The 2011 Volkswagen Golf, available in two-door and four-door flavors, is a favorite among reviewers and is considered one of the best economy cars available based on its polished ride, interior quality and versatility. The primary drawback is its high base price, which is greater than that of nearly all competitors, even the top-rated ones. The best-reviewed economy hatchback, the 2011 Honda Fit (Base MSRP: $15,100 to $16,860) rings in more than $2,500 cheaper. The VW Golf hatchback is also available as the ultra-efficient, diesel-powered 2011 Volkswagen Golf TDI (Base MSRP: $23,225 to $23,885), which is covered in a separate, dedicated review. The 2011 Volkswagen GTI (Base MSRP: $23,695 to $29,825) is the best-reviewed performance version of the Golf. The 2011 Volkswagen Jetta (Base MSRP: $14,995 to $22,995) is the Golf's sedan counterpart, but it isn't identical; notably, the interior in the new Jetta's redesign is cheaper looking and feeling.
The VW Golf was completely redesigned in 2010 and carries over into 2011 with no substantial changes. See our full report on the 2010 Volkswagen Golf to learn more about what the experts have to say.
Mediocre fuel economy is one of the only weak points for the 2011 Golf. The base engine is a 2.5-liter five-cylinder, while most competitors make do with four cylinders. The Golf equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission achieves an EPA-estimated 24 mpg city, 31 mpg highway and 27 mpg in combined driving. The five-speed manual transmission gets a slightly lower overall 23 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, 26 mpg combined rating. For comparison, the top-rated Hyundai Elantra sedan is rated at 29 mpg city, 40 mpg highway and 33 mpg combined, and it's about $1,500 cheaper to start with.
The Golf TDI gets excellent fuel economy. See our dedicated report on the 2011 Golf TDI for more information.
The Volkswagen Golf has been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and it receives the group's Top Safety Pick award. This means that the Golf scored the highest rating of Good for front-, side- and rear-impact protection, as well as roof strength. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does not have full crash-test results for the 2011 Golf, but the four-door Golf does earn 4 stars out of 5 for rollover resistance. Standard safety equipment includes front airbags, head curtain airbags, antilock brakes and electronic stability control. Rear-seat side airbags are optional on the four-door Golf, but are not available on the two-door version.
The base two-door Golf starts at $17,995, and the four-door version has a higher price of $19,755.
The 2011 Volkswagen Golf remains unchanged this year. The editors praise the Golf for its polished, comfortable ride and class-leading interior quality, among other things. They say it delivers a "rare combination of economy and refinement, standing out among worthy competitors."
Review: 2011 Volkswagen Golf, Editors of Edmunds.com
ConsumerReports.org tests a five-cylinder, four-door Golf. Editors rate and compare the driving experience and interior against most other economy-car competitors. Reliability ratings are also provided.
Review: New Cars: Small Cars, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
3. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
The Volkswagen Golf does very well in IIHS crash testing, for which it is awarded a Top Safety Pick designation for receiving the highest rating of Good in all four tests.
Review: Small cars, Editors of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
The 2011 Golf has only been given a rating for one test as of this writing. The four-door Volkswagen Golf receives 4 stars out of a possible 5 for rollover resistance.
Review: 5-Star Safety Ratings, Editors of SaferCar.gov
The Environmental Protection Agency rates fuel economy for nearly all new cars sold in the U.S. The Volkswagen Golf gets 26 mpg or 27 mpg in combined driving, which is lower than most competitors.
Review: 2011 Volkswagen Golf, Editors of FuelEconomy.gov
This full report on the 2009 Volkswagen Golf provides a collection of expert opinions and relevant facts. Links to many useful sources are also provided.
Review: 2010 Volkswagen Golf, Editors of ConsumerSearch.com, March 2010