May 18, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 30 September 2010 10:59
We’re old enough to remember when nobody did cheap, reliable transportation better than Volkswagen. The company’s evolution since the 1970s has led it far afield from the beloved Beetle, in its day a world-beater where reliability, fuel economy and low price were concerned. Today, compacts that cost less than VW’s entry-level Golf inhabit most competitors’ showrooms.
But VW offers a few treats nobody is delivering at this size or price point. Start with the strong yet quiet diesel engine, available as an option in the two-door coupe and four-door sedan. It gives hybrid-like fuel economy without the quirky performance, complex electromechanical system and unpredictable battery life.Maybe you like the Golf but don’t want to deal with the fuel-availability issues and the higher cost of diesel, which runs at least 20 cents and sometimes as much as 30 cents higher than regular unleaded gasoline. The alternative is a 170-horsepower inline 5-cylinder gasoline engine. The base, gasoline-powered coupe and sedan start at $17,620 and $19,335, respectively; the base price for diesel-equipped Golfs is above $22,000, but the diesels come with a higher level of standard equipment.
We drove a diesel-powered TDI coupe with 6-speed manual transmission and a TDI sedan with VW’s DSG automatic. We much preferred the sedan, which was more functional thanks to its four doors and easier to drive because of the automatic shifter. All of our drivers had a tendency to stall the stick-shift-equipped Golf, and it sometimes lurched vigorously when shut down in first gear because of the diesel’s high compression. Fuel economy for both versions is about the same.
For this model at least, the EPA numbers are true to life. We crept into the mid-40s on long highway trips in the New England states. The Golf diesel with automatic transmission is rated at 30 mpg in the city, 42 highway.
The guiding principle behind the Golf is the same one that prompted Mercedes-Benz to roll out the 190 series sold during the late 1980s and early ’90s: small, and more expensive than most cars its size; but highly refined and appointed like a full-sized luxury sedan. The Golf exudes quality, not only in the high-end interior materials used, but in its performance standards. It’s plenty fast, once you get the 140-horsepower diesel engine’s RPMs up, and nimble as the animal its predecessor model was named for, the Rabbit.
Our $28,790 sedan had about $6,000 worth of options, including the automatic transmission, power sunroof, advanced sound system and GPS. Among the features on the long standard-features list were automatic climate control, satellite radio, 17-inch alloy wheels and iPod adapter.
A Top Safety Pick designee by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Golf also is the only Volkswagen to receive much-better-than-average reliability ratings in Consumer Reports magazine reader surveys.
The Golf’s high-end construction and materials, its superb road manners and diesel-engine availability set it distinctly apart from the many other compact coupes and sedans in its niche.
Engine: 2.0-liter inline turbodiesel Four, 140 horsepower, 236 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 2,994 lb.
Suspension: Four-wheel independent, MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 17x7.5-inch alloy
Tires: 225/45R17 H all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 12.4 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 14.5 gallons
Fuel economy: 30 mpg city, 42 mpg highway
Fuel type: diesel
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