrain’s improved efficiency does a good job of compensating.
Special mention goes to Volkswagen continuing to offer a 6-speed manual gearbox as an alternative to the 8-speed automatic transmission. Even if virtually no one is choosing that option anymore, it’s nice at least some continue to put it on the menu.
In terms of the consumption, Volkswagen’s official numbers are 8.2L/100 km (city) and 6.3L/100 km (highway). For my part I ended my week at 8.8L/100 km combined, which is farther than I’d like from the official figures. Still it’s more than acceptable, especially since most of my time was spent driving city streets. This new 1.4L, along with the automatic stop/start function, helps improve economy.
On the road
If you’ve driven a Golf in the last decade, you won’t find many surprises in the 2019 edition. The 2019 VW Gold will not provide you with a transcendent driving experience, but it’s a very able, trustworthy and even dynamic on-road companion. As mentioned, you don’t really feel the smaller output of the engine, perhaps because the torque available is up slightly – just what you want when scooting around the city.
Even better, that Tiptronic transmission of the Golf is more solid, precise and responsive than all those CVTs that you find in most of today’s similar models, which right there makes of the Golf a much sportier creature than most of its direct rivals. You might have expected the aging chassis of the Golf to make for slightly limp handling when cornering, but that’s absolutely not the case. The nose of the car reacts very well to your commands relayed to the steering wheel, and when heading on to winding country roads you’re unlikely to suffer any loss of confidence. A mature product, remember…
The steering itself is crisp and the Golf is, true to its reputation, a great handler. Stepping on the brakes, for example, inspires total confidence; I did find the braking distance a tad long, but you know you can reliably count on the system to work as advertised.
We’re not dealing here with a pocket rocket, to be sure – for that you’ll have to cross the showroom floor to the much sportier – and much more expensive - Golf GTI and Golf R. But the regular Golf’s relative paucity of raw power does nothing to take away from its impressive charms, one that drives wonderfully in urban settings and very reliably on the highway.
The 2019 Golf starts at $22,500 for the Comfortline; the price climbs to $25,600 for the Highline and to $30,020 for the Execline trim.
In comparison, excitement seekers will need to fork over at least $30,845 for the Golf GTI and its 2.0L turbo engine; the Golf R starts at around 10 grand more than that, which really takes you out of the Golf’s price category.