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2012 Volkswagen Golf TDI (Clean Diesel) Review

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2012 Volkswagen Golf TDI

SEE ALSO: Volkswagen Golf TDI Specs, Comparisons and Prices
SEE ALSO: Should You Buy Hybrid or Diesel? - Just The Bottom line Facts

The Auto Channel


Model: 2011 Volkswagen Golf TDI
Engine: 2.0-liter Clean diesel turbocharged 4
Horsepower/Torque: 140 hp @ 4,000 rpm/236 lb.-ft. @ 1,75 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Wheelbase: 101.5 in.
Length/Width/Height: 165.4 x 70.3 x 58.2 in.
Tires: P225/45R17 H
Cargo volume: 15.2/46 cu. ft. (rear seats up/down)
Fuel economy: 30 mpg city/42 mpg highway/41.7 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 14.5 gal.
Curb weight: 2,994 lbs.
Sticker: $24,955 (includes $770 destination charge, $300 Bluetooth connectivity)

Top 5 Reasons to Buy this Car
1. Excellent fuel economy
2. Practical, yet compact
3. Decent small car performance
4. Comfortable
5. Practical economy car

The Bottom Line: Despite my ignorance/stupidity, the Volkswagen Golf TDI offered a couple of surprises and pleasures. The biggest pleasure was the economy - 41.7 mpg in our test and even more on the highway. This translated to some embarrassment, but more importantly it translated to fewer visits to the local station and, despite the higher cost of diesel fuel, a lower bill at the end.

I'll be the first to admit I'm not the brightest light on the Christmas tree, but I really proved it during the test of the Volkswagen Golf TDI. Know I knew, somewhere, that TDI meant a diesel engine. But because of oldzheimer’s and the rush to get over the hills and through the woods to daughter's house for Thanksgiving, the bell didn't go off.

Throughout the entire trip I was continually impressed by the fuel economy, which exceeded 43 mpg on the onboard economy gauge. Still, I felt it would be a wise move to fill up when we were about 90 miles from home, even though there was still more than a quarter tank left. So I pulled up to the gas pump, opened the fuel door, and saw this big sticker, "Diesel Fuel Only." Thank God they didn't add "dumkopf."

I have driven diesel-powered cars before, and they usually announced themselves with a noisy engine, if not inside the car then definitely outside, but this Volkswagen Golf sounded and performed just like any other four, maybe quieter. At least I can use that as the excuse for not realizing I was in a diesel car and really add a dimension to this review. Oh well.

This edition of the Golf is the sixth generation of the car that was introduced in 1974 as the Rabbit. It signified VW's shift from the rear-wheel drive, rear-engines Beetle that had carried VW through nearly 30 years.

There has been quite a change since that Rabbit. For one, the body is more aerodynamic. While the Rabbit had square edges, there's a smoother exterior to the Golf.

I'm fairly certain that in 1974 rear seats didn't fold to increase cargo capacity. The Golf has 15.2 cubic feet of cargo capacity normally, but that expends to a healthy 41.7 cubic feet with the rear seat backs folded. On our "over the river..." trip, we used that volume because Black Friday was also a part of that weekend.

The Golf TDI is a smooth-running car that has enough power to get out of trouble. The 6-speed manual gearbox helps, because with it you can get up in the rpm range to extract the maximum power form the engine. There's enough torque there naturally, thanks to the diesel.

The front seats offer excellent side support, good enough that you almost want to race. Adding to that feel is very good handling. There were no ride quality issues with the relatively short wheelbase, although it's longer than it was 37 years ago. The rear seats did not offer as great side support, but they did offer very good leg and knee room.

I liked the good cruise control that kept me honest through the trip. Even with the diesel engine, there's a tendency to test the speed limit.

Adding to the ride quality is a very good audio system that includes AM/FM/SAT/USB/AUX. The USB connection is in the small center console/arm rest.

Even without the surprising engine, the Golf is a nice car to drive. Adding the diesel makes it super economical. The mpg numbers we achieved exceeded those from any car we have tested, including hybrids.

2011 The Auto Page