The 2015 VW Golf Is a Grown-Up, Premium, 42-mpg Delight

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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- When you think VW Golf, you probably think of a very small car, cheaply built but engaging to drive. It was first launched in 1974 to replace the iconic VW Beetle.

You can now safely disregard your old views of the VW Golf. It's time to reprogram your brain. The all-new 2015 Golf is a far more sophisticated premium car with a relatively spacious interior compared to the competition.

The name Golf remains unchanged but behind the label it is now clear the all-new 2015 model has a lot more in common with the Volkswagen Group's premium brands than ever before: Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti.

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For example, the 2015 VW Golf is built on the same platform as the all-new 2015 Audi A3 that hit U.S. dealerships little over a month ago. In Audi's case, the A3 comes reasonably well-equipped with leather interior, sunroof and a bunch of other goodies. The price starts at $29,900 plus destination and tax.

In Volkswagen's case, the Golf version with four doors and automatic transmission starts at $20,665 plus destination and tax, but even with all options it doesn't reach the Audi A3 sister car's base price. So that's one perspective: comparing the Golf with the base Audi for the U.S. market that's built on the same platform and has a similar engine.

The other dimensional perspective that's interesting in the case of the 2015 VW Golf is that this is the least expensive car in the U.S. market that's got an otherwise identical gasoline and diesel version of the same car. The diesel version of the car -- the so-called TDI -- starts at $23,095 with four doors and automatic transmission. Add all the options and you're right around $30,000.

The Golf was the original hatchback, and as such it's a very short car in relation to its interior space. The problem was that in the past the back seat was still a bit on the small side. Large for its class but not to be confused with a mid-size car.

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This has changed completely for this all-new 2015 model. The rear seat is clearly the best in its class, with ease of ingress/egress, good foot space and perhaps most rarely found among many cars these days: great head space for a person little over 6 feet tall.

In contrast, the Golf's sister car, the Audi A3, has a smaller rear seat. You would not think that when just looking at these cars from the outside and judging from the relative marketing positioning.

Driver comfort is second to none in its class. Almost everything about it is best in class: front seat, steering wheel, foot space ("dead pedal"), seating position and instrumentation. Well, I give it a tie with the Chrysler 200 for instrumentation.