Itâ€™s especially bad at speeds below â€œparking lot.â€� Foot off brake, crawl, foot on brake, repeat. Itâ€™s even worse when youâ€™re piloting a stick â€“ shift to first, release clutch pedal, roll, brake, clutch in, shift to neutral. And repeat.
Not all commuting is that slow, of course. There’s also the block-to-block drag race. First to the next stop sign or stoplight wins. If youâ€™re lucky, youâ€™ll hit 30 mph and get to third gear before doing it all over again.
If youâ€™re gonna spend a lot of your time behind the wheel, working up to a measly 30 mph and hitting third gear right before you hit the brakes, thereâ€™s worse cars to do it in the than the 2018 Volkswagen Golf S.
As the value trim in the great Golf line â€“ remember, this is the car upon which the vaunted GTI and hallowed Golf R stand â€“ the S trim is one of those vehicles that used to roam the streets en masse during my childhood but has now mostly died off. I speak, of course, of the compact stick-shift sport hatch that offers few frills, a no-bullshit driving experience, plenty of grins, and little in the way of cash outlay.
If you donâ€™t know from memory what engine motivates this level of Golf, itâ€™s a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 170 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque. It drives the front wheels, and the manual transmission that comes standard on this car is of the five-speed variety.
Itâ€™s a quick little thing, and the gearbox is a joy to row. It doesn’t hurt that you don’t have to the rev the hell out of it to get to peak torque or even horsepower. Turning the car is also fun â€“ handling is fairly sharp, even when riding on 15-inch wheels. True, itâ€™s no GTI, but if you canâ€™t swing anything much over $20K, youâ€™re going to have a fun little car that makes getting from point A to point B much less monotonous. Even the slightly stiff ride isnâ€™t too much of a penalty to pay.
Where you do suffer, of course, is on the content side. That, and in the sound arena â€“ the S isnâ€™t quiet. And that is the downside here â€“ cheap commuting is fine, but youâ€™re gonna give up some goods. Worse, thereâ€™s only one other trim level available on the regular Golf, and it (the SE) will only cost you about $3K more. So if you want a larger infotainment screen, a panoramic sunroof, 16-inch wheels, navigation, and blind-spot monitoring (among other goodies), youâ€™ll have to pony up. But you can still get Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, USB, and Bluetooth at the bargain basement price.
Power windows with one-touch up/down, partial power front seats, rearview camera, A/C, cruise control, and leather shift knob and e-brake wrapping is also standard.
Both Golf trims were refreshed for 2018, and 2019 brings a new engine. Meaning if youâ€™re a fan of the 1.8, you should grab it before itâ€™s gone.
Itâ€™s clichÃ© at this point for auto journos to write about their love for the GTI and Golf R, as they really are that good. Even their value counterpart is a worthwhile drive, and it wonâ€™t break the bank.
Sure, itâ€™s a little flawed. Itâ€™s noisy, itâ€™s stripped in terms of content and it doesnâ€™t take much more dough to get a lot more, and the typical all-black VW interior appears particularly plain and utilitarian in base form.
But itâ€™s a blast to drive, and it gives the grins without grabbing a big hunk of wallet. Thatâ€™s a recipe for making the commute fun again.
[Images Â© 2018 Tim Healey/TTAC]