2010 Volkswagen Golf TDIPosted on March 1st, 2010
Turbo diesel hatchback is a fun, fuel-efficient package
By Nina Russin
Clean diesel is a win-win-win technology. It’s affordable, offers excellent performance, and produces fewer emissions than gasoline. With all there is to love about diesel, it’s surprising more Americans aren’t embracing it.
Part of the problem is the lingering memory of diesels three decades back: sluggish, smoke-belching vehicles that on the whole, were uninspired and unreliable. It’s hard to get a generation of drivers soured by their first diesel experience to give it another shot.
The other problem is that the new generation of diesel, called clean diesel because of its reduced sulfur content, sounds too good to be true. Wary car shoppers want to know what the drawbacks are. Now that clean diesel fuel is widely available in the United States, there are none.
The Volkswagen Golf TDI is a case in point. Base sticker price is $22,590: well within the limits of our best value category. The base model comes well equipped with comfort, convenience and safety features. The only obvious omission is Bluetooth connectivity, which costs $200.
Fuel economy is about twenty-five percent better across the board than the gasoline-powered version of the same model. Because the new common-rail diesel systems run on extremely high fuel pressures, there’s none of the lag that plagued older diesel powertrains. Zero-to-sixty acceleration is 8.6 seconds: about half a second slower than the gasoline Golf, but certainly acceptable.
Diesel engines produce twenty-five percent less greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline cars, so they’re good for the planet.
Right-sized platform for city dwellers
This week I spent time in the four-door Golf TDI. The test car comes with a six-speed manual transmission in place of the six-speed automatic with Tiptronic. Both transmissions are good and have comparable gas mileage, but the manual gearbox adds a little fun to the package.
Some manual transmissions can be a chore to deal with in traffic, but this one is not. The clutch pedal is light, and gears have enough range to keep the driver from having to shift constantly.
Standard comfort and convenience features include remote keyless entry, an iPod adapter, satellite radio, CFC-free air conditioning, leather wrapped steering wheel, a 60/40 split folding rear seat, cruise control, power windows and locks.
Options on the car include the Bluetooth interface, power sunroof ($1000), a touchscreen navigation system ($1750), and a cold weather package that adds heated front seats and washer nozzles ($225).
Five-door hatchbacks are a great alternative to sport and cross-utility vehicles for buyers with limited parking space, who may not need quite as much cargo room as the bigger cars offer. The Golf’s low center of gravity and aerodynamic profile enhance its handling and performance, while the hatchback provides more cargo space with better accessibility than a passenger sedan.
The Golf-s 101-inch wheelbase makes it easy to parallel park. Turning radius is a scant 35.8 feet. The standard rack-and-pinion steering system offers good response at all speeds. An independent front and multi-link rear suspension provides a sporty ride.
Ground clearance is 5.4 inches: enough to clear a couple inches of snow, but not adequate for off-road driving. Buyers looking for off-road capability should consider the Volkswagen Touareg.
While the engine’s 141 horsepower rating might seem anemic, its 236 lbs.-ft. of torque is definitely not. Diesel engines reach peak torque at extremely low engine speeds: in this case, 1750 rpm. Its torque gives the turbo diesel engine the ability to accelerate well in the critical 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range.
Turbocharging enhances engine power at wide open throttle and at altitude. Compared to naturally aspirated cars, turbocharged vehicles lose relatively little power at higher elevations.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the car in a firm, linear fashion.
Visibility is pretty good around the car, despite its thick rear pillars. A standard rear wiper keeps the back glass clear in rain and snow.
The Golf’s interior is surprisingly spacious, considering the car’s small footprint. Two sport bucket seats up front have good lower back support. Manual seat adjustments are easy to use. The back has enough head, hip and legroom for two average adults. The Golf’s high floor tunnel and center console eat up most of the legroom in the center rear position.
All four doors have bottle holders, and both rows of passengers have access to small cupholders. The standard tilt steering wheel has Bluetooth and audio controls to minimize driver distraction. Center stack controls are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate.
A digital information screen in the gauge cluster gives ambient temperature, trip and odometer readings and average fuel economy. I averaged about 37 miles-per-gallon on the test drive: three miles-per-gallon better than the EPA estimate.
A locking glovebox provides secure storage for front-row passengers. There is also a small center console bin. Auxiliary and USB ports power iPods and MP3 players. The Golf has two, 12-volt power points: at the base of the center stack and in the cargo area.
The rear seats are easy to fold flat using levers on the seatbacks. With the rear seats folded flat, there’s enough room to stash a bicycle with its front wheel removed in the cargo area. The cargo area has enough room with the rear seats in place for small pieces of luggage and groceries. A tonneau cover keeps items in back safe from prying eyes.
All cars come with standard front, side and side curtain airbags, daytime running lights, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control. Volkswagen’s standard warranty includes up to three years of 24-hour roadside assistance.
Volkswagen builds the Golf at its assembly plant in Wolfsburg, Germany.
Likes: A versatile five-door hatchback with outstanding fuel economy and excellent road manners. The Golf TDI is an excellent value, and has reduced greenhouse emissions compared to gasoline-powered vehicles.
Dislike: Lack of legroom in center rear seating position.
Model: Golf TDI
Base price: $22,590
As tested: $26,514
Horsepower: 140 Hp @ 4000 rpm
Torque: 236 lbs.-ft. @ 1750 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 8.6 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 30/41 mpg city/highway
Comments: Base price does not include a $750 delivery charge.
6 responses to “2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI”
Thanks for this fascinating content. I will look for your web site regularly right now. I’m interested in this subject since years and you might have great infos. Greeting from Germany
Each post I have read is well written and to the point. I would also like to say, not only are the posts well written, but the design of your web-site is excellent. I was able to navigate from post to post and locate what I was looking for with ease. Keep up the excellent work you are doing, and I will be back many times in the near future.
Great stuff.. I love all the VWs and even more when they are the TDIs. In fact the new Jetta TDI will be coming out shortly. Getting around 40mpg.
Great website, considers issues of importance to me: where can I find a small, high mpg car with room inside for two adult bicycles? Please write about more small cars and whether bikes will fit inside. Thanks
It’s sick that you’re calling a diesel vehicle “environmentally friendly”. Do you realize how much soot a diesel vehicle produces, or that “clean diesel” is just a marketing term?
There is a tremendous difference between the current generation of diesel engines produced for passenger cars and some of the older smoke belchers. Tailpipe emissions analysis proves that these new cars have far fewer toxic emissions, and also produce significant less carbon dioxide which is a greenhouse gas than gasoline engines. Twenty years ago when I started writing about cars I was by no means a fan of diesel but now I am. Thanks for writing in.
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