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Archive for the ‘economy cars’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Renault K-ZE

Renault is previewing its future mini electric crossover with the K-ZE concept revealed at the 2018 Paris Motor Show. Taking a closer look at the K-ZE, it becomes immediately apparent that it is, in fact, just a dressed up Kwid (which Renault already sells in emerging markets) which has had its internal combustion powertrain swapped out for a full-electric one.

The future electric crossover will look much closer to this concept, than it will to the current Kwid, although it will maintain its basic body shape. What will set it apart visually more significantly are the new, redesigned front and rear fascias, as well as various details around the exterior. It also promises to offer “class leading” range for a vehicle in its size-bracket.

PostHeaderIcon 2019 Toyota Camry Hybrid Announces It’s Ready for Europe at 2018 Paris Motor Show

Toyota hasn’t offered the Camry sedan in Europe for well over 10 years, relying on the Avensis as its top three-box car for the Old Continent. However, at this year’s edition of the Paris motor show, Toyota brought the new eighth-generation model, which it intends on selling here again in the near future.

PostHeaderIcon The Citroen DS3 Crossback Shows Up In Paris Looking Like a Proper SUV

DS presented the new DS3 Crossback at the Paris Motor Show. The SUB-compact city SUV is the second SUV debut for the premium brand under the PSA Group and it took the path of competing with other small city crossovers. Without a direct premium competitor in its segment (save for the Audi Q2), the DS3 Crossback represent an interesting attempt by the French to excite buyers into this class. In essence, this car succeeded the DS3 small city car, but brings numerous novelties demonstrating DS ideology of creating exciting, different, and unique cars.

PostHeaderIcon Honda Jazz

Honda is testing an all-new Jazz subcompact hatchback, also known as the Fit in some markets. It’s the fourth generation for the nameplate and it looks like it will retain the wedge-nosed one-box design of its predecessors, albeit with a slightly sportier design twist.

The camouflaged prototype spotted by our spies reveals quite a lot about the car, which is slated for a reveal no earlier than 2020, since the refreshed version of the current model only came out last year. Aside from the completely new and slightly more rakish-looking body, changes will be made to its powerplant lineup and interior. The hybrid version may share its powertrain with the new Insight.

PostHeaderIcon 10 Most Fuel Efficient Cars of All Time

From hatches to muscles, cars of all shapes and sizes are adopting green technology. Whether autonomous cars will become a reality or not is a different question; electric cars are the future. Even though the ‘EV’ cars were introduced barely a decade ago, the kind of transformation and innovations we’ve seen in the last couple of years makes the whole thing look like a yesteryear concept. In this article, we’ve listed out the ten most fuel-efficient vehicles.

But before that, let’s just put the basic questions to rest once-in-for-all: the difference between EV, Hybrid, and Plug-in Hybrid – an electric vehicle is the one that runs solely on electric power. You don’t have a combustion engine here whatsoever. A hybrid engine is the one where the car will charge its own batteries on the run with the gasoline engine. As for the plug-in hybrids, the car can be plugged into electricity points to charge the batteries. Now that we have clarified the obvious and bored you enough, let’s move on to the heart of the article.

PostHeaderIcon Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven

When my friends talk about compact hatchbacks, sometimes the Volkswagen Golf gets left out of the conversation. But it really shouldn’t be that way: The Golf is far and away the best-selling compact in Europe. There are good reasons for that, not least of which is the Golf’s supreme practicality.

Here in America, we don’t get quite as many Golf variants as Europe does. We get the highlights, though: regular Golf, sporty GTI, raucous Golf R, cargo-friendly Golf Sportwagen, and most recently, soft-road-ready Golf Alltrack.

Volkswagen has sent me two Golf Rs in the last year. You might consider those the most evolved version of the car, in terms of overall performance. Fast and fun to toss around the twisties, the R also happens to be the most expensive version of the Golf — expect to pay $40,000 if you want one. But this time, VW sent me a regular Golf TSI SEL, a luxurious hatchback without all the high-performance hype — and it’s 25% cheaper than the Golf R, even though it’s loaded with options. It proved itself to be a great little transportation pod for my family of four.

Design Notes


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 750995
“The Volkswagen Golf has an attractive two-box design that screams “practicality” without also screaming “boring.””

The Volkswagen Golf has an attractive two-box design that screams “practicality” without also screaming “boring.”

The front of the car has a simple, thin grille opening bisected by a prominent VW logo between the Golf’s two hexagonal headlights. A larger opening below the front bumper strike surface handles most of the actual cooling duties for the radiator.

From the side, the VW Golf is handsome, with short overhangs that give it a sporty appearance. The front wheel arch appears to nearly reach all the way to the hood. There’s a motion to the design when viewed from this angle, the car always appearing to be ready to pounce into action.


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 750999
“At the rear, the Golf has a subtle lip spoiler above the rear glass, which shades the center high-mounted stop lamp”

The creases along the side of the car are purposeful — the crease just below the hood shutline traveling on to form the sills under the side windows, the middle crease below the door handles forming the car’s beltline, and the lower crease serving to give the Golf’s profile a solid base.

At the rear, the Golf has a subtle lip spoiler above the rear glass, which shades the center high-mounted stop lamp. The hatch itself is cleanly designed, integrating the inner half of the taillights, which are joined by a sharp crease that serves to continue the beltline seen in profile view.

Inside, the Golf TSI SEL had the same design I saw in the Golf R, minus a couple of things like the embroidered “R” logos on performance-bolstered front bucket seats. The interior is simple — some say boring — but I found it purposeful and non-distracting, as I have found most VW interiors in recent years.


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 750998

Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase (in/mm) 103.8/2,637
Length (in/mm) 167.6/4,258
Width (in/mm) 70.8/1,799
Height (in/mm) 58.2/1,477
Track front/rear (in/mm) 61.0/59.8 (1,549/1,520)
Ground Clearance (in/mm) 5.4/137

Drive Notes


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751011
“All Volkswagen Golf hatchbacks in America are equipped with a 1.8-liter TSI turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine”

All Volkswagen Golf hatchbacks in America (the Golf R excepted) are equipped with a 1.8-liter TSI turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine, and that’s no bad thing — unless you’re looking for the best fuel economy in the segment. If that’s your bag, look elsewhere. I saw 31 MPG over a 350+ mile week. That’s not bad, considering the car’s EPA ratings of 25 MPG city, 35 MPG highway, 29 MPG combined. However, it’s not as frugal as, say, a Nissan Sentra’s EPA scores (29/37/32 when equipped with an automatic transmission).

But the competitors, for the most part, lack the refinement of the 1.8-liter turbo four in the Golf. It has 170 horsepower on tap and a stout 199 lb-ft of torque. In VW’s typical style of recent years, torque comes on early and stays strong through the middle of the rev range, providing plenty of grunt to get up to speed around town or when merging onto the highway. My tester was coupled with an excellent six-speed automatic transmission (at no extra charge) that was admirably quick to shift down when I gave the skinny pedal a little more weight.


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751005
“Despite a relatively short wheelbase of 103.8 inches, it handled itself very well over rough pavement and tracked straight and true on highways”

The suspension of the Golf was well-sorted. The driving experience was purely European. Despite a relatively short wheelbase of 103.8 inches, it handled itself very well over rough pavement and tracked straight and true on highways. Steering feel was better than most in this segment. No compact car I have driven in the last couple of years has steering feel this good. Sport-tinged models like the Nissan Sentra NISMO or Hyundai Elantra Sport might come close, but they are laden with compromises that the Golf SEL doesn’t make.

Drivetrain Specifications

Engine 1.8L, inline four cylinder, 16V, turbocharged and intercooled, DI
Displacement 1798 cc
Compression Ratio 9.6:1
Horsepower 170 HP @ 4,500 RPM
Maximum torque 199 LB-FT @ 1,600 RPM

Technology Notes


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751018
“My Golf SEL was equipped with VW’s Discover Media system, which included a 6.5-inch touchscreen head unit”

Being a top-spec SEL trim, my 2017 Volkswagen Golf was equipped with a raft of technology features.

Among the headline items was VW’s Front Assist, which included autonomous emergency braking in my test car. Also on-tap was adaptive cruise control and keyless access and start, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, rearview camera, and a multifunction digital display in the gauge cluster that handled all trip computer functions and displayed other information like tire pressures and turn-by-turn navigation directions.

My Golf SEL was equipped with VW’s Discover Media system, which included a 6.5-inch touchscreen head unit with AM/FM/HD/XM radio tuners, a CD player, and USB and AUX inputs. The sound system was from Fender — yes, the makers of guitars — and it provided full, rich sound once I figured out how to turn up the subwoofer in the audio settings. We’re not talking window-rattling, disturbing-the-peace stuff from this audio system, just well-done sound.

One quirk carried over from lesser VW sound systems, unfortunately: The volume seems to have an aggressive cam on it. Adjustments in the lowest 25% of the volume range seem to be much larger than they are in the next 25%. From halfway up to full roar, the difference in volume seems minimal. It’s strange. I would like smaller, more evenly spaced volume increments for each click of the volume knob or each touch of the steering wheel-mounted volume controls.

Cabin notes


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751010
“It offers a total of 93.5 cubic feet of passenger room and 22.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats”

The technology is nice, but it’s the practical cabin space that really makes the Volkswagen Golf attractive to family men like myself.

The boxy Golf interior makes the most of the car’s relatively small footprint. It offers a total of 93.5 cubic feet of passenger room and 22.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, which was plenty for grocery-hauling. If you fold down the rear seats, there’s 52.7 cubic feet of hauling space in this box, which would be plenty to haul my drum kit.

Seating surfaces in the Golf are lower to the ground than some compacts (Nissan Sentra) but similar to others (Hyundai Elantra). As a result of that and my 6-foot, 3-inch frame, I felt a little bit cramped in the front seat as I tried to make some room for my six-year-old son behind me. The dash was pretty close to my knees, as was the steering column. The seating position was go kart-like, with my knees a bit higher than my hips. I could raise the seat base, but ended up with my head touching the headliner before my legs were at a more comfortable angle.


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751012
“Front-seat occupants have a VW-reported 41.2 inches of legroom, compared to 35.6 inches in the rear.”

Having said that, Volkswagen measurements show 38.4 inches of headroom up front and 38.1 inches in the rear. Front-seat occupants have a VW-reported 41.2 inches of legroom, compared to 35.6 inches in the rear.

There are smaller cars that offer better legroom. For example, a Nissan Versa Note has 41.3 inches of legroom for front-row occupants and 38.3 inches for rear-seat occupants. Where Golf has the advantage is its width, where it has 55.9 inches of shoulder room up front and 53.9 inches in the back seat. Compare that to the Versa Note’s 51.7 and 51.9 inches, respectively.

But no Versa Note, can touch the interior refinement of the Golf, nor can most subcompact hatchbacks. My tester had heated leatherette seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob, and emergency brake lever. The doors of the Golf shut with a reassuring, Germanic thud instead of the hollow clank of economy-minded subcompact competitors. The Golf seemed quieter than most compacts on the highway, too. Quality, not quantity, is the name of the game for VW here.


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751013

Interior Dimensions

Headroom fron/rear (Inches) 38.4/38.1
Shoulder room fron/rear (Inches) 55.9/53.9
Legroom fron/rear (Inches) 41.2/35.6
Passenger Volume (cu ft) 93.5
Cargo Volume, trunk (cu ft) 17.4
Cargo Volume, seats down (cu ft) 53.7

Competitors

Categorizing the Golf for the purpose of comparing to its competition is tougher than it seems on the surface. Technically a “compact” by EPA size classification standards, it actually hews closer to what many of us consider “subcompact” in all but its width.

Its price, too, defies convention. You could buy a base 2017 Golf as cheap as $19,895, which is on-par with a lot of mass-market compacts like the aforementioned Nissan Sentra and Hyundai Elantra, but load it up with options like my SEL test car, and you’re soon breaking the $30,000 barrier. The tested Golf had a sticker price of $30,810. That’s nearly in the pricing territory of entry-level compact luxury contenders like the Mercedes CLA Class or the Infiniti Q50 2.0t. Depending on dealer attitudes about discounting, a car like the Infiniti might be available at a modest monthly payment premium.

Volkswagen says the competitive set for the Golf is found in cars like the Kia Forte, Subaru Impreza, and Ford Focus. And true, with the exception of the Kia, those entries can be optioned up to absurd price levels for cars that began their lives as proletariat family transportation. But of those, I’m going to pick the Subaru to start.

Subaru Impreza


2017 Subaru Impreza - image 670280

The smallest Subaru gets high praise from those who deal with snowy roads because it has standard all-wheel drive, but for those of us who live in warmer climes, there are a lot of shortcomings in the Scoob.

First and foremost, the Impreza’s feel is much cheaper. Doors are tinny, the dashboard is an expanse of hollow-sounding, scratchy plastic, and the car lets in a lot more road noise than the Golf, which isn’t blissfully quiet at highway speed itself.

Second, the Subaru 2.0-liter naturally aspirated “boxer” four-cylinder engine feels more agricultural than VW’s silky smooth 1.8-liter turbo inline four, and it’s less powerful (152 horsepower vs. 170.) Another powertrain demerit: The Subaru pairs this lumpy flat-four with a CVT if you don’t want to shift for yourself. Most folks will find the VW’s traditional six-speed automatic more satisfying.

But Subaru does offer the WRX to compete with the VW GTI, and the hotter-still WRX STi makes a pretty convincing Golf R competitor for slightly less money. Also, the Impreza offers slightly more interior space, and for those poor souls who prefer a sedan over a practical hatchback, Subaru does offer you that option.

Read our full review on the 2017 Subaru Impreza.

Ford Focus


2015 Ford Focus Hatchback – Driven - image 659669

Ford’s Focus is an interesting competitor. Like the Subaru, it is offered in hatchback and sedan form. Also like the Subaru, it offers competitors to the performance-oriented Volkswagen GTI (Focus ST) and Golf R (Focus RS). The Focus RS is probably the hottest of the compact hot-hatch segment, though it pays a penalty in its rough, noisy ride.

As far as normal Focus models go, Ford has an advantage over VW in its powertrains, where the Focus can be purchased with either a 2.0-liter four-cylinder naturally aspirated engine or the tiny turbo 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder fuel-saver. Ford also wins a lot of praise for the handling prowess of the Focus, which has perhaps the most European “feel” of any non-European compact hatch.

