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Volkswagen is often cited as the best all-around option in comparison tests. This is especially true of its performance cars that provide a nice balance of performance, comfort, and build quality. TrueCar has its own list of the best Volkswagens of 2023. Let’s discuss its top three picks and see what they’re all about. 

Unsurprisingly, the Volkswagen Golf GTI tops the list

A red 2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI sport hatchback 'hot hatch' model with roof cargo carrier
2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI | Volkswagen of America, Inc. Newspress Limited

TrueCar puts the 2023 Volkswagen Golf GTI on the top of its list. The 2023 Golf GTI is the second year of its eighth generation, commonly referred to as the Mk8. Now the Golf Mk8 has been harshly criticized for its infotainment system that forces users to use haptic touch buttons and sliders as well as burying important functions in the screen instead of opting for more user-friendly hard buttons. That said, there isn’t much more to critique the Mk8 GTI for, as it’s an exceptionally solid car otherwise.

TrueCar cites the driving dynamics and overall build quality as one of the main reasons to buy the Golf GTI. The great thing about this hot hatch is its fit and finish compared to the other vehicles it competes against. It has standard heated seats and smartphone connectivity, so even the base trim gets the goodies. Additionally, the starting $30,625 MSRP is quite the bargain for the performance and overall usability. Unfortunately, the top Autobahn spec is just a hair over $40k—a lot to ask, considering the far more capable Golf R starts at just $5,000 more. The VW Golf GTI is fun with its optional manual and 2.0L producing 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. It’s also affordable and a comfortable and practical daily driver, making it an obvious pick for the top of this list.

The VW Golf R is pricey, but a monster performer

Let’s get the cons out of the way. Yes, the Volkswagen Golf R’s starting MSRP of $45,835 is a big ask. The Golf R also has the same infotainment issues as the Golf GTI, but once you get accustomed to the system, the performance will help you forget all about it. A power output of 315 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque from its version of the 2.0L allow the Golf R to sprint to 60 mph in only 3.9 seconds—a full 1.1 seconds faster than its more affordable brother.

In addition to the impressive speed, the VW Golf R has 4Motion AWD and a rear diff that can actively distribute torque between the left and right wheels for sharper handling, reports Car and Driver. The Golf R also has a drift mode that can make more slippery surfaces a playground for childish entertainment. On the inside, the Golf R is basically as fully loaded as it gets, with heated and cooled seats, ambient lighting with 30 colors, stainless steel pedals, and Nappa leather seats. Given the AWD, blistering performance, and impressive comfort and features, it’s hard not to agree with TrueCar’s placement of the Golf R on this list. 

The Volkswagen Taos is a fantastic daily driver

Firstly, the Volkswagen Taos starts at just $25,450, which despite the price increase of the previous model year, is still a significant discount over nearly all of its competitors. For that base MSRP, you get a 1.5L four-cylinder with a variable geometry turbo that makes a healthy 158 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. Unfortunately, no other engine options are available as of 2023. The base Taos is FWD, though 4Motion AWD is a $3,340 option.

The FWD models send power through an eight-speed ZF automatic transmission, while the AWD models get a seven-speed DSG. It’s important to note that despite the performance implied by the dual-clutch, the DSG in the Taos is nothing to write home about. Fuel economy is impressive, with 28 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway for FWD cars and 25 city mpg and 32 highway mpg for vehicles equipped with the 4Motion Haldex AWD system.

Unlike the woeful infotainment in the Mk8 twins, the Taos has a brilliantly simple-to-use system that is easy to operate without taking your eyes off the road. The interior is simple and attractive, with excellent material quality for the price. It’s also an incredibly comfortable car—not just because of the seats, but because it is so easy and relaxing to drive. Ultimately, the VW Taos, like the Golf GTI and Golf R, is a justified inclusion to Volkswagen’s top three.   

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