CRITICS' CORNER

U.S. buyers paying attention to 'impressive' Golf

Volkswagen's redesigned 2015 Golf and all its variants -- hatchback and SportWagen, diesel and GTI -- has won kudos all around, including North American Car of the Year honors. And it is skyrocketing up the U.S. sales chart, giving VW some much-needed momentum. Here's a look at what critics and others have had to say about the Golf.

"It's hard not to be a believer in Volkswagen's aluminum intensive MQB platform at least when it comes to sportier applications. It underpins the Audi S3, which is a rockin' compact sports sedan, the upcoming third-generation Audi TT is definitely more fun to wheel around, and now I've had a sampling of it on this 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI 4-Door, which is also very impressive.

"The GTI has always been ahead of the other usual suspects in the sport compact world like the Ford Focus ST, Mazda Mazdaspeed 3 and Honda Civic Si in the ride refinement department. The Mazda has a very firm ride bordering on an almost jarring ride, while the Honda is alright but doesn't possess the solidity that VW does. The Ford is probably the closest in ride comfort.

"A younger me didn't care very much about ride quality and equated a rough and tumble ride to a high performance machine. However, as I've gotten a little older I've come to appreciate a car that's good for daily running. What do I appreciate more? A car that's good for regular drive and for the times when I want to light things up a little be it on my favorite stretches of road or on road course during an open track day." -- Autoweek

"The chassis, interior and powertrains are decisively upgraded. The Golf rides on VW's new weapon of mass consumption: The MQB architecture will be the flexible building block for dozens of VW Group models, including Audis.

"This is sophisticated stuff. Between its well-tuned suspension and a chassis heavy on high-strength steel, the Golf feels as smooth, solid and poised as its small Audi cousins. It shushes noise like a no-nonsense librarian.

"An airy, smartly crafted interior makes its own deluxe statement, with no trace of the cost-cutting that once marred the Jetta. A 5.8-inch touch screen is standard." -- The New York Times

"The first thing you'll notice about the 2015 Golf is that it looks more mature than the car it replaces. It's longer, lower, and wider, which is always a winning combination. It's got shorter overhangs and a longer hood, giving the hatchback a more purposeful stance. By comparison, it makes the old car look tall and a little awkward.

"The 2015 Golf's interior is nicer, too. We praised the last car's interior for not bearing the scars of Volkswagen's relentless cost-cutting the way its Jetta sibling has, but the old car had far more in common with the Jetta than the new one does. The materials look and feel richer and of better quality. The design is a little more inspired. There's slightly more interior space, though you'll simply experience it as a more open and roomy cabin. The seats are comfortable and well-bolstered, holding you in place without digging into your thighs and sides." -- MotorTrend

"We paid $25,315 for a well-equipped, midtrim SE version. That's a lot of money for a compact-class hatchback, but this is no ordinary econobox: It's a well-thought-out premium car that happens to come in a small package. …

"If we had one major beef about the last-generation Golf, it was the coarse and gruff-sounding 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine. But now all Golfs come with the new 170-hp, 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder, same as the base engine in the midsized Passat, and it's punchier and more refined than the old powerplant." -- Consumer Reports

"The SportWagen is quiet on the highway. The steering is quick, with good on-center feel. The suspension absorbed the bumps from broken pavement well, and kept the wagon securely planted on twisty roads.

"It's an enjoyable little car that also happens to be practical. The price and features could be more competitive, but what else are you going to buy if you want a compact station wagon? The Golf SportWagen is the only game in town." -- Detroit Free Press

You can reach at autonews@crain.com. -- Follow on Twitter
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