I’m no fan of the interior of the Focus, with its busy layout and design. Its rear seats are tight. Front seat room is better, but I’ve always found the ergonomics more awkward than the Golf. There’s a lot less cargo volume than the Golf, too — the Focus rings in at a competitive 23.3 cubic feet behind the second row, but fold those seats, and you get just 43.9 cubic feet total cargo space. Not sure I could squeeze a drum kit back there.

Styling on the outside comes down to a matter of preference. I find the Focus attractive in hatchback form, perhaps even more attractive than the conservative Golf. But that may result in a vehicle that appears to age faster than the timeless lines of the German.

A definite plus is Ford dealers’ willingness to deal on the Focus. It’s no irregular thing to see a Focus advertised below $15,000 by Ford dealers looking to move the metal. Finding a Golf with that level of discount is akin to finding a unicorn.

Read our full driven review on the Ford Focus

Nissan Sentra


2016 Nissan Sentra - image 656206

Here’s the oddball of my group: The Nissan Sentra does not come in hatchback form for America. Europeans are lucky enough to get the Pulsar — basically a Sentra hatchback that competes directly with the Golf.

Having said that, it’s also probably the value leader of the group. If you’re determined to get a cheap compact car that will return decent fuel economy and a low cost of ownership, it’s a compelling entry. It’s roomy, its seat cushions are further off the ground than the Golf (which is no bad thing for those of us who are piling on the years), and it’s relatively attractive inside and out, despite an aging platform.

Admittedly, a run-of-the-mill $20,000 Sentra, with its weak-sauce 1.8-liter naturally aspirated engine, is far slower than a comparably priced base Golf. That can be addressed by opting for the 188-horsepower Sentra SR Turbo, which also has a stiffened chassis and suspension designed to wring a little more handling out of the Sentra.

In theory, the Sentra NISMO is Nissan’s competition to the VW GTI, but Nissan didn’t give the 1.6-liter turbo engine a power bump. If Nissan wises up and gives the Sentra NISMO an RS version with the same 225-horsepower tune I’ve experienced in the Nissan Juke NISMO RS, I’ll be more ready to compare it to the GTI.

This comparison highlights a quandary in VW’s product lineup, however: The VW Jetta, which is more of a direct competitor to the Sentra, offers more interior passenger space than the Golf, and usually at a much lower price. The Jetta also has a more efficient, if slightly less powerful engine than the Golf.

Read our full review on the 2017 Nissan Sentra.

Honorable mention: 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT


2018 Hyundai Elantra GT - image 704950

Though my tested VW Golf was a 2017 model, Hyundai released its 2018 Elantra GT hatchback update just a few weeks after my Golf test drive. Basically an Americanized version of the European Hyundai i30 hatchback, it may be the closest competitor to the Golf in terms of fit-and-finish, design, and cabin space.

The Elantra GT has an attractive exterior and an all-new interior with a tablet-like infotainment screen standing atop the center stack, mostly independent of the dashboard. It has available leather seats and can be bought with either a manual, automatic, or in the GTI-competitor “Sport” trim, a dual-clutch automatic transmission.

In terms of interior practicality, the Elantra felt a lot like the Golf. It had a similar size. I felt a little cramped in the driver’s seat if I made room for my son behind me. The cargo area was ample. Switchgear and door-closing felt solid, much like the Golf.

However, in terms of driving experience, the Golf was the more solid choice. Its engine felt stronger despite being smaller — the Hyundai has a 2.0-liter engine, but it’s naturally aspirated and feels lethargic in the midrange compared to the more powerful turbocharged 1.8-liter Golf. The Elantra GT’s six-speed automatic leaves a lot to be desired, as well. I felt like a shorter final drive ratio would have improved the Elantra GT’s ability to climb hills without downshifting a couple of times, as it did on most hills, but it probably would have resulted in worse fuel economy.

The Elantra GT can be loaded up to nearly $30,000 with optional equipment that includes a glass roof and a technology package that brings navigation and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay capability, so it does share some pricing commonality with the Golf.

Read our full review on the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT.

Conclusion


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751001

Volkswagen Golf has a long and storied history of carrying the torch for compact hatchbacks, even during times when that has been far from the most popular genre of family car. It plays to a niche of buyers, and it’s exceptionally good at it because it has features that would appeal to anyone, whether they’re “into” compact hatchbacks or not.

As a married, working-class father of two, I appreciate the Golf for being a versatile, European take on the compact genre that also has an approachable price point for my budget. While more expensive than some of its competition, it offers better handling and arguably better styling than most in the segment. It also happens to be pretty good at the dad-car role, hauling my kids and other assorted cargo without fuss.

I’m not sure I’d drop $30K on a Golf like the one I tested — and I admit, at that price I expect real leather, not vinyl leatherette — but lower-trim Golfs are a mighty tempting option for this lover of hatches and small cars.

Disclosure: Volkswagen provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of fuel for this review.

PostHeaderIcon Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven

When my friends talk about compact hatchbacks, sometimes the Volkswagen Golf gets left out of the conversation. But it really shouldn’t be that way: The Golf is far and away the best-selling compact in Europe. There are good reasons for that, not least of which is the Golf’s supreme practicality.

Here in America, we don’t get quite as many Golf variants as Europe does. We get the highlights, though: regular Golf, sporty GTI, raucous Golf R, cargo-friendly Golf Sportwagen, and most recently, soft-road-ready Golf Alltrack.

Volkswagen has sent me two Golf Rs in the last year. You might consider those the most evolved version of the car, in terms of overall performance. Fast and fun to toss around the twisties, the R also happens to be the most expensive version of the Golf — expect to pay $40,000 if you want one. But this time, VW sent me a regular Golf TSI SEL, a luxurious hatchback without all the high-performance hype — and it’s 25% cheaper than the Golf R, even though it’s loaded with options. It proved itself to be a great little transportation pod for my family of four.

Design Notes


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 750995
“The Volkswagen Golf has an attractive two-box design that screams “practicality” without also screaming “boring.””

The Volkswagen Golf has an attractive two-box design that screams “practicality” without also screaming “boring.”

The front of the car has a simple, thin grille opening bisected by a prominent VW logo between the Golf’s two hexagonal headlights. A larger opening below the front bumper strike surface handles most of the actual cooling duties for the radiator.

From the side, the VW Golf is handsome, with short overhangs that give it a sporty appearance. The front wheel arch appears to nearly reach all the way to the hood. There’s a motion to the design when viewed from this angle, the car always appearing to be ready to pounce into action.


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 750999
“At the rear, the Golf has a subtle lip spoiler above the rear glass, which shades the center high-mounted stop lamp”

The creases along the side of the car are purposeful — the crease just below the hood shutline traveling on to form the sills under the side windows, the middle crease below the door handles forming the car’s beltline, and the lower crease serving to give the Golf’s profile a solid base.

At the rear, the Golf has a subtle lip spoiler above the rear glass, which shades the center high-mounted stop lamp. The hatch itself is cleanly designed, integrating the inner half of the taillights, which are joined by a sharp crease that serves to continue the beltline seen in profile view.

Inside, the Golf TSI SEL had the same design I saw in the Golf R, minus a couple of things like the embroidered “R” logos on performance-bolstered front bucket seats. The interior is simple — some say boring — but I found it purposeful and non-distracting, as I have found most VW interiors in recent years.


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 750998

Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase (in/mm) 103.8/2,637
Length (in/mm) 167.6/4,258
Width (in/mm) 70.8/1,799
Height (in/mm) 58.2/1,477
Track front/rear (in/mm) 61.0/59.8 (1,549/1,520)
Ground Clearance (in/mm) 5.4/137

Drive Notes


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751011
“All Volkswagen Golf hatchbacks in America are equipped with a 1.8-liter TSI turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine”

All Volkswagen Golf hatchbacks in America (the Golf R excepted) are equipped with a 1.8-liter TSI turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine, and that’s no bad thing — unless you’re looking for the best fuel economy in the segment. If that’s your bag, look elsewhere. I saw 31 MPG over a 350+ mile week. That’s not bad, considering the car’s EPA ratings of 25 MPG city, 35 MPG highway, 29 MPG combined. However, it’s not as frugal as, say, a Nissan Sentra’s EPA scores (29/37/32 when equipped with an automatic transmission).

But the competitors, for the most part, lack the refinement of the 1.8-liter turbo four in the Golf. It has 170 horsepower on tap and a stout 199 lb-ft of torque. In VW’s typical style of recent years, torque comes on early and stays strong through the middle of the rev range, providing plenty of grunt to get up to speed around town or when merging onto the highway. My tester was coupled with an excellent six-speed automatic transmission (at no extra charge) that was admirably quick to shift down when I gave the skinny pedal a little more weight.


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751005
“Despite a relatively short wheelbase of 103.8 inches, it handled itself very well over rough pavement and tracked straight and true on highways”

The suspension of the Golf was well-sorted. The driving experience was purely European. Despite a relatively short wheelbase of 103.8 inches, it handled itself very well over rough pavement and tracked straight and true on highways. Steering feel was better than most in this segment. No compact car I have driven in the last couple of years has steering feel this good. Sport-tinged models like the Nissan Sentra NISMO or Hyundai Elantra Sport might come close, but they are laden with compromises that the Golf SEL doesn’t make.

Drivetrain Specifications

Engine 1.8L, inline four cylinder, 16V, turbocharged and intercooled, DI
Displacement 1798 cc
Compression Ratio 9.6:1
Horsepower 170 HP @ 4,500 RPM
Maximum torque 199 LB-FT @ 1,600 RPM

Technology Notes


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751018
“My Golf SEL was equipped with VW’s Discover Media system, which included a 6.5-inch touchscreen head unit”

Being a top-spec SEL trim, my 2017 Volkswagen Golf was equipped with a raft of technology features.

Among the headline items was VW’s Front Assist, which included autonomous emergency braking in my test car. Also on-tap was adaptive cruise control and keyless access and start, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, rearview camera, and a multifunction digital display in the gauge cluster that handled all trip computer functions and displayed other information like tire pressures and turn-by-turn navigation directions.

My Golf SEL was equipped with VW’s Discover Media system, which included a 6.5-inch touchscreen head unit with AM/FM/HD/XM radio tuners, a CD player, and USB and AUX inputs. The sound system was from Fender — yes, the makers of guitars — and it provided full, rich sound once I figured out how to turn up the subwoofer in the audio settings. We’re not talking window-rattling, disturbing-the-peace stuff from this audio system, just well-done sound.

One quirk carried over from lesser VW sound systems, unfortunately: The volume seems to have an aggressive cam on it. Adjustments in the lowest 25% of the volume range seem to be much larger than they are in the next 25%. From halfway up to full roar, the difference in volume seems minimal. It’s strange. I would like smaller, more evenly spaced volume increments for each click of the volume knob or each touch of the steering wheel-mounted volume controls.

Cabin notes


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751010
“It offers a total of 93.5 cubic feet of passenger room and 22.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats”

The technology is nice, but it’s the practical cabin space that really makes the Volkswagen Golf attractive to family men like myself.

The boxy Golf interior makes the most of the car’s relatively small footprint. It offers a total of 93.5 cubic feet of passenger room and 22.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, which was plenty for grocery-hauling. If you fold down the rear seats, there’s 52.7 cubic feet of hauling space in this box, which would be plenty to haul my drum kit.

Seating surfaces in the Golf are lower to the ground than some compacts (Nissan Sentra) but similar to others (Hyundai Elantra). As a result of that and my 6-foot, 3-inch frame, I felt a little bit cramped in the front seat as I tried to make some room for my six-year-old son behind me. The dash was pretty close to my knees, as was the steering column. The seating position was go kart-like, with my knees a bit higher than my hips. I could raise the seat base, but ended up with my head touching the headliner before my legs were at a more comfortable angle.


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751012
“Front-seat occupants have a VW-reported 41.2 inches of legroom, compared to 35.6 inches in the rear.”

Having said that, Volkswagen measurements show 38.4 inches of headroom up front and 38.1 inches in the rear. Front-seat occupants have a VW-reported 41.2 inches of legroom, compared to 35.6 inches in the rear.

There are smaller cars that offer better legroom. For example, a Nissan Versa Note has 41.3 inches of legroom for front-row occupants and 38.3 inches for rear-seat occupants. Where Golf has the advantage is its width, where it has 55.9 inches of shoulder room up front and 53.9 inches in the back seat. Compare that to the Versa Note’s 51.7 and 51.9 inches, respectively.

But no Versa Note, can touch the interior refinement of the Golf, nor can most subcompact hatchbacks. My tester had heated leatherette seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob, and emergency brake lever. The doors of the Golf shut with a reassuring, Germanic thud instead of the hollow clank of economy-minded subcompact competitors. The Golf seemed quieter than most compacts on the highway, too. Quality, not quantity, is the name of the game for VW here.


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751013

Interior Dimensions

Headroom fron/rear (Inches) 38.4/38.1
Shoulder room fron/rear (Inches) 55.9/53.9
Legroom fron/rear (Inches) 41.2/35.6
Passenger Volume (cu ft) 93.5
Cargo Volume, trunk (cu ft) 17.4
Cargo Volume, seats down (cu ft) 53.7

Competitors

Categorizing the Golf for the purpose of comparing to its competition is tougher than it seems on the surface. Technically a “compact” by EPA size classification standards, it actually hews closer to what many of us consider “subcompact” in all but its width.

Its price, too, defies convention. You could buy a base 2017 Golf as cheap as $19,895, which is on-par with a lot of mass-market compacts like the aforementioned Nissan Sentra and Hyundai Elantra, but load it up with options like my SEL test car, and you’re soon breaking the $30,000 barrier. The tested Golf had a sticker price of $30,810. That’s nearly in the pricing territory of entry-level compact luxury contenders like the Mercedes CLA Class or the Infiniti Q50 2.0t. Depending on dealer attitudes about discounting, a car like the Infiniti might be available at a modest monthly payment premium.

Volkswagen says the competitive set for the Golf is found in cars like the Kia Forte, Subaru Impreza, and Ford Focus. And true, with the exception of the Kia, those entries can be optioned up to absurd price levels for cars that began their lives as proletariat family transportation. But of those, I’m going to pick the Subaru to start.

Subaru Impreza


2017 Subaru Impreza - image 670280

The smallest Subaru gets high praise from those who deal with snowy roads because it has standard all-wheel drive, but for those of us who live in warmer climes, there are a lot of shortcomings in the Scoob.

First and foremost, the Impreza’s feel is much cheaper. Doors are tinny, the dashboard is an expanse of hollow-sounding, scratchy plastic, and the car lets in a lot more road noise than the Golf, which isn’t blissfully quiet at highway speed itself.

