Volkswagen just put every other hatchback in the world on notice.
The 2017 Volkswagen Golf is kind of all new. The iconic hatchback has just been refreshed and the result, at least from the outside, is a bit lackluster. However, under the hood there is an all new set of engines and inside there’s a ton of awesome new tech, both on the hardware side (new screens!) and in terms of software (safety and driver assist features). The bones and body may be old—that MQB platform is not going anywhere anytime soon—but the mind and skin of the Golf have been rejuvenated.
All Golfs, save for the R (no word on its update), will be receiving new turbocharged, gasoline direct-injection engines. The first offering is a 1.5-liter TSI “Evo” rated at 147 horsepower. The “BlueMotion” version, which will power the plug-in hybrid GTE, checks in at 128 hp. The GTI’s engine has received a power bump, with nine extra horses giving it a standard output of 226 hp. The new entry-level GTI now has more power than the current Performance trim (220 hp). Speaking of which, the new GTI Performance makes 241 hp. VW developed a new seven-speed DSG to send power to the front wheels. The new unit will “gradually” replace all the six-speed DSGs which makes us think a full roll out upon launch isn’t in the cards.
The base Golf gets standard daytime LED running lights with optional LED headlights; they’re standard on higher trims. The air intakes on the front bumper are larger as well, although we’re having a tough time noticing that. The GTI’s new design additions are subtle up front, as in the crossbar and LED headlights winglets being colored red, with a redesigned bumper in back. The Golf GTE gets blue design accents up front. The Variant (wagon) gets a new rear bumper. The light retouching of the exterior continues inside where new decorative trim panels and seat covers are the story. While the interior design team napped, the tech department worked OT. The touchscreens have been completely redesigned, measuring 6.5 inches to 9.2 inches.
Gesture control is also available on the top-tier “Discover Pro” package. We tested this tech in the BMW 7 Series and found it to be a fun novelty. We expect it to be much the same here. The real achievement won’t be how good gesture control works but the fact that VW offered it on an entry-level hatchback in the first place. While Discover Pro is an optional extra available only on the 9.2-inch infotainment screen all Golfs will get a fully digital color instrument panel measuring 12.3 inches. The design looks a bit Audi-esque to us and will certainly help the cabin look more upscale. By now you’re probably wondering what’s new on the tech front, in terms of safety features and driver assist. In a word: a lot.
Traffic Jam Assist combines lane keep assist with radar cruise control to make bumper-to-bumper traffic more bearable. Emergency Assist stops the car if the driver becomes incapacitated. If the system’s prompts don’t receive a reply the car automatically stops, activating the hazard lights and gently steering side to side to warn other cars first. Pedestrian detection has been added to the emergency braking function. The coolest new safety feature is PreCrash. If the car senses a crash is imminent, say due to hard braking, the front seat belts are tightened to ensure optimal safety with regard to the belts themselves and the air bags.
If a potential loss of control is detected the sunroof and windows are closed almost all the way, with the extra crack apparently ensuring that the head and side airbags are performing in the best way possible. While safety is cool and all, we think Trailer Assist is the Golf’s coolest new feature. Yes, we have an answer to the question, “What do the Golf and Ford F-150 have in common?” Anything we missed… Oh yeah, the new version of Park Assist allows the car to semi-autonomously pull into parking spaces. VW didn’t release pricing or availability info. It also didn’t specify what changes will be made to the refreshed Golf once it makes its way over from Europe to North America.