Up front, we should probably admit that we have a soft spot in our hearts after owning a 1999 VW Golf TDI. Even with all the issues that Volkswagen has had with the TDI version, we were in love with the economy of our Golf. How could you complain after making more than one trip to the California coast from Springville, Utah, on only one tank of fuel?
Having the Golf over the Memorial Day weekend was an even greater bonus, as we were planning a three-day getaway to Brian Head resort in the mountains above Cedar City, and having a great ride to get there and explore in made it an even better weekend!
We started our adventure just after 6 p.m. on Friday as we headed south on the open road known here in Utah as I-15 — not! Just after starting out, we hit congestion coming into Payson as the freeway narrowed to two lanes, which lasted through the climb out of Santaquin. Luckily, we had chosen to leave later in the day and that congestion did not continue.
It really would have been a shame to drive the GTI and not be able to take advantage of the 80 mph speed limit from the Utah County line on. So with the cruise control set at 83, the trip went off without a hitch; the Golf didn’t even break a sweat climbing any of the mountains on the way. The speed was of no consequence to the original “Hot Hatch.”
Out on the open freeway, or better yet the autobahn of Utah, even though the speed is limited to just 80 mph the Golf seemed right at home. The ride was smooth and enjoyable for both of us. About the only option we could have asked for would have been the addition of adaptive cruise control so we didn’t have to keep making adjustments when we had to slow down for other traffic.
Even making the 16-mile climb up Parowan Canyon, where our elevation went from 6,000 feet to just over 9,600 feet, was just a walk in the park. The Golf took it all in stride. It seemed as if we were in the Swiss Alps without a care in the world. We would do the same climb five more times over the three-day period. Even going higher to 10,695 feet at Cedar Breaks National Monument, the altitude had no effect on the GTI.
After putting just over 800 miles on the Golf, we were completely taken with the way the GTI handled itself. This year, VW has upped the horsepower number by 10 to 220, making the “Hot Hatch” even hotter and, more importantly, more engaging to drive.
The best part of the entire journey was that we averaged 33 mpg — not bad for all the running around and up-and-down driving we engaged in. When we added that to the higher freeway speeds, we felt this was a great number. Not quite what we had back in the day with our diesel Golf, but still more than we expected from the original “Hot Hatch”!
This newly redesigned Golf has red exterior accent lines that are carried throughout the design, even landing in the interior in some very nice long and skinny red LED accent lighting. Up front, the red horizontal strip literally connected the LED headlights with a new grill and bumper. The new fascias carry a very strong character line that leads the eyes from front to back into the rear taillights.
They are subtle new differences that we thought added to the unique look that the Golf has taken on. This year, the GTI has been lowered by 0.6 inches and is equipped with 18-inch “Austin” wheels, with our test ride coming with summer performance tires, all as standard equipment. Of course, the brake calipers are also painted red to continue with the theme on the Golf.
Other standard features on the SE trim level were a panoramic sunroof, automatic headlights and automatic rain-sensing windshield wipers. It might seem strange that automatic headlights are a new item, but they are new for VW.
As far as the automatic wipers, they worked perfectly, as most of the weekend included less than stellar weather. In fact, we woke up to a snow storm on Sunday high in the mountains. Again, the Golf took the extreme temperature variations in stride — unlike us, who were shivering again with the snow around.
Something we have always loved about the Golf is the ample interior space. We were able to include two carry-on bags, a backpack, coats and two grocery sacks all under the parcel shelf. Add to that a couple of extra pillows and who knows how many shoes for Deanne, and we were completely equipped for the weekend.
With our old Golf, Craig once took a trip to Las Vegas with three teenagers and all their bags with no problem at all and still got over 50 mpg on the drive. Back when diesel was cheaper than petrol, the whole trip was less than $20.
Technology now included in the Volkswagen is outstanding, with the new glass-covered 8-inch touchscreen radiating a very classy, luxurious look. Of course, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were both included, and using a USB cable allowed us to have navigation along to help us find our way to various destinations throughout the weekend.
We could have used one more USB port, even if just for charging one of our phones that wasn’t being used as the CarPlay device. The seats were leather-clad and fit us very well, snugging us in like we had gotten into a high-end track car! Of course, they were also heated.
Our test ride also came with VW’s new Car-Net Security and Service. This is a fancy name for keeping the vehicle connected all the time, basically the same idea as the OnStar system from GM. It did all kinds of things, like vehicle diagnostics and crash detection, which would contact first responders.
Remote door unlock and vehicle location are included, along with a Family Guardian or teenage nanny that will notify the owner if the cars goes over a certain speed or even outside of certain boundaries. We know this would have been a highly used system in our own Golf, as who knows where our teenage boys took that car, and better yet at what speed?
The new Golf if worth a look as it is now way more than just a “Hot Hatch.” It makes for a very engaging everyday driver and a great family vehicle. See the new VW today at Cutrubus Volkswagen, 1230 Main St., in Layton. You can also call (801) 544-5878 or visit www.cutrubusvw.com.
Base price: $31,165
Price as driven: $31,165
Craig and Deanne Conover have been test-driving vehicles for over seven years and have had the opportunity to drive many makes and models. They receive a new car each week for a weeklong test drive. Craig has worked in the newspaper industry for over 23 years and has been with The Daily Herald in Provo for 13 years — and Deanne has been a veterinarian’s assistant at Mountain West Animal Hospital for 11 years. They both love having the unique opportunity of trying out new cars. They reside in Springville, Utah. Check out other reviews at heraldextra.com/sundaydrive.