Second, the Subaru 2.0-liter naturally aspirated “boxer” four-cylinder engine feels more agricultural than VW’s silky smooth 1.8-liter turbo inline four, and it’s less powerful (152 horsepower vs. 170.) Another powertrain demerit: The Subaru pairs this lumpy flat-four with a CVT if you don’t want to shift for yourself. Most folks will find the VW’s traditional six-speed automatic more satisfying.

But Subaru does offer the WRX to compete with the VW GTI, and the hotter-still WRX STi makes a pretty convincing Golf R competitor for slightly less money. Also, the Impreza offers slightly more interior space, and for those poor souls who prefer a sedan over a practical hatchback, Subaru does offer you that option.

Read our full review on the 2017 Subaru Impreza.

Ford Focus


2015 Ford Focus Hatchback – Driven - image 659669

Ford’s Focus is an interesting competitor. Like the Subaru, it is offered in hatchback and sedan form. Also like the Subaru, it offers competitors to the performance-oriented Volkswagen GTI (Focus ST) and Golf R (Focus RS). The Focus RS is probably the hottest of the compact hot-hatch segment, though it pays a penalty in its rough, noisy ride.

As far as normal Focus models go, Ford has an advantage over VW in its powertrains, where the Focus can be purchased with either a 2.0-liter four-cylinder naturally aspirated engine or the tiny turbo 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder fuel-saver. Ford also wins a lot of praise for the handling prowess of the Focus, which has perhaps the most European “feel” of any non-European compact hatch.

I’m no fan of the interior of the Focus, with its busy layout and design. Its rear seats are tight. Front seat room is better, but I’ve always found the ergonomics more awkward than the Golf. There’s a lot less cargo volume than the Golf, too — the Focus rings in at a competitive 23.3 cubic feet behind the second row, but fold those seats, and you get just 43.9 cubic feet total cargo space. Not sure I could squeeze a drum kit back there.

Styling on the outside comes down to a matter of preference. I find the Focus attractive in hatchback form, perhaps even more attractive than the conservative Golf. But that may result in a vehicle that appears to age faster than the timeless lines of the German.

A definite plus is Ford dealers’ willingness to deal on the Focus. It’s no irregular thing to see a Focus advertised below $15,000 by Ford dealers looking to move the metal. Finding a Golf with that level of discount is akin to finding a unicorn.

Read our full driven review on the Ford Focus

Nissan Sentra


2016 Nissan Sentra - image 656206

Here’s the oddball of my group: The Nissan Sentra does not come in hatchback form for America. Europeans are lucky enough to get the Pulsar — basically a Sentra hatchback that competes directly with the Golf.

Having said that, it’s also probably the value leader of the group. If you’re determined to get a cheap compact car that will return decent fuel economy and a low cost of ownership, it’s a compelling entry. It’s roomy, its seat cushions are further off the ground than the Golf (which is no bad thing for those of us who are piling on the years), and it’s relatively attractive inside and out, despite an aging platform.

Admittedly, a run-of-the-mill $20,000 Sentra, with its weak-sauce 1.8-liter naturally aspirated engine, is far slower than a comparably priced base Golf. That can be addressed by opting for the 188-horsepower Sentra SR Turbo, which also has a stiffened chassis and suspension designed to wring a little more handling out of the Sentra.

In theory, the Sentra NISMO is Nissan’s competition to the VW GTI, but Nissan didn’t give the 1.6-liter turbo engine a power bump. If Nissan wises up and gives the Sentra NISMO an RS version with the same 225-horsepower tune I’ve experienced in the Nissan Juke NISMO RS, I’ll be more ready to compare it to the GTI.

This comparison highlights a quandary in VW’s product lineup, however: The VW Jetta, which is more of a direct competitor to the Sentra, offers more interior passenger space than the Golf, and usually at a much lower price. The Jetta also has a more efficient, if slightly less powerful engine than the Golf.

Read our full review on the 2017 Nissan Sentra.

Honorable mention: 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT


2018 Hyundai Elantra GT - image 704950

Though my tested VW Golf was a 2017 model, Hyundai released its 2018 Elantra GT hatchback update just a few weeks after my Golf test drive. Basically an Americanized version of the European Hyundai i30 hatchback, it may be the closest competitor to the Golf in terms of fit-and-finish, design, and cabin space.

The Elantra GT has an attractive exterior and an all-new interior with a tablet-like infotainment screen standing atop the center stack, mostly independent of the dashboard. It has available leather seats and can be bought with either a manual, automatic, or in the GTI-competitor “Sport” trim, a dual-clutch automatic transmission.

In terms of interior practicality, the Elantra felt a lot like the Golf. It had a similar size. I felt a little cramped in the driver’s seat if I made room for my son behind me. The cargo area was ample. Switchgear and door-closing felt solid, much like the Golf.

However, in terms of driving experience, the Golf was the more solid choice. Its engine felt stronger despite being smaller — the Hyundai has a 2.0-liter engine, but it’s naturally aspirated and feels lethargic in the midrange compared to the more powerful turbocharged 1.8-liter Golf. The Elantra GT’s six-speed automatic leaves a lot to be desired, as well. I felt like a shorter final drive ratio would have improved the Elantra GT’s ability to climb hills without downshifting a couple of times, as it did on most hills, but it probably would have resulted in worse fuel economy.

The Elantra GT can be loaded up to nearly $30,000 with optional equipment that includes a glass roof and a technology package that brings navigation and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay capability, so it does share some pricing commonality with the Golf.

Read our full review on the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT.

Conclusion


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751001

Volkswagen Golf has a long and storied history of carrying the torch for compact hatchbacks, even during times when that has been far from the most popular genre of family car. It plays to a niche of buyers, and it’s exceptionally good at it because it has features that would appeal to anyone, whether they’re “into” compact hatchbacks or not.

As a married, working-class father of two, I appreciate the Golf for being a versatile, European take on the compact genre that also has an approachable price point for my budget. While more expensive than some of its competition, it offers better handling and arguably better styling than most in the segment. It also happens to be pretty good at the dad-car role, hauling my kids and other assorted cargo without fuss.

I’m not sure I’d drop $30K on a Golf like the one I tested — and I admit, at that price I expect real leather, not vinyl leatherette — but lower-trim Golfs are a mighty tempting option for this lover of hatches and small cars.

Disclosure: Volkswagen provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of fuel for this review.

PostHeaderIcon Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven

When my friends talk about compact hatchbacks, sometimes the Volkswagen Golf gets left out of the conversation. But it really shouldn’t be that way: The Golf is far and away the best-selling compact in Europe. There are good reasons for that, not least of which is the Golf’s supreme practicality.

Here in America, we don’t get quite as many Golf variants as Europe does. We get the highlights, though: regular Golf, sporty GTI, raucous Golf R, cargo-friendly Golf Sportwagen, and most recently, soft-road-ready Golf Alltrack.

Volkswagen has sent me two Golf Rs in the last year. You might consider those the most evolved version of the car, in terms of overall performance. Fast and fun to toss around the twisties, the R also happens to be the most expensive version of the Golf — expect to pay $40,000 if you want one. But this time, VW sent me a regular Golf TSI SEL, a luxurious hatchback without all the high-performance hype — and it’s 25% cheaper than the Golf R, even though it’s loaded with options. It proved itself to be a great little transportation pod for my family of four.

Design Notes


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 750995
“The Volkswagen Golf has an attractive two-box design that screams “practicality” without also screaming “boring.””

The Volkswagen Golf has an attractive two-box design that screams “practicality” without also screaming “boring.”

The front of the car has a simple, thin grille opening bisected by a prominent VW logo between the Golf’s two hexagonal headlights. A larger opening below the front bumper strike surface handles most of the actual cooling duties for the radiator.

From the side, the VW Golf is handsome, with short overhangs that give it a sporty appearance. The front wheel arch appears to nearly reach all the way to the hood. There’s a motion to the design when viewed from this angle, the car always appearing to be ready to pounce into action.


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 750999
“At the rear, the Golf has a subtle lip spoiler above the rear glass, which shades the center high-mounted stop lamp”

The creases along the side of the car are purposeful — the crease just below the hood shutline traveling on to form the sills under the side windows, the middle crease below the door handles forming the car’s beltline, and the lower crease serving to give the Golf’s profile a solid base.

At the rear, the Golf has a subtle lip spoiler above the rear glass, which shades the center high-mounted stop lamp. The hatch itself is cleanly designed, integrating the inner half of the taillights, which are joined by a sharp crease that serves to continue the beltline seen in profile view.

Inside, the Golf TSI SEL had the same design I saw in the Golf R, minus a couple of things like the embroidered “R” logos on performance-bolstered front bucket seats. The interior is simple — some say boring — but I found it purposeful and non-distracting, as I have found most VW interiors in recent years.


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 750998

Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase (in/mm) 103.8/2,637
Length (in/mm) 167.6/4,258
Width (in/mm) 70.8/1,799
Height (in/mm) 58.2/1,477
Track front/rear (in/mm) 61.0/59.8 (1,549/1,520)
Ground Clearance (in/mm) 5.4/137

Drive Notes


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751011
“All Volkswagen Golf hatchbacks in America are equipped with a 1.8-liter TSI turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine”

All Volkswagen Golf hatchbacks in America (the Golf R excepted) are equipped with a 1.8-liter TSI turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine, and that’s no bad thing — unless you’re looking for the best fuel economy in the segment. If that’s your bag, look elsewhere. I saw 31 MPG over a 350+ mile week. That’s not bad, considering the car’s EPA ratings of 25 MPG city, 35 MPG highway, 29 MPG combined. However, it’s not as frugal as, say, a Nissan Sentra’s EPA scores (29/37/32 when equipped with an automatic transmission).

But the competitors, for the most part, lack the refinement of the 1.8-liter turbo four in the Golf. It has 170 horsepower on tap and a stout 199 lb-ft of torque. In VW’s typical style of recent years, torque comes on early and stays strong through the middle of the rev range, providing plenty of grunt to get up to speed around town or when merging onto the highway. My tester was coupled with an excellent six-speed automatic transmission (at no extra charge) that was admirably quick to shift down when I gave the skinny pedal a little more weight.


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751005
“Despite a relatively short wheelbase of 103.8 inches, it handled itself very well over rough pavement and tracked straight and true on highways”

The suspension of the Golf was well-sorted. The driving experience was purely European. Despite a relatively short wheelbase of 103.8 inches, it handled itself very well over rough pavement and tracked straight and true on highways. Steering feel was better than most in this segment. No compact car I have driven in the last couple of years has steering feel this good. Sport-tinged models like the Nissan Sentra NISMO or Hyundai Elantra Sport might come close, but they are laden with compromises that the Golf SEL doesn’t make.

Drivetrain Specifications

Engine 1.8L, inline four cylinder, 16V, turbocharged and intercooled, DI
Displacement 1798 cc
Compression Ratio 9.6:1
Horsepower 170 HP @ 4,500 RPM
Maximum torque 199 LB-FT @ 1,600 RPM

Technology Notes


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751018
“My Golf SEL was equipped with VW’s Discover Media system, which included a 6.5-inch touchscreen head unit”

Being a top-spec SEL trim, my 2017 Volkswagen Golf was equipped with a raft of technology features.

Among the headline items was VW’s Front Assist, which included autonomous emergency braking in my test car. Also on-tap was adaptive cruise control and keyless access and start, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, rearview camera, and a multifunction digital display in the gauge cluster that handled all trip computer functions and displayed other information like tire pressures and turn-by-turn navigation directions.

My Golf SEL was equipped with VW’s Discover Media system, which included a 6.5-inch touchscreen head unit with AM/FM/HD/XM radio tuners, a CD player, and USB and AUX inputs. The sound system was from Fender — yes, the makers of guitars — and it provided full, rich sound once I figured out how to turn up the subwoofer in the audio settings. We’re not talking window-rattling, disturbing-the-peace stuff from this audio system, just well-done sound.

One quirk carried over from lesser VW sound systems, unfortunately: The volume seems to have an aggressive cam on it. Adjustments in the lowest 25% of the volume range seem to be much larger than they are in the next 25%. From halfway up to full roar, the difference in volume seems minimal. It’s strange. I would like smaller, more evenly spaced volume increments for each click of the volume knob or each touch of the steering wheel-mounted volume controls.

Cabin notes


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751010
“It offers a total of 93.5 cubic feet of passenger room and 22.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats”

The technology is nice, but it’s the practical cabin space that really makes the Volkswagen Golf attractive to family men like myself.

The boxy Golf interior makes the most of the car’s relatively small footprint. It offers a total of 93.5 cubic feet of passenger room and 22.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, which was plenty for grocery-hauling. If you fold down the rear seats, there’s 52.7 cubic feet of hauling space in this box, which would be plenty to haul my drum kit.

Seating surfaces in the Golf are lower to the ground than some compacts (Nissan Sentra) but similar to others (Hyundai Elantra). As a result of that and my 6-foot, 3-inch frame, I felt a little bit cramped in the front seat as I tried to make some room for my six-year-old son behind me. The dash was pretty close to my knees, as was the steering column. The seating position was go kart-like, with my knees a bit higher than my hips. I could raise the seat base, but ended up with my head touching the headliner before my legs were at a more comfortable angle.


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751012
“Front-seat occupants have a VW-reported 41.2 inches of legroom, compared to 35.6 inches in the rear.”

Having said that, Volkswagen measurements show 38.4 inches of headroom up front and 38.1 inches in the rear. Front-seat occupants have a VW-reported 41.2 inches of legroom, compared to 35.6 inches in the rear.

There are smaller cars that offer better legroom. For example, a Nissan Versa Note has 41.3 inches of legroom for front-row occupants and 38.3 inches for rear-seat occupants. Where Golf has the advantage is its width, where it has 55.9 inches of shoulder room up front and 53.9 inches in the back seat. Compare that to the Versa Note’s 51.7 and 51.9 inches, respectively.

But no Versa Note, can touch the interior refinement of the Golf, nor can most subcompact hatchbacks. My tester had heated leatherette seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob, and emergency brake lever. The doors of the Golf shut with a reassuring, Germanic thud instead of the hollow clank of economy-minded subcompact competitors. The Golf seemed quieter than most compacts on the highway, too. Quality, not quantity, is the name of the game for VW here.


