If you remember when Volkswagen introduced its Golf hatchback to the American automotive marketplace, you might not want to admit it. That’s because it was 45 years ago, when the hatchback was badged for U.S. distribution as the Rabbit.
Fast forward to 2020 and the Golf is well into its seventh-generation platform update and available in six different versions — Golf, Golf GLI, Golf R, e-Golf, SportWagon and Alltrack.
Actually, for 2020 that just-plain Golf actually is the Golf TSI and is priced at $23,195 with a 6-speed manual transmission and at $23,995 with an 8-speed automatic.
But as always has been the case with the Rabbit/Golf, the basic version is a spunky little blast to drive. While the 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine is small, it also is turbocharged so it provides 147 horsepower and, at just 1,400 rpm, 184 pound-feet of torque.
About the only choices you have as the buyer involve transmission and color —blue, white, black or gray.
There are no other options, but there are accessories, such as various roof racks or a tablet holder that fits on the back of the front seat.
But who needs options when the TSI is a lot of fun and affordable as well just the way it is?
Seats are comfortable and heated up front. There’s a standard power tilt-and-slide sunroof. A push-button starter. Power windows. Forward collision warning. Blind-spot mirrors. Rear traffic alert. Touchscreen controls for audio, with Bluetooth and VW’s Car-Net and wi-fi, with a Car-Net app for your Apple Watch or Android Wear should you be into such devices. There’s even a way to have the car tell you where off-street parking is available.
While small in footprint, VW says the 2020 Golf is solid of body, thanks not only to a higher percentage than usual of high-strength, hot-formed steel, but to laser clamp welding that uses a “wobble seam” pattern to maximize weld strength.
Golf has always had sure-footed and responsive suspension and steering, and the 2020 Golf gets VW’s XDS Cross Differential System, an electronic substitute for a mechanical limited-split setup. Wheels are 16 inches in diameter with 11.3-inch vented discs up front and 10.7-inchers at the rear.
The turbo responds quickly and the steering response may be even quicker. The result is a relatively inexpensive car that is still fun to drive.
Pity, however, that we couldn’t do more driving. As we were heading out for a long drive that day before the car went back, a start/stop error and engine computer warning lights illuminated on the dashboard. Rather than risk serious damage, our long drive was shorted to less than 10 miles as we returned home. Last we saw, the Golf was being driven to a local VW dealership for service.
The report from the dealer was that there was nothing wrong, but that sometimes under heavy loads the “electric panel control” warning light illuminates. The day it happened was our first triple-digit temperature day of the year (it hit 104) and I had switched to max a/c as I headed down my street.
2020 Volkswagen Golf TSI
Vehicle type: 5-passenger hatchback, front-wheel drive
Base price: $23,995 Price as tested: $24,915
Engine: Turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-4, 147 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm, 184 pound-feet of torque @ 1,400 rpm Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 103.8 inches Overall length/width: 167.6 inches / 70.8 inches
Curb weight: 3,012 pounds
EPA mileage estimates: 29 city / 35 highway / 32 combined
Assembled in: Mexico
For more information, visit the Volkswagen website.