2010 Volkswagen Golf Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on February 08, 2010

It's a profile that's stood the test of time... decades actually. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on February 08, 2010

It's all new from the back, but the revised taillight design is the most noticeable change. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on February 08, 2010

This four-door handles just as well as the two-door model, which just happens to be very well indeed. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on February 08, 2010

A beautifully finished interior makes the Golf feel more premium than entry-level. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on February 08, 2010

Fabulous seats are comfortable and supportive. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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Rear seating room is excellent for a small car. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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Loads of cargo space and more with the split seatbacks folded. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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The 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine pulls nicely and delivers great fuel economy. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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The details are very upscale. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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The Rabbit is long gone and VW's compact is appropriately named Golf once again. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS comes standard on the Golf. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

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Under the armrest you'll find connectivity for auxiliary devices and a direct iPod plug-in. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on February 08, 2010

VW's new 2010 Golf gives good reason to trade in your Rabbit. (Photo: Canadian Auto Press)

Published on February 08, 2010

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Published on February 08, 2010

Published on February 08, 2010

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Published on February 08, 2010

Published on February 08, 2010

Published on February 08, 2010

Published on February 08, 2010

Published on February 08, 2010

Published on February 08, 2010

Published on February 08, 2010

Anyone who has driven a Volkswagen product knows that it's a cut above its entry-level competition in perceived quality, the touchy feely details that fall easily to hand, and driving dynamics. And each generation, like with most automakers' cars, gets better, keeping each VW model ahead of its rivals. The new 2010 Golf is no exception.

Like what you see? I certainly do. This is the new look of Volkswagen, a design also shown earlier this year on the global market (almost everywhere but North America) Polo and the Scirocco before that. It's a great new look that's fresh but doesn't stray too far from VW's roots, especially in hatchback form.

Yes, Volkswagen makes a Golf Wagon now for the first time, and being that it's an impressive vehicle all on its own and targets a unique buyer that's probably not interested in either the three- or five-door hatchback, I covered it in a separate review earlier. Today we're going to focus on the hatchback model excluding the Golf GTI, which once again is a unique model targeting a totally different buyer than the regular car, or at least a buyer with more means.

Due to cars like the new Polo and Scirocco mentioned earlier, and the new Golf, which has been available in other markets for a short while and incidentally replaces the Rabbit here in North America, VW's global sales have been strong despite an economic downturn than needs no introduction.  During the car's introduction, John White, President of Volkswagen Group Canada Inc., said that Volkswagen's sales are up by 12% compared to a 14% worldwide downturn in the passenger car market, with the automaker's most profitable centers being three of the BRIC nations, Brazil, Russia and China, plus Germany, of course. And while sales are strong, profitability is up too with 1.2 billion Euros in the coffers for the first half of '09. This allowed VW AG to purchase its 10th brand, Porsche, the result of which will be full integration to VW group by the end of Q1 2011. Yes it's an exciting time for a carmaker that looked like it was in trouble a few years ago, and like rivals Fiat and Ford, took that opportunity to straighten out the ship before the really big tsunami force waves hit.

So what does this mean for Canada? We're 14th in VW's volume, which is pretty impressive when factoring in population. Our market is down, of course, but not as significantly in the sinker as our friends to the south, but Volkswagen is countering the effects with the introduction of new models like the Golf in its various shapes, sizes and mechanical configurations. Next to the Golf, the newest arrival, VW reintroduced a diesel into the Jetta lineup. Now more than half of Jetta sedan sales feature the new TDI clean diesel, while the aforementioned wagon enjoys a three-quarter percent take rate in diesel. Other new '09 models include Tiguan, Passat CC, Routan, and the Touareg TDI Clean Diesel, but the new 2010 Golf is the one to really push sales higher.

Golf is VW's bread and butter car after all, and interestingly the only nameplate to survive the 25-year run from when it initiated the modern two-box hatchback design in '74 until this most impressive Mk6 version. And it is impressive. Believe me. Impressive enough to win the 2009 World Car of the Year award earlier this year, as well as Import Car of the Year at the Tokyo auto show last month. Here in Canada VW shouldn't be too upset that its regular hatch didn't walk away with an AJAC award, because it took two Golf awards alone with the Golf Wagon TDI winning Best New Family Car (Under $30,000) and the Golf GTI taking Best New Sports/ Performance Car (Under $50,000); the Touareg TDI Clean Diesel took Best New SUV/CUV ($35,000 to $60,000) honours as well.

The new 2010 Golf hatchback continues to be available in three- and five-door configurations, or two- and four-door hatchback body styles, depending on your descriptive verbiage, and the look could only be VW Golf (Rabbit) from a mile away. Sure it gets a clean, elegant new grille that, to me at least, looks fabulous, combined with a fresh new headlight design, strong shoulder lines, cool new mirrors, and you might notice the stylish door handles from the CC. From the rear, its wider taillights give it a broader stance, a sportier look that I really like.

Once again the Golf offers premium levels of quality inside, a reality that should make a person question the need to spend so much more to get into a car with a fancier badge. Volkswagen has added chrome accents inside to dress things up further, so along with all the soft-touch plastics, woven headliner material that wraps beautifully down each pillar, ultra-high-end switchgear and impressive list of standard and optional features, the Golf continues to be in a class of one.