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751013

Interior Dimensions

Headroom fron/rear (Inches) 38.4/38.1
Shoulder room fron/rear (Inches) 55.9/53.9
Legroom fron/rear (Inches) 41.2/35.6
Passenger Volume (cu ft) 93.5
Cargo Volume, trunk (cu ft) 17.4
Cargo Volume, seats down (cu ft) 53.7

Competitors

Categorizing the Golf for the purpose of comparing to its competition is tougher than it seems on the surface. Technically a “compact” by EPA size classification standards, it actually hews closer to what many of us consider “subcompact” in all but its width.

Its price, too, defies convention. You could buy a base 2017 Golf as cheap as $19,895, which is on-par with a lot of mass-market compacts like the aforementioned Nissan Sentra and Hyundai Elantra, but load it up with options like my SEL test car, and you’re soon breaking the $30,000 barrier. The tested Golf had a sticker price of $30,810. That’s nearly in the pricing territory of entry-level compact luxury contenders like the Mercedes CLA Class or the Infiniti Q50 2.0t. Depending on dealer attitudes about discounting, a car like the Infiniti might be available at a modest monthly payment premium.

Volkswagen says the competitive set for the Golf is found in cars like the Kia Forte, Subaru Impreza, and Ford Focus. And true, with the exception of the Kia, those entries can be optioned up to absurd price levels for cars that began their lives as proletariat family transportation. But of those, I’m going to pick the Subaru to start.

Subaru Impreza


2017 Subaru Impreza - image 670280

The smallest Subaru gets high praise from those who deal with snowy roads because it has standard all-wheel drive, but for those of us who live in warmer climes, there are a lot of shortcomings in the Scoob.

First and foremost, the Impreza’s feel is much cheaper. Doors are tinny, the dashboard is an expanse of hollow-sounding, scratchy plastic, and the car lets in a lot more road noise than the Golf, which isn’t blissfully quiet at highway speed itself.

Second, the Subaru 2.0-liter naturally aspirated “boxer” four-cylinder engine feels more agricultural than VW’s silky smooth 1.8-liter turbo inline four, and it’s less powerful (152 horsepower vs. 170.) Another powertrain demerit: The Subaru pairs this lumpy flat-four with a CVT if you don’t want to shift for yourself. Most folks will find the VW’s traditional six-speed automatic more satisfying.

But Subaru does offer the WRX to compete with the VW GTI, and the hotter-still WRX STi makes a pretty convincing Golf R competitor for slightly less money. Also, the Impreza offers slightly more interior space, and for those poor souls who prefer a sedan over a practical hatchback, Subaru does offer you that option.

Read our full review on the 2017 Subaru Impreza.

Ford Focus


2015 Ford Focus Hatchback – Driven - image 659669

Ford’s Focus is an interesting competitor. Like the Subaru, it is offered in hatchback and sedan form. Also like the Subaru, it offers competitors to the performance-oriented Volkswagen GTI (Focus ST) and Golf R (Focus RS). The Focus RS is probably the hottest of the compact hot-hatch segment, though it pays a penalty in its rough, noisy ride.

As far as normal Focus models go, Ford has an advantage over VW in its powertrains, where the Focus can be purchased with either a 2.0-liter four-cylinder naturally aspirated engine or the tiny turbo 1.0-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder fuel-saver. Ford also wins a lot of praise for the handling prowess of the Focus, which has perhaps the most European “feel” of any non-European compact hatch.

I’m no fan of the interior of the Focus, with its busy layout and design. Its rear seats are tight. Front seat room is better, but I’ve always found the ergonomics more awkward than the Golf. There’s a lot less cargo volume than the Golf, too — the Focus rings in at a competitive 23.3 cubic feet behind the second row, but fold those seats, and you get just 43.9 cubic feet total cargo space. Not sure I could squeeze a drum kit back there.

Styling on the outside comes down to a matter of preference. I find the Focus attractive in hatchback form, perhaps even more attractive than the conservative Golf. But that may result in a vehicle that appears to age faster than the timeless lines of the German.

A definite plus is Ford dealers’ willingness to deal on the Focus. It’s no irregular thing to see a Focus advertised below $15,000 by Ford dealers looking to move the metal. Finding a Golf with that level of discount is akin to finding a unicorn.

Read our full driven review on the Ford Focus

Nissan Sentra


2016 Nissan Sentra - image 656206

Here’s the oddball of my group: The Nissan Sentra does not come in hatchback form for America. Europeans are lucky enough to get the Pulsar — basically a Sentra hatchback that competes directly with the Golf.

Having said that, it’s also probably the value leader of the group. If you’re determined to get a cheap compact car that will return decent fuel economy and a low cost of ownership, it’s a compelling entry. It’s roomy, its seat cushions are further off the ground than the Golf (which is no bad thing for those of us who are piling on the years), and it’s relatively attractive inside and out, despite an aging platform.

Admittedly, a run-of-the-mill $20,000 Sentra, with its weak-sauce 1.8-liter naturally aspirated engine, is far slower than a comparably priced base Golf. That can be addressed by opting for the 188-horsepower Sentra SR Turbo, which also has a stiffened chassis and suspension designed to wring a little more handling out of the Sentra.

In theory, the Sentra NISMO is Nissan’s competition to the VW GTI, but Nissan didn’t give the 1.6-liter turbo engine a power bump. If Nissan wises up and gives the Sentra NISMO an RS version with the same 225-horsepower tune I’ve experienced in the Nissan Juke NISMO RS, I’ll be more ready to compare it to the GTI.

This comparison highlights a quandary in VW’s product lineup, however: The VW Jetta, which is more of a direct competitor to the Sentra, offers more interior passenger space than the Golf, and usually at a much lower price. The Jetta also has a more efficient, if slightly less powerful engine than the Golf.

Read our full review on the 2017 Nissan Sentra.

Honorable mention: 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT


2018 Hyundai Elantra GT - image 704950

Though my tested VW Golf was a 2017 model, Hyundai released its 2018 Elantra GT hatchback update just a few weeks after my Golf test drive. Basically an Americanized version of the European Hyundai i30 hatchback, it may be the closest competitor to the Golf in terms of fit-and-finish, design, and cabin space.

The Elantra GT has an attractive exterior and an all-new interior with a tablet-like infotainment screen standing atop the center stack, mostly independent of the dashboard. It has available leather seats and can be bought with either a manual, automatic, or in the GTI-competitor “Sport” trim, a dual-clutch automatic transmission.

In terms of interior practicality, the Elantra felt a lot like the Golf. It had a similar size. I felt a little cramped in the driver’s seat if I made room for my son behind me. The cargo area was ample. Switchgear and door-closing felt solid, much like the Golf.

However, in terms of driving experience, the Golf was the more solid choice. Its engine felt stronger despite being smaller — the Hyundai has a 2.0-liter engine, but it’s naturally aspirated and feels lethargic in the midrange compared to the more powerful turbocharged 1.8-liter Golf. The Elantra GT’s six-speed automatic leaves a lot to be desired, as well. I felt like a shorter final drive ratio would have improved the Elantra GT’s ability to climb hills without downshifting a couple of times, as it did on most hills, but it probably would have resulted in worse fuel economy.

The Elantra GT can be loaded up to nearly $30,000 with optional equipment that includes a glass roof and a technology package that brings navigation and Android Auto/Apple CarPlay capability, so it does share some pricing commonality with the Golf.

Read our full review on the 2018 Hyundai Elantra GT.

Conclusion


2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven - image 751001

Volkswagen Golf has a long and storied history of carrying the torch for compact hatchbacks, even during times when that has been far from the most popular genre of family car. It plays to a niche of buyers, and it’s exceptionally good at it because it has features that would appeal to anyone, whether they’re “into” compact hatchbacks or not.

As a married, working-class father of two, I appreciate the Golf for being a versatile, European take on the compact genre that also has an approachable price point for my budget. While more expensive than some of its competition, it offers better handling and arguably better styling than most in the segment. It also happens to be pretty good at the dad-car role, hauling my kids and other assorted cargo without fuss.

I’m not sure I’d drop $30K on a Golf like the one I tested — and I admit, at that price I expect real leather, not vinyl leatherette — but lower-trim Golfs are a mighty tempting option for this lover of hatches and small cars.

Disclosure: Volkswagen provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of fuel for this review.

PostHeaderIcon Fisker’s New Battery Patent Promises 500-Mile Range; One-Minute Charging

Fisker, the company that has worked diligently to bring about a dead-to-rights Tesla Model S fighter, has just announced a new battery patent that promises a new technology capable of ranges exceeding 500 miles and one-minute recharging. Let me say that again: One-minute recharging.

Details are still rather thin at this point, but we have learned that Fisker’s new power storage technology will allow the company to build solid-state batteries with lots of surface area in comparison to the current thin-film solid-state electrodes currently in development and use. This ultimately means better conductivity below the shell which, in turn, makes for a battery that works better in cold weather and charges faster. Keep in mind; this is why lithium-ion batteries are the go-to right now for EVs – the current capabilities of solid-state batteries are insufficient and low conductivity levels is a primary cause of this. So, if what Fisker is saying is true, the company could have just solved a very big problem and could, very well, usher in the next generation of battery technology.

Of course, Fisker isn’t the only company gunning for solid-state batteries, and Toyota has even promised its battery would be put to use in electric cars by 2022, just two years sooner than what Fisker claims it can do. Then again, Toyota hasn’t proved its technology, so it still has the same burden that has now be thrust onto Fisker’s shoulders as well. It’s obviously an arms race in which the winner will reign supreme in the EV world. In the end, Fisker if lofting out claims for density 2.5 times that of current lithium-ion batters, which means these babies could charge in minutes and offer up ranges of 500 miles. Just think, you can pull into a “gas station” and by the time you make up your hot dogs, buy a beverage, and take a leak, you’re EV is good for another 500 miles. Range Anxiety? Not in this future. The question now is: Who’s going to deliver on these lofty promises first?

Toyota still has a few years, and the man behind Fisker isn’t exactly working with a full deck of successful resumes either. He hasn’t exactly been the most successful cat on the street, and he promises an advanced battery in the Emotion just to retract his claims. But, for EVs to be truly successful, this is the kind of technology we need, and if we’re really this close – Toyota claims 2022 and Fisker 2024 – we’ll certainly be seeing it happen in most of our lifetimes. And, once that technology is there, there isn’t really a need for the ICE anymore either now is there?

Have something on your mind? Let us know in the comments section below. We’re curious as to what you think about these hefty claims.

References

Fisker Emotion


2017 Fisker EMotion - image 693722

Read our full review on the 2018 Fisker Emotion.



Read more Fisker news.

PostHeaderIcon Fiat 500C – Driven

Dated and diminutive it may be, but the Fiat 500 remains a frugal and fun — and tiny — car. Adding a canvas top to the pint-size Cinquecento just increases the smiles-per-gallon it generates.

As a cheap-and-cheerful commuter, the Fiat 500 has long been a favorite of mine for its European style and driving characteristics. Among cars in its price range, the little Italian remains near the top of my fun-to-drive list. The Fiat 500C has even more charm thanks to its fully retractable roof.

For 2017, Fiat simplified the 500 lineup to just three trims: base-level Pop, leather-trimmed Lounge, and sporty Abarth. All are available with the “C” designation, which stands for “Cabrio.” In prior years, there were twice as many trims available. Most of the equipment from those additional trims is still available in the options list.

Exterior Notes


2017 Fiat 500C - Driven - image 737240
“The Fiat 500C I tested was a Pop trim, which meant it had a base price of $16,490”

The Fiat 500C I tested was a Pop trim, which meant it had a base price of $16,490. For that buy-in, the exterior of the car looked very nice, with its Grigio Cenre (loosely translated as “gray dew”) paint and 15-inch aluminum alloy wheels. The design of the modern-day 500 is aging just about as well as the classic 500 upon which it is based.

Riding on an ultra-short wheelbase of just 90.6 inches, the Fiat 500 measures just 139.6 inches in total length. It’s narrow, too, with a width of 64.1 inches. Those stats make it plenty maneuverable in tight city streets and parking garages, but they also make the car endearing to behold.


2017 Fiat 500C - Driven - image 737247

2017 Fiat 500C - Driven - image 737235
“From the front, the Fiat 500c has a cute face, complete with little chrome mustache and red-nose Fiat logo”

From the front, the Fiat 500c has a cute face, complete with little chrome mustache and red-nose Fiat logo. The eyes on this face are the big, round headlights, with turn signal/daytime running lights below serving as cartoony, blushing cheeks.

The side-view reveals the tall greenhouse that makes getting in and out of the car a breeze. There’s the short hood and the bustle-butt rear end, with wheels pushed way out to the corners. A smooth crease runs from the hood shut-line at the front of the car to the top of the taillight at the rear. A sharper crease at the bottom third of the door reduces the appearance of mass. That’s important, because the modern-day Fiat 500 is a fair bit larger than its grandfather.


2017 Fiat 500C - Driven - image 737238
“My 500C tester had a small cargo hatch below the canvas top, which mimicked the engine bonnet of 500s from that bygone era”

From the rear, it’s clear my test car is a cabriolet. The telltale black canvas top surrounds the ovoid rear window, and a black plastic spoiler integrates the high-mounted brake light. Brake lights are rounded triangular shapes that give a modern twist to the original 500’s tall, rectangular taillight shape.

The rear of the 500C is actually more similar to the original Fiat 500 in one notable way: since the original Fiat 500 was a rear-engined car, it lacked the rear cargo hatch found on non-cabriolet modern-day 500s. My 500C tester had a small cargo hatch below the canvas top, which mimicked the engine bonnet of 500s from that bygone era.

Interior Notes


2017 Fiat 500C - Driven - image 737224
“Even though my Fiat 500C tester was the base Pop trim, it was not lacking for interior niceties”

Even though my Fiat 500C tester was the base Pop trim, it was not lacking for interior niceties.

The seats were covered in houndstooth-pattern fabric. They were firmly padded and flat, which was fitting for the car’s “everyman” personality. I found them comfortable for long-distance driving, though some might desire more lumbar support.

The steering wheel was wrapped in what felt like high-quality leather, and the car included cruise and Bluetooth controls in button form on the wheel. Audio controls were located on rockers behind the 9 and 3 o’clock positions on the wheel spokes.

Fiat changed the gauge cluster since the last time I drove a 500. The cluster is a thin film transistor (TFT) screen with a digital readout of all the important information. Gone is the analog gauge that Fiat owners either loved or hated, with its counter-rotating speedometer and tachometer.


