Caraganza First Drive Review 2020 Golf TSI: The quiet cousin

I recently bought a new car. Well not like brand new, but a 2019 with just under 15,000 miles on it.  It’s a former rental car, and we paid just over $10,000. This marks the third time we’ve bought a former rental car and we’ve never had an issue with any of them so I don’t expect we will with this one.

So, what does a person who gets a new car every single week for the last five years, buy?  It’s a Volkswagen Jetta.  Pretty much loaded with all VW has to offer, and we love it so far.

You might think that a guy who writes about cars for a living might be more inclined to buy something not only brand new, but something that he (or she) loves. You’d be wrong. Sure, I’d love to have a Supra, or a CTS-V or something with a Mercedes badge in the driveway, but the truth is that if I was writing car reviews for the money, I wouldn’t be writing car reviews.

It was ironic then that the week following our new car purchase VW sent me a 2020 Golf TSI for a week.  Now I love the Golf, had a week with the Golf GTI last year.  So, I knew I’d like a week spent with the Golf. And I was right.

The Golf TSI shouldn’t be confused with the other Golf variants.  For 2020 VW did away with the SportWagen and Alltrack wagon and the Golf R, which is sad.  But if no one is buying them, welp capitalism is a cruel mistress sometimes. The survivors are the Golf Value Edition, GTI S and SE, and e-Golf SE and SEL Premium and of course the TSI.

The TSI is a compact hatchback and is only available in one well equipped trim, the TSI.  This isn’t the sporty edition of the GTI. The TSI has a turbocharged 147-horsepower four-cylinder engine under the hood with a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic transmission, while the GTI has a 228-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4, with either the standard 6-speed manual or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.


Standard features include 16-inch wheels (the GTI has 18-inch), heated front seats, heated washer nozzles, faux-leather upholstery, 6.5-inch touchscreen, a panoramic sunroof, passive entry, push-button start, and a sunroof, along with the latest VW Car-Net remote services and a standard Wi-Fi hotspot, with a paid subscription, of course.

This then is the quiet cousin who never gets out of line and has no (visible anyway) tattoos.

On the outside the TSI looks like it is and what it is, is a vanilla version of the GTI. No frills, no racing stripes, nothing to make is stand out from the crowd.

It was strange getting into a tester that looks nearly identical on the inside as the Jetta I just bought.  But that’s what I like about all things VW. The interiors are very plain, utilitarian and functional. This is a German car you don’t need an entire book to learn how to operate.

The 147 horses won’t put you back in your seat but there is plenty of power to the front wheels for just about anything you might need it to do. I have to admit that I did shift into sport mode hoping that there may be a GTI tiger lurking, but all there was, was a purr.  It did add a bit of performance, but if sporty is what you are looking for, look elsewhere.

My wife, who will drive our new Jetta more than I ever will, agreed that it was hard to tell the difference between our Jetta and the TSI tester on the inside. And she also agreed that like our Jetta, the TSI is a very good thing indeed. What makes the Golf such a great family car is the value you can get for a very fun to drive and well-built machine. My tester for the week maxed out with an MSRP of $24,915.

VW is rumored to be making some changes to the Golf lineup in the coming years.  I suspect that these changes won’t be very substantial, why mess with a good thing after all? So, heed my advice (or not) and look for a car that isn’t brand new, maybe a year or two older, and has a few miles on it. You might just get a great deal. And if you come across a VW Golf, it will be an even better deal.

The 2020 Golf TSI
MSRP: $23,995
MSRP (as tested): $24,915
Engine: Intercooled Turbo Regular Unleaded I-4, 147 horsepower @ 5000rpm, 184 ft-lb. torque @ 1400rpm
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic w/Tiptronic -inc: sport mode
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 35 highway, 29 city, 32 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions): 33 mpg
Base Curb Weight (lbs) 3023

Interior Dimensions
Second Leg Room (in) 35.6
Front Shoulder Room (in) 55.9
Front Head Room (in) 38.4
Second Shoulder Room (in) 53.9
Passenger Capacity 5
Second Head Room (in) 38.1
Front Leg Room (in) 41.2
Passenger Volume (ft³) 93.5

Exterior Dimensions
Min Ground Clearance (in) 5.4
Track Width, Front (in) 61
Width, Max w/o mirrors (in) 70.8
Wheelbase (in) 103.8
Track Width, Rear (in) 59.8
Height, Overall (in) 58.2
Length, Overall (in) 167.6
Cargo Area Dimensions
Cargo Volume with Rear Seat Up (ft³) 17.4
Cargo Volume with Rear Seat Down (ft³) 53.7

Basic Miles/km 50,000
Basic Years 4
Corrosion Miles/km 100,000
Corrosion Years 7
Drivetrain Miles/km 50,000
Drivetrain Years 4
Maintenance Miles/km 20,000
Maintenance Years 2
Roadside Assistance Miles/km 36,000
Roadside Assistance Years 3

Greg Engle