While the Golf might not be the first model most people think of when they hear the name Volkswagen, it is actually one of their most significant model lines. Not only is the Golf one of their best-selling cars, but other Volkswagen models, including the Jetta, GTI, and R32, are built off the Golf’s chassis. With ample interior space, an array of standard features, and good performance, it is no surprise that Volkswagen has used the Golf’s body design for their other hatchbacks.
Performance-wise, the Volkswagen Golf is a solid vehicle across the board. The engine provides adequate power for acceleration and it maneuvers well under almost any condition. The Golf is not an amazing vehicle, but it is sufficient given the low price tag. The main drawback of the Golf is the fact that its basic design is used in so many other Volkswagen models. Yet these comparable models offer more features and better performance in exchange for a slightly higher price tag. Only drivers on a limited budget are likely to choose the Golf over other Volkswagen hatchbacks that use the same design. Despite this factor, the Volkswagen Golf is a solid, practical choice.
Body Styles: hatchback
Engines: 2.0-liter four-cylinder, 1.9-liter four-cylinder diesel
Transmissions: five-speed manual, four-speed automatic, five-speed automatic
Models: Volkswagen Golf GL, Volkswagen Golf Jazz, Volkswagen Golf K2, Volkswagen Golf Trek
The 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine in the 1996 Volkswagen Golf has been redesigned to improve performance. A cargo area light and open-door indicator has been added. New niche models are now available. The Golf Jazz offers an improved audio system, the Golf K2 is designed for hauling skis, snowboards, and other winter sports equipment, and the Golf Trek is designed to carry mountain bikes.
The Volkswagen Golf is available as a two-door or four-door hatchback. Measuring at a total length of 160.4 inches, the Golf is significantly smaller than most other vehicles on the road. The 1996 model is shorter than many of the later model Golfs, due to some size increases that occurred over the years.
The Volkswagen Golf is a relatively small vehicle, yet it boasts a surprisingly large amount of interior space. The Golf can comfortably seat four passengers, while a fifth passenger can be squeezed in, if needed. The sheer amount of cargo space is large enough that the Golf can potentially beat out noticeably larger vehicles in that regard. Many sedans do not offer comparable storage space, even when factoring in the trunk. However, interior features are definitely lacking: an anti-theft alarm system is the only standard feature for all models. Basic features, such as air conditioning, an AM/FM radio, and a cassette player, are available as options for a relatively low price increase, and the more expensive Golf models do include them as standard features.
Performance & Handling
Despite the fact that the Volkswagen Golf’s design does not prioritize performance, it manages to hold itself well compared to other vehicles in this price range. Both engine options provide average acceleration and a decent top speed. The small size of the Golf lends itself well towards maneuverability, making it an excellent day-to-day driving vehicle. Anyone who finds the Golf lacking in performance would likely be better served by one of its competitors, many of which are high-performance vehicles built off the Golf’s basic body design.
The Volkswagen Golf is often associated with substantial amounts of standard safety features. However, the 1996 Volkswagen Golf predates the addition of many of these features as standard equipment. The only standard safety feature on all 1996 models is dual-front airbags. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes are optional, except on the Golf K2. The same general range of safety features can be found of the GTI, R32, and Jetta, since all three models are built off the same basic design as the Golf.
EPA Fuel Economy
Volkswagen Golf 1.9-liter four-cylinder diesel, five-speed manual: 33/44 mpg city/highway
Volkswagen Golf 2.0-liter four-cylinder, five-speed manual: 21/29 mpg city/highway
Volkswagen Golf 2.0-liter four-cylinder, four-speed automatic: 19/26 mpg city/highway
- Good performance and handling
- Excellent fuel economy
- High quality construction
- Surprisingly good cargo space
You Won't Like
- Hatchback body design might not appeal to all drivers
- Does not particularly standout against some more impressive Volkswagen models
- The 1996 Golf predates some of the safety features that became standard equipment on later models
Practical reliability from Volkswagen.
If You Like This Vehicle
- Honda Accord
- Acura RSX
- Toyota Camry
- Volkswagen GTI
- Volkswagen R32