2017 Fiat 500C - Driven - image 737218

2017 Fiat 500C - Driven - image 737215
“My tester was equipped with Beats Audio, supposedly better than the Alpine-supplied standard fare, at an option price of $695”

Also present in the test car was the now-standard Uconnect 5.0-inch infotainment system in the dash, which is much nicer to use than the single-DIN head unit I’ve experienced in other Fiat 500s I’ve driven in the past. Uconnect remains one of the easiest-to-use infotainment systems in cars today, though the test car lacked Android Auto or Apple CarPlay capability — something that is supposed to be coming to Uconnect systems in the very near future.

My tester was equipped with Beats Audio, supposedly better than the Alpine-supplied standard fare, at an option price of $695. Also included was navigation and a year of SiriusXM satellite radio for another $695.

My family of four had a great deal of fun driving the Fiat 500C — not least because of the shocked faces people made when they saw all four of us pile out of the tiny car. I was able to squeeze a rear-facing baby seat in the back row, as long as the passenger front seat was all the way forward. This didn’t leave much room for my wife, but it was doable. A forward-facing child seat fits easily.


2017 Fiat 500C - Driven - image 737206
“Fiat says there’s just 5.4 cubic feet of luggage space in the 500C.”

Fiat says there’s 31.7 inches of legroom and 36.8 inches of headroom for backseat occupants. Up front, those numbers increase to 40.7 and 38.6 inches, respectively. For front-seat occupants, it’s got a nice seat height that is not at all low-slung. Some have described it as “driving a barstool,” but I didn’t feel like I was sitting quite that high in the 500C.

Now, I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but you can, in fact, carry four people in the little Fiat 500. You don’t need to fear family-ferrying in a Fiat unless you’re a family of more than four people — or unless you need cargo space. Fiat says there’s just 5.4 cubic feet of luggage space in the 500C. If you opt for the regular hatchback model, that increases to 9.5 cubic feet. One cool thing about the 500C model was that I could lay the rear seats down, open the roof, and have easy access to load or unload cargo.

The Drive


2017 Fiat 500C - Driven - image 737205
“With just 101 horsepower on-tap from the 1.4-liter MultiAir naturally aspirated engine, the 2017 Fiat 500C isn’t going to win any drag races”

With just 101 horsepower on-tap from the 1.4-liter MultiAir naturally aspirated engine, the 2017 Fiat 500C isn’t going to win any drag races. It’s plenty capable of getting out of its own way, however. If you want to go faster than a Fiat 500 will go, you’re probably breaking the speed limit anyway.

What I like about the Fiat 500C is its combination of value price and solid on-road feel. The little MultiAir four-cylinder engine is a little raspy on startup and displays character missing from similarly low-powered engines from Nissan, Toyota, and Honda. The steering provides more feedback than any of the subcompact players in its price range. The brakes — four-wheel discs, by the way — feel great. In all but horsepower, this is a “driver’s car.”


2017 Fiat 500C - Driven - image 737239

2017 Fiat 500C - Driven - image 737243
“In daily driving, the short wheelbase means the 500C changes directions quickly”

The Fiat 500C is tall, which makes for a surprising amount of interior space but a not-particularly-sporty stance. However, in daily driving, the short wheelbase means the 500C changes directions quickly. Combined with its steering and brakes that are more communicative than anything in its price range, the Fiat 500 induces plenty of smiles when pushed down your favorite twisty country road.

My only nitpick with the test car: It was equipped with the optional (add $995) six-speed automatic transmission. I would rather have the available five-speed manual transmission. The automatic was not slow to react to throttle inputs or anything like that, but it did reduce my level of engagement when driving the car around town. It also reduces fuel economy from an EPA-estimated 40 MPG highway to 33 MPG highway. My fuel economy, with more than 500 miles of driving and a lot of 80-MPH interstate cruising, came in at 31 MPG.


2017 Fiat 500C - Driven - image 737248
“I loved the open top driving experience with the 500C, and it proved itself perfectly water-tight during an absolute deluge as I drove the streets and interstates of Knoxville, TN”

Some folks might not like calling this car a “cabriolet” because its top doesn’t fully disappear. Even with the top stowed in its open position, the side rails of the roof remain in place. This helps maintain chassis rigidity and surely keeps the cost of entry low for the 500C.

Regardless, I loved the open top driving experience with the 500C, and it proved itself perfectly water-tight during an absolute deluge as I drove the streets and interstates of Knoxville, TN. I did wish rearward visibility was better and cargo capacity wasn’t so impacted when the roof was open, however.

The Competition

Open-top motoring in this size category is hard to come by, particularly if you don’t want to spend a pretty penny.

Mini Cooper Convertible


2016 Mini Cooper Convertible - image 652606
“Those wanting a slightly more upscale driving experience will probably favor the Mini Cooper Convertible”

Mini has long been in Fiat’s crosshairs in America, and for good reason: Both companies have a similar design aesthetic, with cars that harken back to iconic designs of the postwar era. Fiat holds the title of value champion in the tiny convertible segment, where a $26,700 Mini Cooper Convertible has a starting price some $10,000 higher than the Fiat 500C.

The Mini’s BMW TwinPower 1.5-liter turbo three-cylinder engine is more advanced than Fiat’s MultiAir naturally aspirated 1.4-liter four-banger, and it makes more power (134 horsepower vs. the Fiat’s 101). The noticeable difference for most drivers won’t be horsepower, but torque, where the Cooper Convertible puts down 162 pound-feet at a diesel-like 1,250 RPM. The little Fiat makes a comparatively limp-wristed 97 pound-feet at 4,000 RPM.

Mini has the edge on Fiat where luxury interior features are concerned, as well. But the Fiat edges it out on legroom and headroom, and the it is a couple hundred pounds lighter, as well. I prefer Fiat’s Uconnect infotainment experience to Mini’s, which shares some DNA with BMW iDrive.

Those wanting a slightly more upscale driving experience will probably favor the Mini Cooper Convertible. Those who want fun on-the-cheap will lean toward the 500C.

Read our full review on the 2016 Mini Cooper Convertible.

Volkswagen Beetle Convertible


2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible 1.8T - Driven - image 599665
“The Beetle’s nostalgia factor is high for many American buyers”

Volkswagen’s Beetle Convertible aims at the same buyer demographic as the Fiat 500C and the Mini Cooper Convertible. If you like timeless design, it’s hard to look away from the latest generation of the Beetle.

The 2017 Beetle has a displacement advantage on both of the above competitors, with its 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. That results in impressive numbers: 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The 2018 Beetle went bigger still, with a 2.0-liter turbo engine that makes just a few more horsepower.

The Beetle is quite a bit larger than the Fiat 500C and Mini Cooper Convertible, with a wheelbase of 100 inches and an overall length of 168.4 inches. It’s also quite a bit wider, at 71.2 inches. Finally, it’s fatter than either of the above, with a curb weight of 3,208 lbs. The result is a car that doesn’t feel as quick to react to driver inputs. Also of importance to driving enthusiasts: There is no manual transmission available in a Beetle convertible anymore, while Fiat and Mini still allow the shift-it-yourself option.

Coincidentally, the Beetle’s extra girth does not result in notable added interior space. There’s 41.3 inches of legroom up front and 31.4 inches of legroom in the rear, with just 7.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats. That’s awfully close to the Fiat 500C.

The Beetle’s nostalgia factor is high for many American buyers. Whether shoppers of small non-sports car convertibles think it’s worth VW’s base asking price of $25,440 is the question.

Read our full driven review on the 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible.

Smart fortwo Passion Cabrio


2017 Smart Fortwo Cabriolet - image 643450
“Unless your daily routine involves extremely tight parking predicaments, however, the Fiat is the far more practical daily driver.”

The smart fortwo Passion Cabrio is the odd duck here because it only has seating for two, while every other model compared here will carry four. But unlike the Mini Cooper Convertible and the Volkswagen Beetle Convertible, the fortwo Passion Cabrio is actually somewhat price-competitive with the Fiat 500C. It has a starting price of $18,900.

Like the 500C, the fortwo Passion Cabrio roof retracts sort of like a huge sunroof. But unlike the 500C, the side rails of the Passion Cabrio can be removed and stowed in the smart’s minuscule cargo area, making the car somewhat of a targa-top.

The tiny smart has the edge on even the Fiat 500C where maneuverability is concerned because it is ultra-tiny. It has a wheelbase of 73.7 inches and an overall length of 106.1 inches. The Fiat actually out-muscles the smart’s 898-cc inline three-cylinder engine, which makes just 89 horsepower. However, the smart out-torques the Fiat with 100 pound-feet at 2,500 RPM. It also weighs less than the lithe Fiat, at just 2,150 lbs with the automatic transmission.

Unless your daily routine involves extremely tight parking predicaments, however, the Fiat is the far more practical daily driver. The smart fortwo Passion Cabrio has no extra cargo space beyond the 7.3 cubic feet behind its seats, unless you want to stack cargo in the passenger seat next to you. Those who shift for themselves will also find the Fiat gets better fuel economy despite its added size and weight, with the smart clocking in at 38 MPG highway with its available five-speed manual transmission.

It’s hard to make a case for the smart for all but the most space-constrained environments, based on its price premium and its compromised interior cargo space. Coincidentally, smart announced it will no longer sell a gasoline-powered car in America. All smarts sold new to American consumers from model year 2018-on will be electric-powered.

Read our full review on the 2017 Smart ForTwo Cabrio.

Conclusion


2017 Fiat 500C - Driven - image 737249
“The little Fiat 500C gave me about 75% of the joy I got driving its sportier, more expensive sister, the Fiat 124 Spider”

Even though I live in a rural area, where tiny cars like the Fiat 500 are more curiosity than commonplace, I have fallen in love with every iteration of the 500 I have reviewed since 2013. The tiny cars are full of character, and they’re fun to drive.

The little Fiat 500C gave me about 75% of the joy I got driving its sportier, more expensive sister, the Fiat 124 Spider. With the top down and the music up, I had a big, stupid grin on my face doing utterly mundane things like driving to work or stopping at the grocery store to get a gallon of milk on the way home.

No, it wasn’t as fast as the 124 Spider. It lacked a lot that car’s handling prowess in the twisties, as well. But it gave me joy in a way that a similarly priced Nissan Versa Note or Honda Fit could not. Those cars would have more room for passengers and cargo, but the trade-off is numb steering, sloppy transmissions, and uninspiring suspensions.

The Fiat 500C, like all Fiat 500s I have driven, practically begged to be driven hard. I hesitate to say “driven in anger,” because I find it practically impossible to be angry in a Fiat 500. But the more aggressively I drove the little Fiat 500C, the more it seemed to enjoy it.

Che bella!

Disclosure: Fiat provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of fuel for this review.

References

Fiat 500


2015 Fiat 500 - image 547933

Read our full review on the 2017 Fiat 500.


2017 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso - Driven - image 710024

Read more Fiat news.

PostHeaderIcon Hyundai Accent

First introduced in 1994 as a replacement for the Hyundai Excel, the Accent has seen a total of four previous generations, selling under a variety of names across several markets worldwide. Also known as the Verna in India and China, the Solaris in Russia, and the Grand Avega in Indonesia, among other names, the Accent has always been a staple of the subcompact segment, offering both a sedan and hatchback body style. Measured against its peers, the Accent is known for offering solid features and a smooth, comfortable ride, as well as slick styling on later model years. Now, the Accent just broke cover at the Orange County International Auto Show, entering its fifth generation. With the changeover, Hyundai says it focused on sharpening the design and aesthetic, upgrading the technology for entertainment and safety purposes, increasing the efficiency of the powertrain, lowering NVH levels, and a increasing driver engagement.

Essentially, Hyundai hopes to improve the Accent in just about every way possible with this latest refresh. And with a plethora of competing models waiting to go head-to-head with Hyundai, it makes sense that the South Korean brand wants to bring it’s A-game. Read on for the details on what that entails.

Continue reading to learn more about the 2018 Hyundai Accent.

Exterior


2018 Hyundai Accent - image 735552
“The Hyundai is a breath of fresh air. It definitely takes a more premium approach to exterior styling, and that’s a very nice thing to see in this segment.”

For starters, any generation changeover must naturally bring with it a new styling update, and the new Hyundai Accent is no exception. As such, the South Korean brand gave the subcompact a new aesthetic, and long story short, we think it looks great. At first glance, the new Accent looks a whole lot classier than many of its subcompact competitors, namely thanks to sharp edges, crisp lines, and proportions that give it the appearance that it’s actually larger than it really is.

While most subcompacts get bulbous, rounded styling elements (the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris both readily come to mind), the Hyundai is a breath of fresh air. It definitely takes a more premium approach to exterior styling, and that’s a very nice thing to see in this segment.


2018 Hyundai Accent - image 735581

2018 Hyundai Accent - image 735584
“The grille is part of an X-shaped design scheme, which also incorporates wraparound headlight housings offered with available LED daytime running lights”

Taking a walk around the car, we find a new fascia that adds a larger Cascading grille design. This plus-sized intake is fitted with a multitude of horizontal slates that add to the car’s visual width, while also recalling similar front-end designs utilized by the luxury German brand Audi. The grille is part of an X-shaped design scheme, which also incorporates wraparound headlight housings offered with available LED daytime running lights. Chrome surrounds are used throughout, while fog lights are mounted in the corners of the bumper.

Moving to the flanks, we find the Accent equipped with large 17-inch wheels. These look great in the wheel wells, and come wrapped in low-profile tires that once again make the Accent appear even more high-end. More chrome trim was added to the window line, plus the door handles as well. A lower character line is formed by an indentation just above the side skirts, while LEDs are used for the turn signals mounted into side-view mirrors.

Further towards the rear, the tail gets equipped with a wraparound design for the taillight housings. These V-shaped housings lead the eye into the trunk with checkmark graphics, while the trunk gets a rounded lip that extends the line for a spoiler-like effect. The lower trim gets a matte black finish, while options once again include LED lighting elements for the taillights.


2012 - 2015 Hyundai Accent - image 577037

2018 Hyundai Accent - image 735552

Note: The new fifth-generation Hyundai Accent (pictured right) offers a big aesthetic improvement over the outgoing fourth-generation model (pictured left).

Not only does it look good, but Hyundai also managed to improve the aerodynamics of the vehicle. The more slippery shape is a result of a new front lip spoiler and a lowered ride height, both of which contribute to a drag coefficient of 0.28. To put that in perspective, the aero-obsessed, fuel-sipping Toyota Prius gets a comparable Cd of 0.25.

