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2012/2013 Volkswagen Golf Drive and Review By Larry Nutson

2012/2013 Volkswagen Golf  (select to view enlarged photo)
2012/2013 Volkswagen Golf

2012/2013 Volkswagen Golf
Continuous Improvement

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Volkswagen’s Golf arrived on the automotive scene 38 years ago in 1974. Now after having sold over 29 million around the world the Golf (aka: Rabbit) just keeps getting better. A little like the “Eveready Bunny”, it just keeps on ticking.

The present-day Golf is the 6th generation. The all-new 7th generation was introduced earlier this fall and it’s longer, wider, lower and leaner…both in weight and in fuel consumption. We’ll need to wait until later in 2014 for Golf-VII to arrive in the U.S., so for now the present day Golf will need to satisfy our transportation needs. And, that’s not a bad thing. The Golf-VI is one very good car. It’s been worked over and refined so much in 38 years that it has become very complete in every detail. It delivers what it is supposed to.

2012/2013 Volkswagen Golf (select to view enlarged photo)

I spent a week driving a 2012 Golf 4-door with the Convenience & Sunroof package and powered by the 2.5-liter, 170HP, in-line 5-cylinder engine mated to a 6-speed automatic with Tiptronic. This configuration Golf has a 2012 MSRP of $22,455. Golf prices start at $17,995 for a 2-door manual trans, and the 4-door with auto trans starts at $19,795.

For the 2013 model year, the 2.5L four-door model is no longer available with a manual transmission. In the rest of the lineup (see all 16 Golf Models at bottom of this review), there are some minor revisions to interior features. All Golfs now have a front center armrest and standard front and rear floormats. Golf with Convenience has a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob, and handbrake lever. On Golf with Convenience and Sunroof, the steering wheel has multifunction controls. Prices for some models have inched upward. For example the 2013 version of the Golf I drove is now $22,705.

As an alternative to the 2.5-liter five-cylinder gasoline engine, a 50-state compliant 2.0L TDI Clean Diesel rated at 140HP is available. Don’t cringe at the word Diesel. If you drove a Golf not knowing it had the Clean Diesel engine you would be surprised at the performance and not clued-in by any noisy Diesel clatter. Golf Diesel pricing starts at an MSRP of $24,235 for the two-door, and $24,935 for the four-door. There are equipment variations between the gas and diesel models, so a side by side comparison is warranted when calculating the ROI on the higher priced diesel.

2012/2013 Volkswagen Golf  (select to view enlarged photo)

In terms of urban transport, it’s hard to not like the Golf. It’s able to transport 5 people. Is equipped with a large rear hatch for easy cargo loading. Has a fold down rear seat for even more versatility opening up 46cuft of capacity. Has a 165.4inch overall length for easy city-style maneuvering and parking. And, it’s front wheel drive for good driveability on compromised road surfaces.

I was pleasantly surprised by the performance coming from the 170HP engine and as an added bonus the engine sound is fairly substantial for this small car. I can think of a couple 4-cylinder powered much higher priced cars that could use a better sounding engine. EPA ratings for the 5-cylinder with automatic are 26 mpg combined with 24 city mpg and 31 highway mpg. The 5-speed manual transmission version gets lower city at 23mpg but higher highway at 33 mpg. The higher priced Clean Diesel gets 30 city mpg and 42 highway mpg with both the 6-speed manual or automatic.

2012/2013 Volkswagen Golf  (select to view enlarged photo)

Driving dynamics offer a nice combination of comfort, confidence, predictability, and a sense of security. There’s good feedback from the electro-mechanical power steering and road noise is at a comfortable level. The seats are quite comfortable and supportive with nice bolstering. Although the seats were manually adjusted, I liked the power recline feature of the front seats thus enabling little tweaks to that all too important backrest angle… at least for me.

An example of VW’s continuous improvement is the subtle trick incorporated in the rear-mounted trademark Volkswagen badge. Push the top portion of the badge and the bottom tilts upwards to release the tailgate.

2012/2013 Volkswagen Golf  (select to view enlarged photo)

The Golf is equipped with a long list of standard safety equipment from six air bags to ABS to Electronic Stability Control and an Intelligent Crash Response System that, in certain types of collision, shuts off the fuel pump, unlocks the doors and switches on the hazard lights.

Most all car companies today provide comprehensive warranties, and VW is among them. An added plus is Volkswagen’s Carefree Maintenance that covers all scheduled maintenance for 3 years or 36,000 miles. Yes, it’s baked-in to the price of the car, but from what I have heard the cost added is less than if you were paying yourself and it’s spread out over your monthly payment, if you have one.

Notwithstanding the presentation of the Golf-VII, Car and Driver magazine has named the today’s Golf-VI one of its 10-Best for 2013.

This present day Golf is assembled in Wolfsburg, Germany. The Golf has also been built in the U.S and Mexico but its Wolfsburg origin of today is somewhat of a testimonial to the long-standing Volkswagen roots of the original iconic VW. ( See Where All Cars Sold in North America Are Built)

© Larry Nutson