2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI Road Test Review

John Birchard - CAP staff
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Volkswagen's long-running Golf has entered its sixth generation in the North American market.  The company has dropped the Rabbit name and updated the car, but the Golf remains a front-wheel drive hatchback at the premium end of the economy car spectrum. 

Dimensions of the latest Golf are largely the same as the old, but the Wolfsburg folks have smoothed out the exterior in a way that renders the new 2010 Golf instantly recognizable and pleasingly new at the same time.  The interior, always a strong point in Volkswagens, is well designed for ease of use and tops its compact class in both materials used and their fit and finish. 

The Golf is offered with a choice of two engines in America: a gasoline-fired 2.5-litre five-cylinder that makes 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, and a diesel 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder diesel featuring turbocharging and direct injection.  The TDI produces 140 horsepower at 4,000 rpm, but more important, maximum torque is 236 pound-feet between 1,750 and 2,500 rpm.  With the standard six-speed manual transmission, the diesel accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in just under 9 seconds.  The six-speed automatic Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) equipped diesel also sprints from zero to 100 in the same time span, according to the company.  The optional DSG transmission with Tiptronic shift mode (as in my test car) gets an estimated 7.8 L/100km in city on the more conservative EPA cycle and 5.6 on the highway.  During my week with the Golf TDI, I averaged 6.8 L/100km, mostly in city traffic. 

For those whose most recent diesel experience was in the wake of the OPEC oil embargo of forty years ago, I'm here to tell you a lot has happened since then.  Diesels are no longer noisy, smoky, smelly and slow.  Modern technology has overcome such drawbacks.  And diesels still get 20-30% better fuel mileage than comparable gasoline engines.  But the reality is diesel fuel is priced close to premium gas and a diesel-powered car initially costs more than its gas-powered brother.  So, you will save money on a diesel, but not as much as you would like. 

That having been said, why would you want to buy a Volkswagen Golf TDI?  Well, first, it's a compact car that's fun to drive, economical to operate and practical for everyday tasks.  You can have it in either a two-door or four-door configuration.  You can carry a surprising amount of stuff in a Golf, loading it through the hatchback and folding the rear seats to maximize room. 

The base price for a five-door TDI (no three-door diesels are available in Canada, but you can get the new wagon with the TDI engine) with manual transmission is $24,975 in Comfortline trim and ranges on up to $28,775 for the same five-door in its topmost Highline trim.  But even the base model (which comes more fully stocked when you get the diesel than the bottom-rung gasoline powered Trendline model) Golf TDI comes with a long list of standard features, including: electro-mechanical power steering, anti-lock brakes and 17"alloy wheels.  You get the full array of airbags and a tire pressure monitoring system, too.  In addition, you get a leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel, leather-wrapped shift knob and parking brake handle, cruise control, AC, height adjustable telescoping steering column, power windows, locks and outside mirrors, height adjustable driver's seat, 60/40 split folding rear seat, and more. 

While the top-tier Highline is so fully stocked that the $1,400 auto transmission is the only option available for a total price of $31,540 including freight and PDI, the TDI Comfortline can be had with that same transmission plus a $1,300 Multimedia Package featuring VW's Premium 8 audio system with a touchscreen interface, a 6CD changer, MDI (Media Device Interface) with iPod connectivity, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity, SIRIUS satellite radio, a diversity antenna, a multifunction steering wheel, trip computer and indicator, plus a digital compass.  You can also get a power glass sunroof with sunshade for $1,400, ESP (Electronic Stabilization Program) and HBA (Hydraulic Brake Assistant) for $450, and rear side-thorax airbags plus rear outboard seating seatbelt pretensioners with load limiters for another $450, totaling $31,340 including freight and PDI.  Basically a fully featured TDI Comfortline is a Highline less leather sport seats and leatherette door trim for cloth, and no additional interior trim upgrades, hence the marginal difference in price. 

A word here about that optional DSG transmission.  The Direct Shift Gearbox uses an automated dual-clutch system that instantly engages and disengages gears without the need for a driver-actuated clutch pedal.  A computer engages one clutch on the next gear needed, just as the clutch from the previous gear is released.  The resulting shift is quick yet smooth and eliminates power loss that occurs when a traditional manual transmission is used plus the fuel usage that a convention automatic with a torque converter usurps.   Tiptronic stops the automated shifting and lets the driver control the gear changes by either tapping the gearshift lever up or down, or using the shift paddles mounted to the steering wheel.  It sounds complicated, but it works great. 

If cars can be said to have national characteristics, then the Germans produce vehicles that are influenced by the Autobahn.  They tend to be quick, handle well, and have a firm ride and a feeling of solidity about them.  This is true of an S Class Mercedes, an Audi and yes, even the humble Golf.  If the TDI's performance is not exactly blistering, it's still pretty brisk and satisfying.  The brakes haul you down from speed quickly and efficiently.  The interior is attractive and comfortable. 

Further attractions include 24-hour Roadside Assistance for four years or 80,000 km, whichever comes first, plus the following: a five-year or 100,000-km powertrain limited warranty, a four-year or 80,000-km new vehicle warranty, a 12-year unlimited distance limited warranty against corrosion (read: rust) perforation.  And since all Volkswagens now use synthetic oil, you no longer have to get the oil changed every 8,000 km. 

So, summing up, the Volkswagen Golf TDI brings the element of fun to the daily drive.  It features the best fuel economy of any Volkswagen and beats every other car available except for the Prius.  Its hatchback, folding rear seats and generous cargo space make it a practical purchase, too.  The Golf is good-looking in its distinctive VW way and, while not cheap, is a great buy.  It deserves to be on your short shopping list.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

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

Organizations: Volkswagen

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