2021 Volkswagen Golf Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Steering, electrical, and transmission problems are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones

The VW Golf has been around for nearly half a century. During that time it’s become a worldwide best seller. But in recent years sales have been dropping dramatically. Some say it’s because people want SUVs while others say it’s just because of lower quality standards. Either way, there are always complaints from owners to the NHTSA. Complaints about the 2021 model focus on steering, electrical, and transmission issues. 

There is talk that the VW Golf will be discontinued in the U.S. It’s not surprising. After all, what’s the point of producing a car that fewer and fewer people buy? From peak sales of nearly 70,000 cars in 2017, sales dropped progressively to 22,495 in 2020 and to just 6,537 in 2021.

Perhaps surprisingly, complaints to the NHTSA have also dropped significantly since the 2017 model. One of the biggest gripes about that model year relates to structure. These relate to a wide range of problems from faulty door latches and leaks to misfitting seats and headrests.

You can see from our post about the 2020 Volkswagen Golf GTI that build-quality issues were problematic then too

Click on other model year to view more problems: 2019   2020   2022   2023

Most Common Problems with the 2021 VW Golf

There are currently only 3 consumer complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) about the 2021 VW Golf and Golf GTI. These relate to 5 problem areas, the electrical system, engine, forward collision avoidance, the powertrain, and steering.

But the NHTSA isn’t the only platform that attracts vehicle complaints. Edmunds invites consumer reviews where car owners can rate value, the interior of the car, safety, performance, comfort, technology, and reliability.

There are only 4 comments for the 2021 Volkswagen Golf, 3 of which award 5 stars overall and a combination of 4 or 5 stars for the various elements. The fourth is highly critical, calling the Golf a “ruined car.” The owner gives it 3 stars overall, with the interior getting only 2 stars and value and reliability 4.

Having previously owned a 2017 Golf 1.8T, he says “the 2021 model is worse in almost every way (slower, noisier, more cheaply made, only marginally more fuel-efficient than its previous version, with signs of cost cutting everywhere, etc.).

“Having driven it for only over a month, I can’t think of a single compelling reason to buy it over its competition. It’s a nice car, but it’s just a car, (with) nothing special that would make it stand out for anyone who actually cares about what they drive. Golf used to present a perfect, per my opinion, balance of drivability and practicality per $1 of price. It is no more…”

While he rates safety with 3 stars, he doesn’t identify problem areas.

2021 Volkswagen Golf Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Electrical System
Service Brakes
Air Bags
Exterior Lighting
Unknown Or Other

Steering Problems Raise Safety Issues

An owner from California does identify a safety issue. Filing the complaint under Steering and Electrical System, the malfunction described started when the steering wheel “locked up” and the driver couldn’t turn. At the same time, the red power-steering system light turned on and flashed/beeped three times. There were zero symptoms before this happened.

“I was on the freeway in the far right lane and managed to force push the steering wheel to the right and slowly merge over to the shoulder.” The dealer inspected the Golf and confirmed there was an issue with the steering gear, which needed to be replaced – “as the first step.”

He says he “could have died if I was in any other lane as there were a lot of cars on the freeway. I got lucky.”

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Complaints About the Electrical System

Problems with any electrical system can be confusingly diverse. Sometimes lots of failures happen at the same time.

A Washington owner of a Golf GTI reports an injury in a complaint that is filed under the Electrical System, Engine, and Forward Collision Avoidance categories.

“My car has, on several occasions, slammed the brakes on while I’m reversing, suggesting that I am about to hit something, even though there is nothing there. It is very scary because I have no way of knowing when this will happen. Also, it turns off the head unit and goes black while I am in reverse or trying to follow the directions. And finally, the key sensor keeps saying my keys are not in the car while they are right there (had the battery replaced and that wasn’t the problem). Additionally, the wipers are dangerous and go off for no reason constantly.”

Transmission Problems

Nobody expects the transmission of a brand-new car to be faulty. But a Golf GTI owner from New Jersey experienced transmission failure with a car that had only 300 miles on the clock.

What happened was that while trying to accelerate from a red light, the Golf wouldn’t move forward and simply rolled into the intersection. A local dealer diagnosed the faulty transmission. They notified Volkswagen about the failure, but when the complaint was filed, the car had not yet been repaired.

What to do if your 2021 VW Golf is a Lemon? Your Lemon Rights

It’s not unusual to experience problems when you own a car. But when they recur or cannot be fixed, it might be because your car is a lemon.

Lemberg Law specializes in lemon law cases and has helped countless clients get settlement deals from car manufacturers. These include buybacks, trade-ins, and replacement vehicles.

If you have problems with your 2021 VW Golf and think it might be a lemon, contact us by calling our Helpline or filling in a contact form. We will assess your case free of charge. The law makes VW pay the legal bills for lemon law cases.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones

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