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Budget Buy $10,000: Fiesta vs Golf

Chris Kaiser

Looking for a deal on a hot hatch? We compare used versions of the Ford Fiesta vs Volkswagen Golf at $10,000 or less.

Hot Hatch Showdown

2018 Ford Fiesta - carsforsale.com

2018 Ford Fiesta – carsforsale.com |  Shop Ford Fiesta on Carsforsale.com

It’s the classic bargain of the hatchback, what you give up in size and power you make up in improved maneuverability and affordability. We have a soft spot at the Daily Driver for hot hatches and rally racing, so our choices for a hatchback head-to-head naturally lead us to the Volkswagen Golf and the Ford Fiesta. Whether you’re picking one of these up as your next rally project car or just looking for an extra bit of fun in your new commuter, these two hatches are both excellent choices. But with just $10,000 to spend, which is best? We’ll break down all the relevant information below to help make our recommendation.

2013 Volkswagen Golf - carsforsale.com

2013 Volkswagen Golf – carsforsale.com |  Shop Volkswagen Golf on Carsforsale.com

First though, at a price of $10,000, examples of the used Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Golf are not completely equal. You can find 2018 model year Fiestas at or under $10,000 with mileages around 30-40,000 miles. At the same price, the Golf, with a higher starting MSRP (roughly 25% higher than the Fiesta), is going to be a bit older, closer to 2013-14 model years, and double or triple the miles of the Fiesta.

Fiesta vs Golf – Specs

2018 Ford Fiesta 1.6L I4 - carsforsale.com
2018 Ford Fiesta 1.6L I4 - carsforsale.com

The used Ford Fiesta offers a choice of two engines. The base engine is a 1.6L 4-cylinder making 120hp and 112lb.-ft. of torque and paired with either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The manual configuration nets 27 city and 35 highway mpg while the automatic improved slightly to 27/37 mpg. The other engine choice, coming in the Fiesta ST, is a turbo 4-cylnder EcoBoost engine making 197hp and 202lb.-ft. mated to a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic with fuel economy ratings of 26/33 mpg and 27/35 mpg respectively. The Fiesta comes in FWD only.

2013 Volkswagen Golf 2.5L I5 - carsforsale.com
2013 Volkswagen Golf 2.5L I5 - carsforsale.com

The used Volkswagen Golf also comes with two engine offerings. (Note: We excluded the Golf R or the GTI as they both cost considerably more or carry well over 100,000 miles at the price point of $10,000.) The Golf 2.5 predictably features a 2.5L 5-cylinder making 170hp and 177lb.-ft. of torque with either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The Golf ends up a bit less efficient with 24/31 with the manual or 23/33 with the automatic. The TDI upgrades to a 2.0L turbo diesel I-4 offering 140hp and an enticing 236lb.-ft. of torque with either a six-speed manual or six-speed auto which grants a truly impressive 30 city and 42 highway mpg. The Golf also comes in FWD only. 

Fiesta vs Golf – Driving & Performance

2018 Ford Fiesta - media.ford.com
2018 Ford Fiesta - media.ford.com

Practical and cute, the real reason you’d consider a hatch like a used Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Golf is because of how they drive. These are the cars that define the adage that it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow (though, in fairness, is driving anything slow all that fun?). The unexceptional 0-to-60 times belie all the peppy driving you get out of either of these cars.

The Fiesta is aptly named because this nimble hatch can be a lot of fun on a twisty road. The steering is sharp and responsive. We’d recommend the manual transmission over the automatic and the latter can be jerky in its hunt for the correct gear (plus, you’ll have more fun with the manual anyway). The sporty suspension tuning provides agility but at the expense of a somewhat choppy ride. Still, the diminutive Fiesta packs big fun.

