2018 Volkswagen Golf SE Manual Review: All the Car You Need?

It's practical, satisfying to drive and affordable

Volkswagen kindly sent us a 2018 Volkswagen Golf SE with a 5-speed manual for a week to review. When you think of VW’s best-selling car, I’m sure you first think of the VW Beetle. That would be correct, up until the year 2003. In that year, the Golf took over as the German manufacturer’s best-seller, with well over 30 million units sold. So, we wanted to see why the Golf has been such a popular vehicle.


In the styling department, the Golf remains fairly conservative. There are some stylish, carefully placed lines. However, nothing crazy is going on styling-wise. 16-inch Toronto style rims complete the exterior looks.

While some may call it boring, I think the Golf’s subdued looks helped it gain popularity. It is entirely inoffensive, and approachable. But, styling is always subjective, so let us know what you think in the comments below.

2018 Volkswagen Golf 1.8L TSI EA888


Under the hood of this 2018 Golf SE is a 1.8-liter Turbo four-cylinder that makes 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. Power is being sent to the front wheels through a 5-speed manual transmission. However, if you opt for the automatic, that torque figure goes up to 199 lb-ft.

If you want a Golf rocket ship, buy a GTI or a Golf R. This engine is certainly quick enough. Peak engine torque happens at 1,600 RPM. As a result, city driving is relatively fun. I love the fact that it has a manual transmission. But, it is confusing that Volkswagen gave it a 5-speed, while most other manual VWs have a 6-speed. That does change for the 2019 model though.

As for fuel economy, the EPA rates this setup at 25 MPG city, 34 MPG highway and 29 MPG combined. Those figures are alright, but not remarkably better than the GTI. For 2019, the Golf has a 1.4-liter turbo and much better estimated mileage. 29 in the city and 37 on the highway.

Ride & Handling

Not only is the engine good, but the ride quality is excellent as well. The 16-inch rims allow for lots of sidewall and great comfort. The suspension is soft, yet controlled and predictable. It feels reminiscent of the sporty GTI, but much softer overall.


Being a Golf, and being a hatchback, this car is a masterclass in utilitarianism. There is a whopping 22.8 cu-ft of space behind the 2nd row. Fold the back seats and storage goes up to over 57 cu-ft. There is tons of space in the cabin, and the trunk. Heck the back seats are spacious too.


This is certainly a strong point for the 2018 Volkswagen Golf. The SE is the most expensive trim available for 2018. It costs just a hair over $25,000 and for that money you get some great features standard. For example, an 8-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a standard Sunroof, plus some driver enhancement features like automatic emergency braking and blind spot monitors.

TFLcar’s Take

This Golf gives you just the right amount of luxury feel, performance, utility and value to make it a really great little car. In a way, it feels like the Goldilocks economy car. Not too crazy, not too boring, just right. If you need something with lots of space in the trunk, good fuel economy and nice standard equipment, the Golf is an excellent choice and I highly recommend it.

To see more of my thoughts on the 2018 Volkswagen Golf SE, be sure to watch the whole video. Stay tuned to TFLcar.com for the latest news, views & real-world reviews and more on the 2018 Volkswagen Golf SE Manual.