The VW Golf is a best seller, award winner and benchmark setter. Ever since its launch in late 2012, it has gone on sale in most major car markets across the world. Same car, same price, different country? Not even close.
GermanyLike we said, the Golf 7 was unveiled in 2012 at the Paris Motor Show. It's built on the MQB modular platform, which it closely shares with the Audi A3, SEAT Leon and Skoda Octavia. All come with pretty much the same engines, gearboxes and even look a bit similar.
Of course, the first market to get a new German car is... Germany. Currently, the cheapest one there goes for €17,325 in the most basic Trendline trim level with an 85 hp 1.2-liter TSI turbo engine. Standard kit is somewhat lackluster, but you do at least get air conditioning and stop-start.
Volkswagen sells a lot of basic Golfs with 1.2 TSI or 1.6 TDI engines for around €20,000. However, there are much more expensive models. For example, the flagship Golf R, which is equipped with a 300 hp 2-liter turbo, starts at around €40,000. VW also makes a plug-in hybrid version called the GTE that will set you back €37,000 or an EV that costs €35,000.
The United StatesEven though it looks the same, the US-spec Golf is different to the European model. It's just been launched as a 2015 model year and assembly takes place in Mexico, not Germany. There aren't any small engines available. In fact, you're pretty much restricted to either a 1.8 turbo with 170 hp or a costly 2-liter diesel. The hot GTI version is available, but the Golf R will arrive next year.
Prices? They start at $18,000, equivalent to a rather affordable €14,400 at today's exchange rate. Why are Americans getting a standard Golf that's almost 20% cheaper and has a bigger engine? Because of lower taxes and market conditions.
JapanJust like Japanese imports like the GT 86 are considered special in Europe, German cars sold in Japan are somewhat exotic. In the land of the rising sun, the Golf is mainly sold only with one refined yet underpowered drivetrain: 1.2 TSI 105 HP and a 7-speed DSG automatic.
The standard price of a "Golf TSI Trendline" is 2,587,000 yen in Japan right now. That's equivalent to just €17,674 at today's exchange rate, which is very good considering the same powertrain and trim level costs around €21,000 on the German market.
ChinaIn order to target two different groups of buyers, VW sells both the new Golf and the old one with a large discount.
Even though it's still a brand new car built on the same MQB platform, the new Golf is sold in China with a rather archaic engine. Instead of a turbo, you get a 1.6-liter like the one on the Golf 5. It's good for 110 HP and 155 Nm (114 lb-ft) of torque. The official website seems to say that it's built on the "MKB" platform and that it needs only 8.2 seconds to reach 100 km/h, which we have a really tough time believing.
Price starts at 121.900 yuan, quivalent to about €15,800 or $20,000. Because the communist government taxes imports, the Golf 7 is made by FAW-Volkswagen, a local joint venture. Production takes place at a new factory in the city of Foshan in Guangdong Province and in the existing Volkswagen production base city of Changchun in Jilin Province.
RussiaA couple of years ago, the Russian market used to be considered crucial to the survival of the European auto industry. As demand in France dropped, that in Moscow boomed. The tables have turned now and things are really bad in Russia, so bad that SEAT is said to be leaving in 2015.
To keep up with locally made models, the Russian Golf is offered in an even more spartan trim level called Conceptline. You can only have one engine, the 1.2 TSI with 85 horsepower and a 5-speed manual. It has fewer speakers, steel wheels, no touchscreen display and no MP3 connectivity.
How cheap is it? Very cheap, actually. The basic model we mentioned is 665,000 rubles, which equals to €11,000 or $14,000 at today's rate. Unless we're mistaken, that's about as much as a Dacia Duster.
Moreal of the story? Expect the unexpected, even when you're dealing with a vanilla car like the Golf.