2020 Volkswagen Golf TSI Review By Larry Nutson
VW Golf TSI - 45 Years On
By Larry Nutson
Executive Editor and Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
I recently had a “déjà vu” experience. I spent a week driving around in a VW with a small displacement engine and a manual transmission. It was 1975 all over again.
Well, not exactly. It’s 2020 and I was driving a new Golf TSI with a 1.4-L engine and a six-speed manual transmission. Okay, the engine is turbocharged and puts out 147-horsepower. That’s more than double the 70-horspeower of the original first-gen, Mark I, Golf that was badged as the Rabbit in the U.S.
Interestingly, Hannah Elliot writing for Bloomberg says, “Today, 45 years after their debut, the indelible VW Rabbits (or Golfs, as they were known in the rest of the world) have increased in value rather significantly.” “Over the past five years, values of the adorable, affordable Rabbits have risen considerably, according to Hagerty.”
The other retro-feature of the Golf I drove is its manual transmission. Now it has six-speeds, having developed over the years from four-speeds and then to five-speeds. Manual transmissions are in low demand and as a result are being dropped by many automakers. About 13% of new vehicles on the market today can be had with a manual and they make up only about 2% of annual sales.
Fewer and fewer drivers know how to drive a stick shift, the usual conversational name for a manual transmission.
Automatics these days both perform better and help a vehicle get better fuel economy. On the performance side of things, dual-clutch (automated manual) transmissions are quicker shifting than a conventional manual.
For 2020, the Golf, now in its seventh-generation, comes only one way as a 4-door Golf TSI. Pricing with the standard six-speed manual transmission starts at $23,195. The eight-speed automatic transmission Golf starts at $23,995. The destination charge is an additional $920.
The 2020 Golf TSI is equipped with upscale features like KESSY keyless access with push-button start, leatherette seating surfaces, heated front seats, a panoramic tilt-and-slide sunroof, and heated washer nozzles. Golf is now fitted with standard 16-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.
Standard advanced driver-assistance safety (ADAS) features include Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Monitoring (Front Assist), Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Also equipped is the next-generation Car-Net telematics system and standard in-car Wi-Fi capability.
The Golf has come a long way over its 45 years. It was and still is nimble and fun to drive. Turbocharging gives the small displacement engine plenty of low-end torque for good acceleration. And yet there’s also good fuel efficiency. EPA test cycle ratings for the 6-speed are 28 city mpg and 36 highway mpg. The automatic is one mpg better in city and one mpg lower in highway ratings.
My wife and I road tripped from our Chicago home easterly across the lower Michigan I-94 interstate to visit family. The very light “covid traffic” made for maintaining a consistent speed. On our eastbound leg I was quite pleased and a bit amazed that the Golf achieved 43 mpg over this 293 mile door-to-door jaunt while I maintained an overall average speed of 69 mph. The return trip back west wasn’t quite so good with my fuel economy just beating the EPA rating at 37 mpg. I was driving a bit faster and the westerly drive is usually into the prevailing wind.
A characteristic of all VWs is their Autobahn and Alpen mountain bred ride and handling. There’s excellent balance and overall control yielding a definitive European feel.
The cabin is fitted in distinctive, premium materials with high-quality fit and finish. The leatherette covered seats offer good support and are well suited for long drives. The front seats have the not-often-found combination of a manual fore and aft with a power recline adjustment.
I like a power recline feature since it basically offers an infinite adjustment which allows for slight tweaks on long trips. Fore and aft seat adjustment in a manual transmission vehicle is dictated by the ability to push down the clutch pedal. With an automatic there’s some leeway as to seat position.
VW's Car-Net connectivity network allows access to a full range of tech features through a smartphone app. Studies say that new vehicle buyers, especially under the age of 40, want remote connectivity in their next vehicle.
Visit www.vw.com for more details. Of note, the VW Warranty includes a Carefree Maintenance Program that provides scheduled maintenance services for 2 years or 20,000 miles (whichever occurs first) at no additional charge.
You can still get a Golf GTI for 2020. However, the Golf R is not in the offerings. VW recently announced details on the eighth-generation Golf GTI. When it arrives in the U.S. the basic Golf will be discontinued for this market. This a result of the popularity of crossover SUVs as the mainstream mode of family transport.
One thing is clear. VW first exposed the masses to the convenience of a hatchback. And that continues today evidenced by the popularity of SUVs with their large opening rear hatch.
© 2020 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy