2012 Volkswagen Golf 2.5 5-Door Sportline Road Test

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on March 29, 2012

Great looking 2012 VW Golf looks even better in Sportline trim with its blacked out grille and 5 spokes on 17s. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on March 29, 2012

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Fully independent sport suspension aids handling and benefits ride quality. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

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Superb interior quality, in the league of premium brands. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

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Audio interface is a cut above. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

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Sportline seats are wonderful. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

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Rear seat space should be good enough for most body types. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

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Who needs an SUV? That's a large media cabinet, and the Golf swallows it up easily. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on March 29, 2012

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Good news! The 2012 VW Golf is exactly the same as the 2011 VW Golf other than a few trim changes! Whew! It's true. It has the same fabulous premium-level interior, the same vault-like quality feel, and the same wonderfully sorted fully independent suspension as it did last year.

Why was I ever worried? Well, in truth I wasn't because I knew the current Golf was introduced as a 2010 model and therefore not up for redesign until next year at the earliest. But if the new Jetta is an example of what we can expect from Volkswagen's next generation of entry level cars, well, suffice to say we may see a dramatically downgraded (and to VW's credit less expensive) Golf in the near future.

To me, however, $21,340 including freight for a car as good as a base Golf seems ruddy cheap. Yes, on paper it costs more than its Asian and domestic competitors, but let's get real, so does a compact BMW. Say what? Compare a VW to a BMW? The comparison isn't that far fetched. Sure one is front-drive and the other powered by the rear wheels, so maybe a compact Volvo is a better comparo. Either way, a Volkswagen Golf delivers the same kind of high-quality premium experience as these luxury brands for thousands less.

My four-door Golf hatchback tester came in base 2.5-litre form with a 6-speed automatic gearbox and midrange Sportline trim, which means pricing starts at $26,615 including freight. Volkswagen intelligently added a $1,300 Multimedia package to the press car, which includes a digital compass, a multi-function steering wheel connecting through to an upgraded audio system with a nice large 6.5-inch touch-screen display and 6-CD changer, iPod connectivity, and Sirius satellite radio, but most importantly the package boasts Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, as they knew we'd bitterly complain if it wasn't there when we tried to set up our trusty Blackberries, iPhones and Androids. A glass sunroof comes as part of the Sportline upgrade, with its best-in-class rotary dial that tilts it upwards in stages to let that ideal amount of air in or slides it rearwards in similar increments. Other Sportline features include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated seats that fire up immediately and can be set to roast and even toast if therapy is needed, heated washer nozzles, front and rear floor mats, fog lamps, hydraulic brake assist, sport suspension, and 17-inch rims on P225/45R17 all-season rubber. All of the Sportline goodies combine with standard Golf features like auto up/down windows, heated mirrors with turn signals integrated into their housings, variable intermittent wipers, auxiliary audio input, cruise control, and standard safety features like four-wheel discs with ABS and EBD, tire pressure monitoring, and a full assortment of airbags.

The Shark Blue metallic paint that coated my tester cost nothing extra, and I think together with the blacked out grille, black window surrounds, and 17-inch 5-spokes, the Golf Sportline looks fabulous. I love the look of the 3-Door but prefer the practicality of my 5-Door tester, and truly the only way to make this car better would be to upgrade to a TDI, which isn't available in Sportline trim, and extend it to wagon proportions; also not available in Sportline trim. But these are obviously personal requests and don't necessarily make the Golf "better" per se, just more suitable to my haul everything everywhere lifestyle and stingy personality; with the automatic the TDI is rated at an estimated 6.7 L/100km city and 4.7 highway compared to 9.1 and 6.5 in the 2.5, and puts out 236 lb-ft of torque compared to 177 respectively.

Just the same I was once again amazed at just how much the regular Golf hatchback can carry. The numbers read 413 litres (14.6 cubic feet) behind the rear seats and 1,299 litres (45.9 cubic feet) with those 60/40-split rear seatbacks folded flat, which makes the 5-Door slightly less voluminous than the 3-Door, but it's splitting hairs. In real world roominess the Golf was able to haul a fairly large Ikea desk on one occasion and even larger and longer Ikea TV/media stand on another, one leaving the Hofmann household and the other arriving. The rear seats fold easily and hard cargo cover a cinch to remove and stow out of the way behind the front seatbacks.

Unladen I was able to drive the Golf a little more aggressively, and the Sportline's larger wheels and performance-tuned underpinnings delivered an expected sportier experience than the more relaxed TDI Comfortline I tested earlier. It tracks nicely through curves and stays true to a straight line at high speed, while the ride hasn't been negatively affected in any noticeable way. Ergonomics are excellent, with the tilt and telescopic steering wheel joining multi-adjustable seats for that ideal position, and the seats themselves are extremely comfortable and totally supportive in Volkswagen tradition.

That concept of Volkswagen tradition brings me back to the Golf's higher standard of interior quality. Whether discussing its soft-touch plastics, superb switchgear, or as in the case of my 2.5 Sportline tester, finely tuned sport suspension, smooth and gutsy 170-horsepower 5-cylinder engine, impressive infotainment system, and the list goes on and on, the Golf is a significant cut above the class average.

It's not perfect, mind you. For instance there's no auto-off feature for the headlights, so if you leave them on your battery will drain. But that's a lesson you'll likely learn from, once inconvenienced by a dead battery, and it won't happen again. Why don't they swap the little chime that's supposed to remind you turn them off yourself for an equally inexpensive timer switch that cuts power after five minutes of inactivity? This problem kind of reminds me of the first three generations of iPhone that didn't include the copy and paste feature. Sometimes iconic brands stubbornly do things the way they do them despite not making any sense, and in the case of the iPhone and VW's Golf, the products are so good in every other respect we learn to live with their little idiosyncrasies. Then again, VW might want to rethink its allegiance to Apple because Android is now leading smart phone market and this car doesn't include a USB plug, albeit the Bluetooth audio works perfectly.

Even with my comparatively archaic Blackberry Bold 9900 in hand, I could easily learn to live with any Golf, this 2.5 5-Door Sportline or the aforementioned TDI Wagon. They're wonderful little cars that raise the compact standard.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Hatchback, Volkswagen, VW, 2012, Golf, $20,000 - $29,999, Compact,

Organizations: Volkswagen

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