Finally, the new Hyundai Accent is larger than before, adding roughly 1.2 inches to the overall width, plus an extra 0.6 inches to the length and an extra 0.4 inches to the wheelbase. The car is set at the same height as before.

Exterior Dimensions

2017 Accent Change 2018 Accent
Overall Length (in.) 172.0 +0.6 172.6
Overall Width (in.) 66.9 +1.2 68.1
Overall Height (in.) 57.1 57.1
Wheelbase (in.) 101.2 +0.4 101.6

Competing Exterior Design


2015 Toyota Yaris - image 561645

2017 Ford Fiesta - image 697335

Note: Toyota Yaris pictured on the left, Ford Fiesta pictured on the right.

The Toyota Yaris is another popular subcompact, and for good reason. Offered as a five-door hatchback, the Yaris is definitely a very practical option in this segment. Outside, higher trim levels come equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels, while the large front grille sit between sharp headlights. The profile reveals just how bulbous the car is, and while we think the Accent is the better-looking option, some could consider the rounded Yaris to be kind of cute.

The next competitor we’ve got lined up is the Ford Fiesta, which arrives in the 2017 model year boasting some equally sharp new bodylines. Compared to the rather elegant-looking Accent, the Fiesta is definitely much more sporty looking. The front end gets a hexagonal intake and pointed, drawn-back headlight housings. Higher-end models get a solid dose of WRC-inspired pieces as well.

So basically, it breaks down like this – the Yaris is cute, the Fiesta is sporty, and the Accent is elegant. Sounds simple enough.

Interior


2018 Hyundai Accent - image 735560
“The Accent gets a driver-oriented layout for the interior, plus a wide instrument panel and horizontal design scheme for the controls”

As is often the case with the subcompact segment, interior space can be at a premium, but the new Accent addresses that concern with extra passenger volume going into the 2018 model year. A lot of it comes down to the increase in exterior dimensions, with the extra length, width, and wheelbase all contributing to more space inside. Total passenger volume was increased to 103.9 cubic feet, which, Hyundai points out, makes the Accent more of a compact rather than a sub-compact vehicle, and beating out competitors like the Toyota Yaris and Ford Fiesta in the process.

In terms of looks and layout, the Accent gets a driver-oriented layout for the interior, plus a wide instrument panel and horizontal design scheme for the controls. There’s also a 60/40 split for the rear bench that ups the convenience and practicality of the vehicle.


2018 Hyundai Accent - image 735590

2018 Hyundai Accent - image 735591
“To complement the premium exterior appearance, the interior of the Accent gets a few very nice features, including additional soft-touch materials added here and there, plus a standard backup camera.”

To complement the premium exterior appearance, the interior of the Accent gets a few very nice features. These include additional soft-touch materials added here and there, plus a standard backup camera. There’s also an available heating function for the front seats. Further chassis improvements help to iron out noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH), while a push-button starter and a proximity key system add extra convenience as well.

As is customary in any next-gen vehicle these days, upgraded infotainment was also a major concern for the Accent. Standard spec throws in a 5.0-inch display in the center dash, although a 7.0-inch unit is also offered. Both use a TFT LCD configuration for the screen. Go for the larger 7.0-inch screen, and you get support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which means all the usual good stuff you’d expect (app support, navigation, calling, etc.). There are also dual USB chargers, plus niceties like an auxiliary input jack and optional SiriusXM radio.


2018 Hyundai Accent - image 735564
“Further tech features include the Hyundai Blue Link Remote Start system, which will essentially integrate with Amazon Alexa and Google Home for voice command from within the home.”

Further tech features include the Hyundai Blue Link Remote Start system, which will essentially integrate with Amazon Alexa and Google Home for voice command from within the home. Basically, the system allows you to tell your digital assistant to start the car and set the climate control at a certain temperature. Remote start is useful in that it’ll pre-condition the cabin through the car’s climate control system, a feature that’s particularly well-suited to those living in a hot or cold climate. If it’s cold weather that you must deal with, the system also tosses in a rear defroster and heated side mirror function with the remote heating feature.

Moving on to safety improvements, the 2018 Hyundai Accent gets new front side members and inner side sills, both of which help add extra layers of collision protection. There’s also larger front crumple zones, a new set of front side airbags, and greater small overlap crash performance. The Accent comes standard with six airbags, ESC, Vehicle Stability Management, Traction Control, and ABS.

Finally, the Accent is also offered with new safety technology, such as Forward Collision-avoidance Assist that utilizes a new front radar system. If an obstacle is detected and the driver does not respond, the system will engage an emergency braking feature to either stop short or lessen an impact.

Interior Volume (cu. ft.) 2018 Accent 2017 Fiesta 2017 Yaris iA
Passenger 90.2 85.1 85.9
Cargo 13.7 12.8 13.5
Total 103.9 97.9 99.4

Competing Cabins


2015 Toyota Yaris - image 561652

2017 Ford Fiesta - image 699487

Note: Toyota Yaris pictured on the left, Ford Fiesta pictured on the right.

Inside the Toyota Yaris, there are lots of grey, soft touch plastics, while the dash rises above the central tunnel without much in terms of a central console. A screen is placed front and center above rotary knobs for the climate control, while a grippy steering wheel with large side bolsters is in front of the hot seat. We like the feel of it, but think there is still something to be desired in terms of ergonomics. For example, there are not enough cup holders, and the cup holders that are there are a bit too small. Furthermore, the touchscreen is a tad slow in reacting to inputs. On the practicality side of things, the hatchback does offer tons of space.

Up next is the Ford Fiesta, which recently got a significant overhaul inside the cabin with the latest model year changeover. And that’s a good thing, as previous models were definitely less than desirable when it came to interior appointment. Space was also increased, although larger individuals will still struggle to find comfort when sitting on the rear bench. A 6.5-inch screen is standard and an 8.0-inch screen is optional, both of which mount to the top of the dash in a floating, tablet style. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and the onboard Bluetooth connection provide smartphone support.

In terms of look and layout, we’d probably go for the Ford Fiesta, especially when talking about the higher trim levels. The other two are nice, but Ford really seems like it did its homework with the latest refresh.

Drivetrain


2018 Hyundai Accent - image 735577
“The engine spec is a 1.6-liter Gamma four-cylinder engine with GDI, which makes as much as 130 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque”

Making the Accent move into 2018 is a few nice upgrades to the engine and drivetrain. Understandably, the big focus was on increasing overall efficiency, which means the improvements include low-friction piston rings, a variable fuel pressure module, and new engine software tuning. The upgraded chassis also helps with mileage thanks to a lower curb weight. The result is fuel efficiency sees a 7-percent bump.

The engine spec is a 1.6-liter Gamma four-cylinder engine with GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection), which makes as much as 130 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque. The new lump gets a broader power band when compared to the outgoing model, with more low end torque overall. And that’s great for around-town scooting, especially when it’s combined with greater overall fuel efficiency.


2018 Hyundai Accent - image 735578
“The new lump gets a broader power band when compared to the outgoing model, with more low end torque overall. And that’s great for around-town scooting.”

The 1.6-liter can be matched with either a six-speed manual transmission or a seven-speed automatic. The auto box gets a 4-pound weight reduction compared to the previous unit, which isn’t much, but helps when combined with other weight savings made elsewhere. The automatic transmission also provides a couple of drive modes, including Normal and Sport. Switching between these adjusts the settings for the powertrain and steering, and can be adjusted via a button in the center console.

Competing Drivetrains


2017 Ford Fiesta - image 699510

Providing motivation in the Toyota Yaris is a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. With natural aspiration, output is rated at a relatively humble 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque. Routing it to the front axle is either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. And while those peak numbers aren’t all that impressive, the car’s low curb weight means its still pretty interesting to drive, especially with max power hitting at a lofty 6,000 rpm. The Yaris is efficient too, posting mileage figures of 30 mpg in the city, 36 mpg on the highway, and 32 mpg combined.

By contrast, the Ford Fiesta offers a bit more excitement under the hood thanks to a turbocharged three-cylinder engine making as much as 123 horsepower. The base model makes a decent 120 horsepower from four cylinders. Making the cog swaps is a five-speed manual transmission as standard, although a six-speed dual-clutch automatic is also on the table. And for those living overseas, a variety of diesel powerplants are also on the table.

Against competition like this, the Accent is looking the more muscle bound option, while the Yaris is the way to go if efficiency is a major concern.

Chassis And Handling


2018 Hyundai Accent - image 735582
“More High Strength Steel leads to an improvement to the car’s torsional rigidity, with a 32-percent increase in twist resist overall.”

For the 2018 model year, Hyundai updated the Accent’s chassis, incorporating a good deal more of the brand’s Advanced High Strength Steel in the construction. Specs include up to 54.5 percent of the chassis using the stuff, which is an increase of 13 percent compared to the previous generation.

This result is an improvement to the car’s torsional rigidity, with a 32-percent increase in twist resist overall. This has the net result of making the Accent more interesting to drive, not to mention more comfortable as well. Further improvements were made to driving dynamics and comfort via suspension refinement, with a higher rear roll center and a higher leverage ratio for the rear shocks, plus steering enhancements as well. Hyundai says the standard Motor-Driven Power Steering will adjust to the given driving conditions, with sportier settings offered.

Competing Chassis And Handling


2015 Toyota Yaris - image 561651

2017 Ford Fiesta - image 703194

Note: Toyota Yaris pictured on the left, Ford Fiesta pictured on the right.

Like we mentioned before, we think the Toyota Yaris is a very entertaining car to drive. While it’s not exactly a head-snapping muscle machine, it does have the low weight and plucky suspension tuning we love so much in a hatchback. The steering and front end are communicative, and while it’ll wash out if pushed too hard, the Yaris is still a relatively decent choice if taking a winding back road.

The same can be said for the Ford Fiesta. The car will grip when asked, and the nose turns in if you aren’t totally ham fisted about it. And at a little over 2,500 pounds, there isn’t too much heft to shift around.

Prices


2018 Hyundai Accent - image 735583

2018 Hyundai Accent - image 735579

The 2018 Hyundai Accent is set to arrive in U.S. dealers in the fall of 2017. Hyundai didn’t give us any official pricing numbers, but it’s expected to slot in at pretty much the same spot as the current model. The current MSRP starts at $14,745.

Other Options

Kia Rio


2017 Kia Rio - image 686967

2017 Kia Rio - image 686964

Kia has been making pretty impressive strides as of late, and the Rio reflects that with updates across the board. The exterior looks great, with a tiger nose grille and LED lighting signatures, plus larger exterior dimensions. The interior is also a big improvement, and looks great with its floating touchscreen in the dash. The top-rated engine is a 1.4-liter four-cylinder which makes as much as 98 horsepower and 98 pound-feet of torque. Routed through a six-speed manual transmission, and the 0-to-60 mph sprint is done in 11.8 seconds.

Read our full review on the 2017 Kia Rio.

Honda Fit


2015 Honda Fit - image 719699

2015 Honda Fit - image 719700

The Honda Fit is another standard in this segment, and looks the part with a broad, rounded nose bookended by a pair of horizontal headlights. The interior is functional and big, and comes with an available 7.0-nch touchscreen. Leather upholstery is also on the table. Under the hood you’ll find a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which produces as much as 130 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual and a CVT route the power to front axle.

Read our full review on the 2017 Honda Fit..

Conclusion


2018 Hyundai Accent - image 735549

The strength of the 2018 Hyundai Accent lies in its ability to do most things well. It doesn’t really stand out in any one particular area, but rather, provides a good deal of interior space, lots of nice features both standard and optional, enough power to get by, and a good looking exterior style. It’s also well priced.

The only real criticism is that it’s a bit slow. Of course, that’s to be expected, even for a car that boasts previous competition duty in the World Rally Championship.
Regardless, if you’re looking for a solid little commuter, you could do worse than the Accent.

  • Leave it
    • Lots of competition
    • Pretty slow

References

Hyundai Accent


2012 - 2015 Hyundai Accent - image 577038

Read our full review on the previous generation Hyundai Accent.


2017 Hyundai Ioniq - Driven - image 733919

Read more Hyundai news.

PostHeaderIcon Volkswagen GLI – Driven

The Volkswagen GLI is kind of like the Volkswagen GTI hot hatch — only, no hatch. Instead of throwing a lot of go-quick goodies into a Golf, the VW skunkworks had its way with a Jetta. The result is a seriously fun compact sedan that won’t break the bank.

Just a few weeks ago, I drove the more pedestrian Volkswagen Jetta SE 1.4T with a five-speed manual transmission. The GLI I drove for this review was unfortunately an automatic, but in all other ways was quicker and more engaging to drive than its easygoing sibling — which is not to say I found the regular Jetta boring to drive. I might go so far as to say I preferred the Jetta 1.4T over most compact, front-wheel drive cars I have reviewed in recent years.

Among compact sedans with hotted-up chassis and engine components, the GLI might just make it 2-for-2 for Volkswagen.

Design Notes


2017 Volkswagen GLI - Driven - image 735273

Volkswagen has a history of trendsetting design. While some reviewers say the brand’s current lineup is too conservative or boring, I think time is going to be far kinder to VW’s current designs than those of some of its competitors. In other words, as I said in my review of the Jetta, I think VW has picked designs that will age gracefully.

“The GLI takes everything I liked about the Jetta and puts a little more attitude into it”

The GLI takes everything I liked about the Jetta and puts a little more attitude into it. Lower body moldings make the car appear lower and more aerodynamic. Tasteful red accents outside (GLI badges, grille opening, brake calipers) and inside (dashboard accent, steering wheel stitching, door trim pieces) make it clear to keen observers that this is no ordinary Jetta.


2017 Volkswagen GLI - Driven - image 735263

2017 Volkswagen GLI - Driven - image 735264

Up front, the GLI has some GTI styling cues. The fog lights are surrounded by aero strakes, and the grille openings are filled with honeycomb plastic instead of VW’s usual horizontal bar motif. From the side, the GLI has all of the elements that make the Jetta pleasing to the eye, with additional ground-effects that make it look more speedy. At the rear, a subtle trunk lip spoiler, dual exhaust tips, and a small GLI badge tip off educated viewers to its performance credentials.

Bridgestone Potenza 225/40R18 Y-rated directional performance tires might also communicate the GLI’s intentions, for folks who take notice of things like that.

Interior Notes


2017 Volkswagen GLI - Driven - image 735261

The 2017 Volkswagen GLI takes everything I liked about the Jetta SE and dials it up with slightly nicer trim and finishes. There was soft-touch injection-molded plastic in several places where the cheaper Jetta SE had hard-touch, scratchy plastics. The V-Tex leatherette seats were accented with sporty red stitching. In some places where the Jetta SE had piano black plastic trim, the GLI had metal trim — most notably, the bottom spokes of the steering wheel, which itself was laced with red stitching.