2013 Volkswagen Golf GTD - media.vw.com
2013 Volkswagen Golf GTD - media.vw.com

As enjoyable as the Fiesta is, the Golf is more so. Here too, the steering is well-weighted and accurate. The Golf’s diesel engine in the TDI offers a good bit of torquy punch even at higher revs. It also bests the Fiesta with a 0-to-60 time of 8.6 seconds (over the Fiesta’s 10 seconds). The TDI’s great gas mileage is just icing on the cake.

Fiesta vs Golf – Comfort & Interior

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As the more modern of the two cars, one might expect the used Ford Fiesta to easily best the Volkswagen Golf when it comes to interior quality and comforts. And yet, the Golf started with the advantage of being the more expensive vehicle when it was new and built with a greater focus on having a posh interior.

This isn’t to say the used Fiesta’s interior is bad, it’s actually quite nice. Materials aren’t especially fancy or expensive, but there are soft touchpoints where they’re needed, and the overall design is well executed. We recommend the Recaro seats in the ST trim which offer good bolstering and descent support on long drives. The main detraction for the Fiesta is how cramped the interior is, especially in the rear. Legroom and headroom are both in short supply for rear seat passengers.

All-in-all, the Fiesta offers a nicely wrought cabin, even if it’s a little cramped.

Though it’s five years older than the Fiesta, the Golf’s interior ages well and is still the more refined of the two. Materials are high quality and there’s more space to be had front and back. The highway ride is also quieter than you find in the Fiesta. The Golf is the less modern of the two, which means you’ll need to find a TDI trim to get a touchscreen (with navigation) and a sunroof. Even then, the Fiesta ST’s Sync 3 infotainment software is feels more than five year’s more modern than anything you’ll find in a comparably priced Golf.

Cargo is also unevenly matched with the Fiesta claiming just 25.4 cu. ft. of total space with the rear seats folded down while the Golf nearly doubles that with a total of 46 cu. ft.

Fiesta vs Golf – Trims & Features

Used Ford Fiesta

2018 Ford Fiesta - carsforsale.com
2018 Ford Fiesta - carsforsale.com

S (base) – rearview camera, 4.2-inch infotainment touchscreen with Ford’s Sync software, six-speaker stereo, Bluetooth, USB port.

Features & Options – cruise control, keyless entry, 6.5-inch touchscreen with Sync 3 software, heated front seats, automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

2018 Ford Fiesta ST - carsforsale.com
2018 Ford Fiesta ST - carsforsale.com

ST – 1.6L turbocharged engine, sport-tuned suspension, performance tires, upgraded brakes, rear spoiler, optional ST Recaro seats package

Used Volkswagen Golf

2013 Volkswagen Golf - carsforsale.com
2013 Volkswagen Golf - carsforsale.com

Base – Keyless entry, heated mirrors, cruise control, eight-speaker stereo.

Features & Options – heated front seats, six-CD changer, Bluetooth, sunroof and navigation, keyless ignition, LED running lights.

2013 Volkswagen Golf TDI - carsforsale.com
2013 Volkswagen Golf TDI - carsforsale.com

TDI – 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, sport suspension, ambient lighting.

How Bad Do You Need That Touchscreen?

2018 Ford Fiesta S - carsforsale.com

2018 Ford Fiesta – carsforsale.com |  Shop Ford Fiesta on Carsforsale.com

Given that Fiesta is the newer, more modern car versus the nicer, better handling Golf, the choice between these two is pretty close. At $10,000 you can get a great deal on either but it’s probably more work hunting down a Golf in good condition and with relatively low mileage. With that said, if you’re patient and diligent enough, the Golf is probably worth the extra work over the Fiesta. Then again, if you just want an affordable, fun commuter that will be fairly easy to come by, then the Fiesta is still a decent alternative. At least so long as you don’t have big plans for using that back seat much.

WINNER: The 2013 Volkswagen Golf

2013 Volkswagen Golf - carsforsale.com

2013 Volkswagen Golf – carsforsale.com |  Shop Volkswagen Golf on Carsforsale.com

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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