11 Best & Worst Volkswagen Golf Years (With Facts & Stats)

The Volkswagen Golf is a compact hatchback that debuted as a 1974 model year. 

This vehicle has amassed quite a following thanks to its exceptional driving dynamics and attainable price tag.

In this article, we’ll take a deeper look into the best and worst model years of the Golf.

2021 Volkswagen Golf

Short Answer To What The Best And Worst Years For The Volkswagen Golf:

The best Volkswagen Golf model years are 2021, 2020, 2018, 2014, 2006, and 1997. The worst model years of the VW Golf are 2001, 2011, 2015, 2000 and 2022. This is based on auto industry reviews, NHTSA statistics, reported problems, and consumer feedback.

What Are The Best Years For The Volkswagen Golf?

2021 Volkswagen Golf

The 2021 VW Golf is the final regular model year to be released in North America and it is arguably the best model produced.

It is one of the strongest competitors in the compact hatchback genre and offers impeccable ride and handling.

The 2021 model comes with a swathe of new standard features including 16-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, passive hands-free entry and push-button start.

It also earned a 5-star safety rating from the NHTSA based on crash test results.

  • Edmunds: 4.3 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.3/ 5.0
  • JD Power: 76 / 100

2021 Golf, Edmunds review:

“I had a Mazda Miata previously, so the VW Golf is definitely a big step up in terms of stability and comfort. I am a person who actually likes to drive and am a moderate driver. Having driven and researched the Japanese hatchbacks and smaller cars, the Golf is absolutely a much better driver’s car. The others drive like school buses.”

2020 Volkswagen Golf

The 2020 Golf is another great choice when shopping for an affordable, fun-to-drive hatchback.

It offers ample cargo space, excellent driving dynamics, and a quiet cabin.

It is a part of the 7th generation of the vehicle line and comes with a 1.4-liter engine paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. 

This model also comes with safety features such as blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking.

  • Edmunds: 4.4 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.3 / 5.0
  • JD Power: NA

2020 Golf, Edmunds review:

“Great fuel mileage, very sturdy on the highway. Previous GTI owner (1989 European model)…performance with manual is better than the 8valve GTI. Shifting is a bit vague, and clutch release is very short. This Golf continues to be fun to drive, extremely economical, and after almost 16,000 miles, still surprising. I am averaging over 35 mpg combined…”

2018 Volkswagen Golf

The 2018 Golf is built with premium interior materials and offers powerful and fuel-efficient performance on the road.

Aside from a slightly updated exterior and interior, this model year’s upgrades include a number of standard safety and entertainment features.

One of which is a larger touchscreen infotainment system (with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities). 

The 2018 Golf comes with a 1.8-liter, 170-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine that provides just the right amount of power.

Owners report getting an average of 35 mpg for combined driving.

  • Edmunds: 4.5 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.3 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 77 / 100

2018 Golf, Edmunds review:

“I had a Mazda Miata previously, so the VW Golf is definitely a big step up in terms of stability and comfort. I am a person who actually likes to drive and am a moderate driver. Having driven and researched the Japanese hatchbacks and smaller cars, the Golf is absolutely a much better driver’s car. The others drive like school buses. The SE has a few bells and whistles I wasn’t too worried about, so I bought the S model…”

2014 Volkswagen Golf

The 2014 Golf is known for its versatility, classic design and excellent road manners.

The two-door body style was discontinued for this model year leaving just the four-door model.

Auto critics praised the 2014 Golf for its class-leading cabin quality and adult-sized back seat.

It is powered by a  2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that produces 170 horsepower and is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.

It hasn’t got the best fuel efficiency though with EPA estimates at 23 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined.

  • Edmunds: 4.7 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 48 / 5.0
  • JD Power: 77 / 100

2014 Golf, Edmunds review:

“I did my homework to get my wife an economical car that would be an upgrade to her horrid corolla. Went with the TDI due to its track history. Fuel economy is better than EPA estimates. Driving it is smooth, fun and flawless. My wife loves to push its acceleration abilities. Handles brilliantly. Brakes are solid. The displays are great and intuitive…”

2006 Volkswagen Golf

The 2006 Golf has lots of standard features, a premium-quality cabin and is a great choice for a small family.

This model comes equipped with either a 2-liter inline four-cylinder engine rated at 115 horsepower or a 1.9-liter diesel four-cylinder TDI engine that is rated at 100 horsepower. 

The 2006 Golf stays true to form, it’s fun to drive and offers plenty of value.