“Controls are simple and purposeful, and the design of the interior doesn’t try to distract the driver”

Everything else is a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The Jetta remains roomy inside, with 41 inches of legroom for front occupants and 38 inches for rear passengers. Controls are simple and purposeful, and the design of the interior doesn’t try to distract the driver — something that should be a priority for anyone claiming to build a “driver’s car.”


2017 Volkswagen GLI - Driven - image 735249

2017 Volkswagen GLI - Driven - image 735254

If you’re like me, with two small kids to tote around in the back seat, you’ll appreciate the space the GLI offers for wee ones who are still traveling in car seats. Think of it as a GTI with more room in the back seat. The trunk is pretty huge too, at 15.7 cubic feet — plenty for toting travel supplies for the wee ones and a week’s worth of groceries at the same time.

Powertrain Notes


2017 Volkswagen GLI - Driven - image 735248

Sporting the 2.0-liter TSI turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine from the GTI, the 2017 VW GLI is making about 60 more horses than that 1.4-liter turbo in the Jetta SE I tested earlier. Output is listed at 210 horsepower at 5,300 RPM (on premium fuel) and 207 pound-feet of torque at just 1,700 RPM.

“Shifts were crisp when accelerating briskly”

In my test car, this smooth, torque-happy engine was paired with VW’s six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. Shifts were crisp when accelerating briskly — which I did, a lot. But the transmission also proved smooth as silk during run-of-the-mill commuting while hauling the kids to school or doing the weekly grocery run. Admirably, there was no noticeable shuddering or clutch-slip feeling at low speeds — a problem that affects some dual-clutch automatics, in my experience.

A six-speed manual transmission is available, and to be honest, I would have preferred that. A car with the great engine and chassis of the GLI begs for it. I’m not saying the DSG was bad. It’s just not got enough pedals for me.

“The car uses VW’s XDS brake-based system that will selectively apply a little brake pressure to the inside wheels in a turn as weight transfers off of them”

Volkswagen does not include a true limited-slip differential in the GLI, but the car uses VW’s XDS brake-based system that will selectively apply a little brake pressure to the inside wheels in a turn as weight transfers off of them. This feels a little like a limited-slip diff to those of us driving well below the chassis’ limits on public roads, but would probably show its shortcomings on a track when compared to a true limited-slip or locking differential, where you want to save your brakes for, you know, braking.

The Drive


2017 Volkswagen GLI - Driven - image 735277

The Volkswagen GLI is a little heavier, with a little longer wheelbase than its GTI cousin, but the powertrain and VW’s excellent chassis tuning make it a lot of fun in the twisty stuff.

“The Volkswagen GLI is a little heavier, with a little longer wheelbase than its GTI cousin”

Steering feel is a notch above the already-excellent feel offered in the Jetta SE I drove previously, with a little more heft and feedback. However, the car will break traction a bit on the inside front wheel when cornering hard and hitting the gas with aggression. With traction control switched off, the steering wheel will fight you a little if you mat the skinny pedal. But for the majority of my spirited backroad driving, the GLI remained a courteous dance partner.

“Those 210 horses are ready to gallop at a moment’s notice”

When I had my wife and kids in the car, no one complained about a harsh ride or road noise. That can be a challenge for hotted-up family sedans, in my experience. It’s all the more laudable because of those 225/40R18 Bridgestone Potenzas.

Acceleration and braking were, of course, excellent. Those 210 horses are ready to gallop at a moment’s notice. They put a grin on my face a lot during the test week.

The Competition

Nissan Sentra NISMO


2017 Nissan Sentra NISMO - image 695518

2017 Nissan Sentra NISMO - image 695524

Nissan decided to get into the hot compact sedan game with two models in the last year: First, the Nissan Sentra SR Turbo, which gave the Sentra the 188-horsepower turbocharged heart of the Nissan Juke along with some suspension and chassis tweaks to stiffen the car. Then they tweaked the suspension tuning and chassis bracing a bit more to give us the Sentra NISMO.

The NISMO’s primary differentiating factor from its SR Turbo sister is its borderline tacky body trim. If the folks in Yokohama really wanted to compete with the GLI, they should have given the Juke engine the same 215-horsepower tune found in the Juke NISMO RS. As it is, the GLI is much, much more powerful both by the numbers and by the seat of your pants. Let’s not even talk about the Xtronic CVT in the Sentra NISMO. It can’t hold a candle to the driving feel offered by the DSG automatic in the GLI, for those who choose shiftlessness.

“If the folks in Yokohama really wanted to compete with the GLI, they should have given the Juke engine the same 215-horsepower tune found in the Juke NISMO RS”

There are good things to note about the Sentra NISMO. Alcantara NISMO sport seats are excellent, and Alcantara on the steering wheel feels great. Like the GLI, backseat legroom is prodigious, and the trunk is cavernous. It’s a good choice for those who have a family but don’t want to drive one of the many numb, uninspiring entries in the compact or midsize sedan segments.

The primary advantage the Sentra NISMO holds over the GLI may be real-world transaction prices. Nissan has always prided itself on offering a strong value quotient, and the Sentra NISMO is no exception. A base Sentra NISMO starts at $24,990, which undercuts the base GLI by nearly $3,000 before dealer discounts. Usually, it will be easier to get a Nissan dealer to discount the Sentra NISMO than it will be to get a VW dealer to discount the GLI.

It bears mentioning the GLI has more standard equipment, including Android Auto/Apple CarPlay compatibility that is not available in the Sentra NISMO at any price.

Read our full review on the Nissan Sentra NISMO.

Hyundai Elantra Sport


2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport - image 682259

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport - image 682244

The Hyundai Elantra Sport is Korea’s take on a hot compact sedan. Its 201-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged engine is plenty strong, but lacks the GLI’s refinement. The Hyundai’s engine sounds thrashy and unpleasant at higher revs.

“Where VW’s DSG is silky smooth at all speeds, the Elantra Sport’s transmission exhibits plenty of clutch-slip at low speeds”

Hyundai falls short on its dual-clutch automated manual gearbox, too. Where VW’s DSG is silky smooth at all speeds, the Elantra Sport’s transmission exhibits plenty of clutch-slip at low speeds. I noticed that a lot when parking or backing the Elantra Sport, making parking lots and parallel street-parking spaces a chore.

The Elantra Sport also tended to plow into turns more than the GLI, and its ride was harsher. All in all, it felt like a good effort, but lacked the polish of the VW GLI.

Where Hyundai beats VW is, of course, warranty. The Elantra Sport gets a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty just like all Hyundais. Hyundai also offers real leather, if VW’s V-Tex leatherette bothers you.

Hyundai also beats VW and even value-oriented Nissan on pricing, with Elantra Sport ringing in at $21,800 for a well-equipped base model. While it’s a little less rambunctious than either car, it’s also a lot cheaper.

Read our full review on the Hyundai Elantra Sport.

Ford Focus ST


2015 Ford Focus ST - image 696645

2015 Ford Focus ST - image 696626

The hottest competitor in this race may be Ford, whose Focus comes in both ST and RS flavors. The RS really is a trackable car, ready to take to the autocross or your local track day at the weekend. But the ST is the livable, street performance car — and it’s putting down a lot more power than the VW GLI, at 252 horses and 270 pound-feet of torque.

The caveat: Ford only offers the Focus ST in hatchback form, so it’s kind of the oddball in terms of styling, among this group. But in all other ways, it’s clearly aiming for the GLI and its cohort — right down to its starting price of $24,775.

“Its legroom is a far cry from the GLI, at just 33.2 inches in the rear seat.”

What may hurt the Focus is its tight interior confines. Its legroom is a far cry from the GLI, at just 33.2 inches in the rear seat. So if your passengers are on the taller side, your front-seat room may be compromised.

If passengers aren’t a priority, however, the Focus ST offers decent cargo space — with 23.3 cubic feet behind the second row, and 43.9 cubic feet behind the first row with the back seats folded. It would be a fun way to get to band practice.

Read our full review on the Ford Focus ST.

Conclusion


2017 Volkswagen GLI - Driven - image 735271

I’m the perfect candidate for these cars. I’m married, I’m past the age where insurance would kill me if I owned a “performance” car, and I have two fast-growing kids. But I don’t want to get a fun car only to have to feed it copious amounts of unleaded. These relatively fuel-efficient cars with warmed-up powertrains and nice handling offer a good combo of practicality and driving engagement that hits me right in the bullseye.

“The GLI made a strong play for my emotions”

The GLI made a strong play for my emotions. It returned just shy of 30 MPG even though I drove it pretty hard and did a lot of idling during photos. It made me happy just to drive my kids to school and do random errands for the family. Need milk? Sure! No problem! I’ll drive to the next town — it’s cheaper there!

I admit, I’m a Nissan fanboy, and the Sentra NISMO makes me swoon a little, even though I’m not crazy about the boy-racer body trim. But the fact that Nissan could have easily tuned the engine for GLI-competitive power frustrates me as an enthusiast.

I’ve also owned Fords, so I have a soft spot for the Focus ST. But There’s so much I don’t like about the Focus. I feel like it’s a compromised choice, for me. The interior feels too claustrophobic. I detest Ford’s distraction-filled interior design, too.

The Hyundai Elantra Sport doesn’t do much to stir my blood compared to the GLI, Sentra NISMO, and the Focus ST, but I admire its warranty and value.

“I place the GLI at the top of the segment”

I place the GLI at the top of the segment. Its combination of refinement and user-friendliness is unmatched, even if the Focus ST is faster, the Sentra NISMO is flashier to look at, and the Elantra Sport has a longer powertrain warranty and cheaper price.

Disclosure: Volkswagen provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of fuel for this review.

References

Volkswagen Jetta


2017 Volkswagen Jetta SE - Driven - image 729227

Read our full driven review on the 2017 Volkswagen Jetta SE 1.4T


2015 Volkswagen Jetta - image 548759

Read our full review on the Volkswagen Jetta.


2017 Volkswagen Passat R-Line – Driven - image 733568

Read more Volkswagen news.

PostHeaderIcon Seat Ibiza

First put into production in 1984, the Ibiza is one of Seat’s most successful models. In the 33 years it’s been on the market, the Spanish automaker has managed to move as many as 5.4 million examples of the Ibiza. That’s an impressive number, with a total of four generations coming and going over the years. Now, there’s a new fifth generation, which saw a debut earlier this year at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show following a reveal at the island that provided the car’s namesake, Ibiza, off the eastern coast of Spain. This refreshed entry in the supermini segment sees improvements across the board and was created in order to offer customers higher levels of safety, a fresh aesthetic, greater performance, and more comfort as well. Both gas and diesel powerplants are available, while a seven-speed automatic transmission and the latest smartphone support are on the table as well. Under the skin is a brand new platform, courtesy of Seat’s parent company, Volkswagen Auto Group.

Of course, as one of Seat’s most popular models, the trick is to add to what’s already there without taking away anything from the outgoing model. As such, the question is this – does the new Ibiza have the same spark as the old? Read on to find out.

Continue reading to learn more about the 2017 Seat Ibiza.

Exterior


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 703971

Seat is offering the Ibiza exclusively in a five-door body style, but says the exterior design was created in order to mimic that of a sportier three-door, as well as offer “an edgier, sportier design, featuring more sculpted, accentuated and streamlined surfaces.”

Overall, we think the brand succeeded in that regard. Looks good, no?

“Seat is offering the Ibiza exclusively in a five-door body style, but says the exterior design was created in order to mimic that of a sportier three-door.”

In front, we find two prominent character lines drawn across the hood, adding some visual beef to the front end. The fascia utilizes an x-shaped design, with lots of angles throughout. The profile reveals short overhangs in front and back, plus additional character lines that enhance the car’s natural forward lean. We really like the shoulder line and lower character line, as both lead the eye rearwards and into the rear fenders. Further into the tail, we find the taillights wrap around into the flanks. The tail also incorporates similar triangular designs for the taillight housings, mirroring the front end once again with an x-shaped design layout.

Further design elements are offered as unique bits per trim level. These include sportier elements (blacked-out trim, etc.), or a more premium appearance (chrome trim, etc.). Wheel sizing up to 18 inches, with two different colors to choose from.


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 709561

2017 Seat Ibiza - image 709558
“Further design elements are offered as unique bits per trim level. These include sportier elements with blacked-out trim, or a more premium appearance with chrome trim.”

The new-generation Ibiza also gets revisions to the exterior dimensions. These include a wider body, with as much as 87 mm (3.4 inches) added. Meanwhile, the overall length was slightly decreased, losing just 2 mm (0.08 inches), plus there was 1-mm reduction to the vehicle height as well. Under the body panels, you’ll find the track was increased by 60 mm (2.4 inches) in front and 48 mm (1.9 inches) in the rear. Wheelbase is now measured at 2,564 mm (100.9 inches), which is 95 mm (3.7 inches more than the previous generation.


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 703973
“The new-generation Ibiza also gets revisions to the exterior dimensions.”

These new dimensions and the overall styling changed are meant to give the car a “powerful image of a car that hugs the ground.”

Finally, the new Ibiza gets full LED lighting for the headlights, indicators, and rear fog lights, plus the traditional triangular housings and daytime running light graphics.

Exterior Dimensions

Wheelbase (Inches) 100.9
Length (Inches) 159.8
Width (Inches) 70.07
Height (Inches) 56.85

Interior


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 703976

Step into the cabin of the Seat Ibiza, and you’re met with a somewhat simplified, yet elegant interior layout. The overarching design scheme draws similarities to the Leon and Ateca, but with “more tension, more technical and precise lines and lighter proportions”

Updates for the generation include new materials for a heightened sense of premium feel, as well as an emphasis on horizontal lines. The layout is driver-focused, with the various controls on the center console angled towards the hot seat.

“Updates for the generation include new materials for a heightened sense of premium feel, as well as an emphasis on horizontal lines”

A variety of customization options are offered, while a new Air Car filter handles the interior circulating air.

What’s more, the Seat Ibiza now offers a larger, roomier interior, mostly thanks to the new exterior dimensions previously discussed. For example, rear legroom saw a bump of 35 mm (1.4 inches), while there is 24 mm (0.9 inches) of extra headroom in front and 17 mm (0.6 inches) of extra headroom in the rear. The seats are now 42 mm (1.7 inches) wider as well. Cargo space saw an increase of 63 liters (2.2 cubic feet), up to a total of 355 liters (12.5 cubic feet), a figure Seat claims as best in class. Complementing the extra rear room is a lower load height.