Before getting into specific features, and I won't name them all because the list is way too long, the new Golf comes in four trim levels starting with Trendline, then moving up to Sportline, followed by Comfortline and at its topmost position, Highline. Both three- and five-door models start off in Trendline trim, a cooler way of saying base that, I suppose, seems apropos being that it feels anything but basic. After that it gets kind of confusing so hang in there. The base engine is VW's 2.5-litre five-cylinder good for 170hp at 5,700 rpm and 177 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 for spirited performance whether hooked up to the standard five-speed manual or optional six-speed automatic with Tiptronic shift capability.

Trendline cars (three-door $20,175 for and four-door for $21,175) feature manual climate control, cruise control, auto up/down power windows, keyless entry, heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, variable intermittent wipers, an intermittent rear wiper, an alarm, CD/MP3 stereo with auxiliary input, active front head restraints, eight-way manually-adjustable cloth seats, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat with centre armrest and pass-through, 15-inch steel wheels with covers wrapped in 195/65R15 all-season tires, and more. 

The three-door Golf can only be had in Trendline and Sportline ($23,900) trim. Consider the latter more of a GTI-lite, with features like 17-inch alloy wheels framed in 225/45R17 all-season rubber, a sport suspension system enhanced by electronic stability control and hydraulic brake assist, plus fog lamps, a power sunroof, heated washer nozzles, heated seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and a premium 6CD/MP3 audio system with Sirius satellite radio.

With respect to three- and five-door models, the Golf Comfortline ($22,575) can only be had with the latter and features adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated seats, front and rear floor mats, heated washer nozzles to the Trendline, and 16-inch alloy rims on 205/55R16 all-season shoes, while diesel models get fog lights thrown in too. Yes, and that brings up another issue, the ability to get into an alternative no other automaker offers, clean diesel power by the form of VW's wonderful 2.0-litre TDI DOHC, 20-valve, four-cylinder turbodiesel good for 140hp at 4,000 rpm and a V6-like 236 lb-ft of torque at 1,750 rpm ($24,975). The upgraded engine makes better use of its output via a standard six-speed manual or optional six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) sequential-manual automatic, more efficient and a lot more fun to drive via its blisteringly quick dual-clutch mechanicals and paddle shifters.

"Back in the high life again," to quote Steve Winwood (hey, not only does the title work but it seems appropriate to quote a guy formerly in a band called "Traffic" in a car review), the Golf's top-line Highline ($26,475 with 2.5 and $28,775 with the TDI) adds some features only otherwise available in the three-door Sportline, such as fog lights, a power sunroof, electronic stability control, hydraulic brake assist, and the 6CD/MP3 stereo with Sirius satellite radio. Additionally the Highline gets an iPod interface to go with that audio upgrade, plus a multifunction steering wheel, leather seats and rear side thorax airbags and seatbelt pretensioners.

That rear airbag system comes in addition to standard side curtain airbags for all window occupants, plus front thorax bags and one stuck into the steering wheel hub plus another in the front passenger-side dash, of course. As a note, while the current car has yet be smashed to bits by North American governmental orgs it's very similar to the outgoing Mk5, and that car earned four-star ratings for frontal impact and five-star ratings for side impact from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). What's more unusual, in a good way, is that the outgoing Rabbit (Golf) earned the Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), with every score at the highest "good" level. Making it so no accident occurs in the first place, traction control is also standard, as are four-wheel discs with ABS.

All of these details are interesting, but how does it drive? Extremely well… as expected. Like its styling suggests and interior quality reiterates, the new Golf is a premium car with badge parked slightly above entry-level class. Its handling is great, and even better in Sportline trim, while the ride is hardly harsh, but rather about as comfortable as this class gets. It sets a level of refinement that is difficult to match, much thanks to a high-tech front window composed of laminated two-layered glass wrapping a plastic layer to reduce wind and engine noise, side windows are 10% thicker, double window seals all-round, optimized exterior window aerodynamics, and a cover underneath the engine.

What's more, off-the-line performance is excellent with either drivetrain, the 2.5 showing terrific form when up to speed and its 37 additional horsepower become fully functional for passing maneuvers, while the TDI is a real foot-stomper off the line where an extra 59 lb-ft of torque give it some serious jump, the latter engine's improved transmission choices only elevating the driving experience further. I'd opt for the diesel, personally, as I love the rush of torque and appreciate the outrageously good fuel economy of 6.7L/100km in the city and 4.7 on the highway with the manual and an even better bump to 4.6L/100km highway with the DSG upgrade. The 2.5 isn't bad compared to similarly performing mills from competitive brands, but its 10.4L/100km city and 7.0L/100km highway rating with the manual and 9.2 / 6.9 rating with the Tiptronic automatic is hardly going to win it any green awards.

From a practicality perspective, the new Golf is totally comfortable for four and quite respectable of five, while the rear cargo area can manage up to 413 litres (14.6 cu ft) in five-door guise and a tad more at 419 litres (14.8 cu ft) when the three-door is being stuffed to the gills.

A premium-like four year or 80,000 km comprehensive warranty covers everything not taken care of by separate warranties, such as the one covering the battery, while the powertrain is taken care of for five years or 100,000 km.

It's not difficult to become a fan of VW's compact hatchback, no matter the model year or trim level, and the new 2010 Mk6 is the best Golf ever. And considering 26 million have been sold since its inception, that's a pretty significant claim.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Hatchback, Volkswagen, VW, 2010, Golf, $10,000 - $19,999, $20,000 - $29,999,

Organizations: Volkswagen

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