The least expensive Golf, the 92TSI, rolls on 15-inch steel wheels with plastic covers.
Pay more for the 92TSI Trendline and you get wheels in the same size but made from aluminium alloy, which look nicer than steel and are lighter. You also get front and rear parking sensors, which help you judge the distance to obstacles. Windscreen wipers operate automatically when it rains, and the headlamps switch on automatically in low light.
Spend more again on a 92TSI Comfortline and you get bigger, 16-inch wheels, shod with wider and shallower – or lower profile – tyres. These quicken steering response slightly and add grip. Various trim touches help the cabin feel nicer. Dual-zone air-conditioning lets the driver and passenger set temperatures independently. And there is satellite navigation.
On Highline models the alloy wheels grow to 17 inches and the tyres get wider again. The cabin is trimmed in leather, and the front seats are heated. Keyless access allows you to unlock and start with car while your key remains safe in a pocket or bag. And you get either the more powerful 110TSI petrol engine or the 110TDI diesel.
The sports-oriented Golf GTI rolls on 18-inch wheels with the same width but still shallower tyres. Its most relevant additional feature is the much stronger, 2.0 litre engine. Seats are sports versions but covered in cloth. Headlamps are extremely bright, bi-Xenon units.
The Golf GTI Performance increases the wheel size to 19 inches and adds a front differential lock, which improves drive when accelerating hard out of corners, as well as auto-dipping headlamps. Trim is suede-look Alcantara.
At the top of the performance tree is the Golf R, with the most powerful engine, 19-inch wheels and yet wider tyres, adjustable suspension and all-wheel drive. The interior trim is leather and the front seats are heated.
An option on most Golf variants is a Driver Assistance Package. That includes automatic cruise control (which matches your speed to a vehicle ahead), automatic emergency braking (which helps you avoid rear-end collisions below 30km/h), and automatic parking (which steers the car into place). Cost is about $1300.
A commemorative, limited-run variant of the Golf GTI, named the Golf GTI 40 Years, has auto cruise control and auto braking standard, as well as a significant power boost and cosmetic enhancements.