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 709563

2017 Seat Ibiza - image 709566
“The Seat Ibiza now offers a larger, roomier interior, mostly thanks to the new exterior dimensions.”

Seat also says it improved the NVH levels substantially, although the automaker failed to provide exact specifications on this.

In terms of ambient lighting, both red and white LEDs were added to select trim levels. Seat says this isn’t just an improvement to the aesthetics, but should help reduce power draw as well, and thus improve fuel mileage, although we’re not sure how many more miles you’ll get by swapping the interior lights for LEDs. The headlights and taillights will have a much bigger impact in that regard.


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 703974
“The Seat Ibiza gets new driving assists, several of which were originally introduced on the Seat Leon and Seat Ateca, such as Front Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Keyless Entry.”

And of course, like any new vehicle, having the latest and greatest technology is a must. To that end, the Seat Ibiza gets new driving assists, several of which were originally introduced on the Seat Leon and Seat Ateca. These new features include stuff like Front Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Keyless Entry (plus a “heartbeat engine starter”), new front and rear parking sensors, and a rearview camera.

Providing inputs is a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen, while a wireless charger for your smartphone keeps it in the green. Support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as Mirror Link are on board.

Finally, Seat partnered with Beats Audio for the stereo system, which includes a digital signal processor, seven speakers, and an eight-channel 300-watt amplifier.

Drivetrain


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 709552

For motivation, the Seat Ibiza is offered with a full line of Euro 6-compliant engine options. Kicking things off is three gas engines to choose from, each offering aluminum construction for reduced weight. Kicking it off is a 1.0-liter three-cylinder TSI, which can be had in two states of tune, with either 95 or 115 horsepower. Features for the gas engine include turbocharged induction, an intercooler, and fuel injection. Heading the list of gas-engines is an Evo 1.5-liter TSI four-cylinder making 150 horsepower, which will be available later in 2017.

“Heading the list of gas-engines is an Evo 1.5-liter TSI four-cylinder making 150 horsepower. A variety of diesels are also on the table.”

A variety of diesels are also on the table, and include a 1.6-liter TDI in both a 80-horsepower and 95-horsepower variant.

Transmission options include a manual five-speed, which is offered on engines with 95 horsepower and below, plus a six-speed for those engines with more than 95 horses. A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is also offered.


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 709567
“Some of the bigger news is that the fifth-generation Seat Ibiza is the first model from the Volkswagen Group to utilize the new MQB A0 platform.”

Some of the bigger news is that the fifth-generation Seat Ibiza was built on the new Volkswagen MQB A0 platform. In fact, the Ibiza is the first model from the Volkswagen Group to utilize the platform. The upgraded bones increase torsional rigidity by as much as 30 percent, which helps to improve ride quality and handling performance.

Further features include additional “hot formed” components for the construction, plus spot welding and laser technology, all of which work together to reduce overall weight and increasing torsional rigidity even further.

Prices


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 709554

2017 Seat Ibiza - image 709560

The new fifth-generation Seat Ibiza is available in U.K. dealers now. Buyers can have it in three separate trim levels. Starting off the line is the S, followed by the SE, FR, and finally headed by the new XCellence trim level.

Those looking for a sharper, sportier appearance are encouraged to check out the FR, which gets a unique rear diffuser, black styling updates to the bumper and various body panels, and a stiffer sport suspension set-up. The FR also includes four driving modes, such as Comfort, Eco, Sport, and Individual.

Pricing starts at 13,130 pounds.

Competition

Mini Cooper


2014 Mini Cooper - image 532525

2014 Mini Cooper - image 532527

If you want customizable style in a fun, affordable package, the Mini is the way to go. A plethora of drivetrain options are on the table, although anyone looking for an alternative to the Ibiza will likely go for the lower trim three-cylinder models. However, if you’ve got some extra coin to spend, the more expensive 2.0-liter models will offer a bigger bang.

Read our full review on the Mini Cooper.

Ford Fiesta


2017 Ford Fiesta - image 699484

2017 Ford Fiesta - image 699486

Ford knows what it’s doing when it comes to offering fun hatchbacks, and the Fiesta is definitely one of the best. The number of drivetrain options and specs is mind boggling, many of which offer some pretty entertaining performance. The suspension was also tuned for nippy handling, although the interior spec leaves something to be desired.

Read our full review on the Ford Fiesta.

Conclusion


2017 Seat Ibiza - image 735180

As one of Seat’s most important models, this big generational changeover for the Ibiza is critical to the brand’s success. Overall, we like what we’re seeing. The car looks good, while the onboard technology is about where it needs to be. Performance-wise, we like the drivetrain specs here, with both efficient diesels and quicker gas-powered variants on the table.

Will it be enough to topple the other big names in the segment? So far, so good.

  • Leave it
    • Lots of competition in the segment
    • Interior looks a little bland
    • Additional engine options would be nice

References

Seat Leon


2017 Seat Leon - image 692413

Read our full review on the 2017 Seat Leon.

Seat Ateca


2016 Seat Ateca - image 665647

Read our full review on the 2016 Seat Ateca.


2018 Seat Leon Cupra R - image 729649

Read more Seat news.

PostHeaderIcon Toyota Partners With Mazda to Develop EVs

Toyota and Mazda just announced a new partnership wherein the Japanese automakers will jointly develop electric vehicles. The partnership also includes a forthcoming $1.6 billion assembly plant at an as of yet unannounced location, with production scheduled to ramp up by the year 2021. The plant will create upwards of 300,000 vehicles annually and employ roughly 4,000 U.S. workers, prompting a Tweet from President Trump, who praised the announcement as a “great investment in American manufacturing.” The plant will initially build models of the Toyota Corolla and a new Mazda SUV, with the possibility for EVs sometime in the future. The partnership includes a 5 percent stake in Mazda for Toyota and a 0.25 percent stake in Toyota for Mazda, with the possibility for expansion in the future. Toyota and Mazda will also work together in developing infotainment tech and autonomous driving tech.

The partnership is framed as a major step forward for EV development for both companies. “There will be new rivals appearing – Apple, Google – these are IT companies, we also need to compete with them, too,” said Toyota President Akio Toyoda, according to Reuters. “What’s different from the past is that there are no nautical charts for us to follow. It’s without precedent,” he added with regards to EV tech and alternative vehicle power sources. Without a doubt, this new partnership marks further expansion of the EV segment as a whole and the expectation of widespread EV adoption in the near future.

Continue reading for the full story.

PostHeaderIcon Mazda3

Standing out in the world of compacts is no easy feat. The corner-cutting measures it takes to offer a product at a competitive price in this segment can quickly demote a car to drab background filler. Throw in the customer’s demand to “do it all,” from sporting fun to commuting practicality, and what you’re left with can often feel like too much of a compromise. That’s not the case with the Mazda3, which combines standout styling, top-notch safety, cutting-edge interior appointment and fantastic driving dynamics into one cohesive package, all for an aggressive price. For 2016, Mazda kept all those characteristics, but upped the ante with a variety of new features, both standard and optional.

Mazda3 was originally introduced in 2003 as a replacement for the Protégé, with a second generation unveiled five years later. Now in its third generation, the 3 continues to be one of the best compact cars on the market. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that Automotive News reports annual U.S. sales of the Mazda3 have overtaken gains in the compact market as a whole, with growth of 5.2 percent compared to a 3.1 percent average for all other segment models. So then – what makes it so good?

Updated 08/02/2017: Mazda just released info on the 2018 model year Mazda3. Check it out below!

Continue reading to learn more about the Mazda3.

PostHeaderIcon Tesla Model 3 Handover Party Kicks Off at 8:45 PM PST Tonight!

The Tesla Model 3 is hands-down the most anticipated model of the year, promising to bring an affordable EV to the masses. It’s been a long time coming, but today is the day that the handover party kicks off and Tesla will hand over the keys to the first 30 models to roll off of the line. It’s obviously a very small first step, considering the hundreds of thousands of reservations, but it’s only a matter of time before Tesla really ramps up production. The party kicks off at 8:45 PM PST tonight and will be live streamed right on Tesla’s homepage.

The Model 3, which will finally be completely revealed later tonight, is basically a smaller, more basic version of the Model S, and has a set starting price of $35,000. As far as the exterior goes, it’s rather bland, just like the interior which is about as spartan as they come. It will be void of an instrument cluster, speedometer, or a conventional dashboard. Initial customers of the new baby EV will also be limited as far as options go, with the only choices to make being exterior color and wheel choice. As far as tonight’s event goes, there’s no word as to who the first 30 customers are, but we know the first model is going Elon Musk himself, as Tesla board member Ira Ehrenpreis gifted his place in the queue to the big guy. As far as the other 29 models, they will go to Tesla employees or current owners of other Tesla EVs. We’ll be sure to embed the live steam to this video as soon as we have it, but until then, keep reading to learn a little more about the Model 3.

PostHeaderIcon Chevy Bolt Puts Nissan Leaf to Shame; Comes with 238-Mile Range

In early 2015, Chevrolet unveiled the Bolt EV Concept and promised it would become the first affordable electric car with more than 200 miles of range. Less than two years have passed since then and its seems that GM will keep its promise and deliver a production Bolt with an EPA-estimated range of 238 miles. That’s a whopping 131 miles more than the Nissan Leaf, a popular offering on the EV market, and the best mileage you’ll be able to get on an affordable car for the 2017 model year.

Speaking of pricing, Chevy says the Bolt is expected to cost less than $37,500. That’s before the available federal tax credit of $7,500, meaning some buyers will be able to take one home for less than $30,000. That’s significantly more expensive than the Volt and Spark EV, which can be had for as low as $25,750 and $18,495, respectively, but neither can provide the Bolt’s 200-mile range. While the Volt can travel for only 53 miles on electricity alone, the Spark EV is rated at 82 miles. The only EV that can deliver something similar is the Tesla Model S, but the base model, which is rated at 210 miles, starts from $66,000 before incentives.

This makes the Bolt quite an attractive package, at least until Tesla begins production of the Model 3 in late 2017.

As for Chevy’s electric hatchback, it will arrive in showroom in late 2016. However, the Bolt will be sold in select dealerships only, meaning you might not be able to buy it at the nearest Chevrolet showroom. Stay tuned for more info as the Bolt makes its way onto the production line.

Continue reading for the full story.


PostHeaderIcon Mazda Still Hopes to Bring Diesel Models to the U.S.

Starting 2011, Mazda began to introduce a new family of engines known as SkyActiv. The technology debuted on the Mazda2 in 2011 and spread to several nameplates by 2016, including the Mazda3, Mazda6, MX-5, and the CX-3 and CX-5 crossovers. Consisting of four-cylinder units the SkyActiv-G and SkyActiv-D powerplants deliver great fuel economy and exceptional driving dynamics no matter their displacements. Although the 1.3- and 1.5-liter engines didn’t make it Stateside, Mazda brought both the 2.0-liter and 2.5-liter gasoline mills to the U.S. Unfortunately, the 2.2-liter powerplant, the sole representative of Mazda’s diesel SkyActiv technology, is not yet available in North America.

That could change soon according to Mazda CEO Masamichi Kogai.

Automotive News reports that Mazda still wants to bring its SkyActiv-D engine to the United States, and that Kogai even has an internal timeline for the launch. Although he refused to say when it will happen, chances are the diesel powerplant will cross the pond when Mazda introduces its second generation of SkyActiv technologies in 2019.

“We are not giving up,” Kogai said about the U.S. diesel engine, adding that Mazda still has certain regulatory hurdles to overcome. “Environmental performance must be compatible with driving dynamics.”

Available in the Mazda6 and CX-5 outside the U.S., the 2.2-liter SkyActiv-D engine actually made its debut in North America, but not in a road-going vehicle. An upgraded version of the oil burner was run in the 2013 Rolex Sports Car Series season and helped Mazda win the GX manufacturer’s championship. Not a bad debut, huh?

Keep reading for the full story


PostHeaderIcon Mazda3

Standing out in the world of compacts is no easy feat. The corner-cutting measures it takes to offer a product at a competitive price in this segment can quickly demote a car to drab background filler. Throw in the customer’s demand to “do it all,” from sporting fun to commuting practicality, and what you’re left with can often feel like too much of a compromise. That’s not the case with the Mazda3, which combines standout styling, top-notch safety, cutting-edge interior appointment and fantastic driving dynamics into one cohesive package, all for an aggressive price. For 2016, Mazda kept all those characteristics, but upped the ante with a variety of new features, both standard and optional.

Mazda3 was originally introduced in 2003 as a replacement for the Protégé, with a second generation unveiled five years later. Now in its third generation, the 3 continues to be one of the best compact cars on the market. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that Automotive News reports annual U.S. sales of the Mazda3 have overtaken gains in the compact market as a whole, with growth of 5.2 percent compared to a 3.1 percent average for all other segment models.

So then – what makes it so good?

Updated 07/14/2016: Mazda has announced a minor revision to the Mazda 3 for the 2017 model year, which will go on sale in the U.S. sometime later this year. Check out the review below to learn what you can expect when it hits showrooms.

Continue reading to learn more about the Mazda3.


PostHeaderIcon BMW i3 94 AH

Originally launched in late 2013, the BMW i3 has stood tall amongst the competition thanks to its premium European packaging and high-end technology. However, standards in the segment are on the rise, especially when it comes to affordability and range per charge. To address this, the Bavarians are introducing a new model series for the i3 called the 94 Ah, which offers an upgraded battery, and consequently, more miles between plug-in sessions. To complement the extra range, the new model also gets a fresh exterior color and a few added features for the interior.

Of course, the biggest news is the 94 Ah’s improved lithium-ion battery, which gets 50 percent higher capacity compared to the regular model, and according to “independent BMW testing cycles,” up to 114 miles of emission-free driving with each full charge.

Some will undoubtedly cry foul, as the first i3 offered up to 123 miles in Eco Pro + mode. So where’s the difference? The 94 Ah’s range was determined in “everyday conditions,” which means Comfort driving mode with the climate control activated, suggesting much more range is possible if you max/min all the settings and drive like a hyper miler (the previous model returned only 81 miles in Comfort mode).

Exactly how many miles is possible when the 94 Ah is pushed to the limit is not yet known, but for now, read on to see how BMW is keeping pace in the world of EVs.

Continue reading to learn more about the 2017 BMW i3 94 AH.


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