In terms of safety features, it comes standard with ABS and an airbag system. It scored a “Good” rating from the IIHS.

  • Edmunds: 4.6 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.2 / 5.0
  • JD Power: NA

2006 Golf, Edmunds review:

“I drive about 115 miles round trip to work. All I have ever done is change the oil (about every 12-15k miles), replace a couple head lights, and change the tires. My car has yet to need brakes or any major repair. The perfect stylish, fun to drive, daily commuter!”

1997 Volkswagen Golf

The 1997 Golf is extremely fun to drive, full of standard and optional premium features, and has a roomy interior, edging out some of its long-time competitors. 

The most prominent change was the cylinder head redesign implemented for its 2-liter inline four-cylinder engine which resulted in smoother and more consistent power delivery. 

If you’re on a very tight budget and looking for a timeless classic, look no further than the ’97 Golf.

  • Edmunds: 4.2 / 5.0
  • Kelley Blue Book: 4.1 / 5.0
  • JD Power: NA

1997 Golf, Edmunds review:

“All I really need to say is drive the car and then you would just get it. Its performance is great, wonderful and they are only getting better. I have an older one but it still runs like new. Saying that it is fun to drive is an understatement with this car. I find unnecessary trips to take now just so I can drive, even with the gas prices. I might not travel far for work and errands, but this car gets GREAT! It gets great gas mileage…”

Consumer Scores For Best Volkswagen Golf Years

Model YearEdmunds
Consumer Rating
Kelley Blue Book
Consumer Rating
JD Power
Consumer Rating
2023 Volkswagen Golf4.3 / 5.04.3 / 5.076 / 100
2020 Volkswagen Golf4.4 / 5.04.3 / 5.0NA
2018 Volkswagen Golf4.5 / 5.04.3 / 5.077 / 100
2014 Volkswagen Golf4.7 / 5.04.8 / 5.077 / 100
2006 Volkswagen Golf4.6 / 5.04.2 / 5.0NA
1997 Volkswagen Golf4.2 / 5.04.1 / 5.0NA

Related: Volkswagen Golf In Snow & Winter Driving? (Explained)

What Are The Worst Years For The Volkswagen Golf?

2001 Volkswagen Golf

The 2001 Golf had a variety of issues including airbag problems, engine defects, and electrical system malfunctions.

Statistically, it is the most problematic model year based on data from CarComplaints.com and CarProblemZoo.com.

The most prominently reported issue, however, was a defect with the side (window) airbags.

According to several owners, passenger-side airbags would deploy for no reason, resulting in scrapes and bruises for both the driver and passengers inside the vehicle. 

The 2001 Golf had a total of 16 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 151 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Transmission failure
  • Cam chain tensioner failure
  • Engine light on

2011 Volkswagen Golf

The 2011 Golf was notorious for its fuel system problems.

Owners experienced catastrophic failure of the high-pressure fuel pump which would lead to the vehicle breaking down.

Here’s one owners account:

“Check engine light came on. Took vehicle to an independent repair shop and after it was checked out mechanic stated the fuel pump and fuel system were contaminated with metal shavings. Mechanic advised that the engine could stall and not restart at any time if repairs were not made.”

Other symptoms reported include loud noises coming from the gas tank, difficult starts and low fuel efficiency.

The 2011 Golf had a total of 12 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 145 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Multiple electrical issues
  • Engine seized
  • Catalytic converter failure

2015 Volkswagen Golf

Coolant leakage and improper circulation of coolant were the biggest problems for the 2015 Golf.

According to reports, the loss of coolant was due to the use of cheap plastic housing which led to damage to the thermostat and water pump.

Here is one owner’s report:

“Coolant has leaked all over my driveway because of a thermostat housing and water pump fail. I am getting it fixed for the second time for $1800. Very common among other VW owners. This is not fair. Now I am out $4000 in repairs and have a big stain on my brand-new driveway. This is very unsafe if driving long distances as coolant leaks everywhere.”

The 2015 Golf had a total of 21 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 144 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Hydraulic system leakage
  • Electrical controls on steering wheel not working
  • Erratic dash lights
2015 Volkswagen Golf

2000 Volkswagen Golf

While there were no critical safety concerns reported by owners of the 2000 Golf, it had its fair share of inconvenient and minor problems, leading to a lot of headaches for owners.

Many owners have stated constant power window mechanism failure.

This led to the windows rolling down on their own, completely falling into the slit which led to further window damage.

