Structurally related to the four-door Jetta, Volkswagens front-wheel-drive Golf hatchback comes with two or four doors. Its performance-oriented companion, the GTI coupe, will be covered later in the cars.com Sports Car Buying Guide. Both were last redesigned for the 1999 model year.
Power windows and mirrors, cruise control and a premium CD stereo are now standard on the GL model. The Golfs 2.0-liter engine, which formerly earned a Low Emissions Vehicle (LEV) rating, is now classified as an Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle (ULEV). An Electronic Stability Program is now optional for the GL and GLS.
New 15-inch steel wheel covers go on the GL, and the GLS gains a power sunroof. Later in the model year, backlit buttons will be equipped on the premium CD stereo, windshield-wiper performance is supposed to be enhanced, and a new Cold Weather Package, which is optional for all models, will include heatable front seats and heated windshield washer nozzles. An optional Monsoon sound system entertains GL occupants.
Volkswagens warranty offers bumper-to-bumper coverage for four years or 50,000 miles. Wear-and-tear items and adjustments are covered for one year or 12,000 miles. Fully transferable powertrain coverage is for five years or 60,000 miles, and roadside assistance is for four years or 50,000 miles. Volkswagen sells far more Jetta sedans than Golf hatchbacks.
The Golf stands just below 57 inches tall, and it measures 164.9 inches long overall, which is more than 7 inches shorter than the Jetta sedan. At 98.9 inches, the Golfs wheelbase is identical to the Jettas. The Golfs styling features are essentially the same as the Jettas, but the Jetta has a longer rear end and a regular trunk.
Upright hatchback styling allows the driver and passengers to sit more vertically than in most small cars. The Golfs space is adequate for four adults even though the interior is intended for five. The area behind the split rear seats holds 18 cubic feet of cargo. Split rear seatbacks fold for additional storage space, which creates a total of 41.8 cubic feet of cargo area. Standard equipment includes air conditioning, power door locks, a cassette player and a manual tilt/telescoping steering column.
Under the Hood
A 115-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine is standard in the GL and GLS. Diesel-engine fans have the option of a turbocharged, 90-hp, 1.9-liter direct-injection diesel. Each engine teams with either a four-speed-automatic or five-speed-manual transmission.
Curtain-type airbags, side-impact airbags and antilock brakes are standard.
The Golf hatchback is fun to drive in any form. It is versatile enough to be the only automobile for a couple or small family. Its functional design mixes with the cars European heritage to create a vehicle that has been luring young buyers into VW showrooms, even though the Jetta sedans vastly outsell Golf hatchbacks. The available diesel engine delivers impressive fuel economy, and its also surprisingly quiet and brisk.