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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2004 Volkswagen Golf Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2004 Volkswagen Golf Overview

The Nicest Entry-Level Car You'll Find

The Golf is Volkswagen's most affordable offering. Prices range from just over $16,000 for a base GL model to just over $21,000 for a loaded GLS TDI. At first glance, those figures may seem a bit steep for an entry-level vehicle, especially when you pit the Golf against such cars as the Hyundai Elantra, Honda Civic and Dodge Neon. But the Golf is no longer the bare-bones econobox it once was; it has graduated to a new level of comfort, safety and efficiency that places it in a league all its own.

The Golf comes as either a two (GL only) or four-door hatchback with two trim levels and two engine options. Both the GL and GLS trim come standard with a gasoline-powered 2.0-liter engine and a five-speed manual transmission. This engine produces a modest 115-horsepower and returns an EPA city/highway fuel rating of 24 and 31-mpg respectively. Though it gets the job done, the 2.0-liter is not the quickest four-cylinder on the market and its performance lags behind many of its more modern 16-valve competitors. Things don't get much better when you add on the optional automatic, although the "fuzzy logic" adaptive shift control does work well at maximizing every drop of the engine's power.

We think if economy is your goal, you'd be far better served by getting the new TDI diesel engine. Not only does the TDI feel quicker off the line (it has much more torque than the 2.0-liter) but it is phenomenally frugal at the pump, burns relatively clean and over the long haul, will probably cost less to maintain. Again, we know many Americans will have nothing to do with diesel engines, but you really owe it to yourself to test drive a TDI before you pass judgment on it. The diesel technology of today is leaps and bounds above that of even just ten years ago and you may be pleasantly surprised at how good the TDI Golf really is. You certainly won't be able to complain about your mileage that is rated at 38-mpg city and 46-mpg highway. Unfortunately, Volkswagen limits the production of TDI models to just a few thousand cars per year and its not available in all states, so you may have to hunt to find one.

The hatchback design is supposedly one that most Americans shy away from, yet it has served the Golf well for over three decades. The original design first appeared in this country on the VW Rabbit, a name later dropped in favor of the European Golf badge. The early Golf's were often criticized for being rather noisy inside, especially at highway speeds. This, along with the fear that thieving eyes could too easily see the contents left behind the rear seat, probably started the anti-hatchback backlash that still seems to be engrained in the American automotive psyche. If this description applies to you, rest assured that today's Golf suffers from none of its predecessor's short falls. The Golf is near whisper quiet at speeds, thanks mostly to superior sound insulation, flush mounted glass and a rear suspension setup that places the springs and struts below the longitudinal member, eliminating the intrusive and noise transmitting strut towers from the rear cargo bay.

The Golf's hatchback design helps to make it one of the most versatile little cars you can buy. The huge rear opening can swallow just about anything you can lift by yourself and the split-folding rear seats make it possible to cram an unbelievable amount of stuff into the Golf; this may explain why the car is so beloved by college students. When the rear seat is occupied, you'll still find a considerable amount of storage space conveniently hidden by a clever cargo cover that lifts and closes along with the hatchback.

Yet another area that benefits from the Golf's boxy shape is passenger volume. Not only will you find that there is above average head and legroom for six footers up front, you can actually fit two adults into the rear seats without the need for contortionist-like positioning. Legroom does get tight if the front seats are fully retracted, but hip and shoulder room are excellent; each rear-seat occupant also gets their own three-point safety belt and individual headrest.

The Golf's interior layout will impress you with its thorough detail, Audi-like materials and impressive standard equipment roster. You'll love the dash layout even more at night as it glows a combination of deep red and cool blue lights—a feature that still brings words of praise from those witnessing it for the first time. The Golf also hosts an impressive list of standard safety features, including front side-impact airbags and a side-curtain airbag for both front and rear passengers. Other standard features on the GL trim include air conditioning, power windows and door locks, alarm system, AM/FM stereo with CD/cassette, rear wiper/washer, dual heated power mirrors, tilt-telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, ABS and rear-window defroster. The GLS adds the Monsoon sound system, 15-inch alloy wheels and a power glass sunroof.

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