There were also a number of complaints regarding the airbag warning light coming on at random, and staying on.

The 2000 Golf had a total of 5 complaints at CarComplaints.com and 117 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Timing belt broke
  • Water and mold under carpet
  • Dome light wires melted

2022 Volkswagen Golf

The most severe issue experienced by owners of the 2022 Golf was that the coolant hose would come loose, which in turn would cause the “low coolant” light to come on.

This was caused by either improper assembly of components or low-quality materials used. 

The consequences of this problem led to abrupt vehicle stalling due to loss of fluids, resulting in engine overheating and other system malfunctions. 

Here’s one owners report:

“When driving at highway speeds, coolant sensor light stated there was a problem. Pulled off of freeway and noticed that coolant was spewing everywhere. Opened hood and radiator had come loose and damage to coolant lines when coming in contact with belts.”

The 2022 Golf had a total of 81 problems at CarProblemZoo.com.

Common problems:

  • Sensor problems
  • Brake system issues
  • Cracked shift knob

Related: Volkswagen Golf Tune-Up & Maintenance Costs (Complete Guide)

What Years Have The Most Complaints?

Model YearComplaints(CarComplaints.com)Problems(CarProblemZoo.com)
2021 Volkswagen Golf25
2020 Volkswagen Golf14
2019 Volkswagen Golf069
2018 Volkswagen Golf321
2017 Volkswagen Golf1992
2016 Volkswagen Golf1076
2015 Volkswagen Golf21144
2014 Volkswagen Golf513
2013 Volkswagen Golf1363
2012 Volkswagen Golf763
2011 Volkswagen Golf12145
2010 Volkswagen Golf1493
2009 Volkswagen Golf45
2008 Volkswagen Golf11
2007 Volkswagen Golf02
2006 Volkswagen Golf515
2005 Volkswagen Golf1227
2004 Volkswagen Golf332
2003 Volkswagen Golf332
2002 Volkswagen Golf997
2001 Volkswagen Golf16151
2000 Volkswagen Golf5117
1999 Volkswagen Golf676
1998 Volkswagen Golf328
1997 Volkswagen Golf325
1996 Volkswagen Golf477

What Problems Do Volkswagen Golf Have?

  • High pressure fuel pump failure
  • Shifting problems
  • Panoramic sunroof leaks
  • Infotainment screen stopped working
  • Hydraulic system leakage
  • Electrical controls on steering wheel not working
  • Erratic dash lights
  • Check engine light on
  • Fan stopped working
  • Multiple electrical issues
  • Engine seized
  • Catalytic converter failure
  • Shifting problems
  • EGR Cooler Fault
  • Clutch slipping
  • Faulty airbag
  • Fuel injectors faulty
  • Transmission failure
  • Cam chain tensioner failure

What Are The Best Alternatives To The Volkswagen Golf?

Make & ModelScoreMSRPFuel Economy (MPG)
Volkswagen GTI8.9$27,256 – $32,709City: 24 /Highway: 32
Kia Forte8.7$17,732 – $22,574City: 25 – 31 /Highway: 32 – 41
Honda Civic8.6$21,790 – $29,991City: 25 – 32 /Highway: 35 – 42
Mazda38.6$20,133 – $26,308City: 24 – 27 /Highway: 32 – 36
Volkswagen Golf8.6$22,149 – $22,214City: 28 – 29 /Highway: 35 – 36
Hyundai Elantra8.2$18,924 – $23,867City: 23 – 33 /Highway: 30 – 41
Hyundai Veloster8.2$19,598 – $26,754City: 22 – 28 /Highway: 29 – 34
Subaru WRX8.1$27,494 – $39,772City: 16 – 21 /Highway: 22 – 27
Volkswagen Jetta8.1$19,757 – $28,955City: 25 – 30 /Highway: 32 – 40
Subaru Impreza8.0$20,410 – $25,258City: 22 – 28 /Highway: 30 – 36
Toyota Corolla7.9$20,743 – $24,269City: 29 – 31 /Highway: 36 – 40
Nissan Sentra7.7$20,404 – $22,434City: 28 – 29 /Highway: 37 – 39

Source: cars.usnews.com, edmunds.com


  • Ian Sawyer

    Growing up with a father who was a mechanic I had an appreciation for cars and motorcycles from an early age. I shared my first bike with my brother that had little more than a 40cc engine but it opened up a world of excitement for me, I was hooked. As I grew older I progressed onto bigger bikes and...