Review and photos by
Peter Bleakney, Autos.ca
It’s hard not to like the 2011 VW Golf TDI. While I’m a sucker for the sporty and all-round excellent 200-hp GTI, the pragmatic side of me would surely win out if I were kicking tires in a V-Dub showroom. I’d go with the super-smart four-door TDI clean diesel; and not only because it gets outstanding fuel economy.
But while we’re on the subject of parsimonious diesel-sippage, at the end of my week of mostly highway kilometres I still had a quarter tank of diesel and the average fuel economy display read a heart-warming 5.7 L/100 km.
With a base price of $25,275 in Comfortline trim (the base Trendline Golf is gas-only), the six-speed manual four-door Golf TDI is the least expensive diesel-powered car in Canada, and it punches well above its weight when it comes to refinement and road manners.
My Amaryllis Red Metallic tester with its optional $1,300 Multimedia Package checked in at $26,575, which is hardly what you would call a bargain when shopping for an economy car, but the Golf TDI lives in a different place from your Mazda3s, Honda Civics and Hyundai Elantras.
This is a premium vehicle, and only a minute behind the wheel drives the point home. Against other compact cars, the Golf simply feels more refined, more solid, and yes, more expensive.
The doors close with a decisive Germanic thunk, and once settled into the excellent fabric seats with manual height adjustment and powered rake adjustment (other automakers would do well just to copy these chairs and be done with it) your eyes fall upon a simple, elegant and exceptionally logical dash layout out with clear gauges and glove-friendly controls. The meaty leather-wrapped multi-function wheel feels great in the hands and adjusts for both reach and rake.
Volkswagen is bucking the trend of swooping, overstyled dash designs like those in the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra. For sure it’s a matter of personal taste, but this high quality effort will surely stand the test of time.
In typical Vee-Dub fashion, the six-speed shifts smoothly and clutch take-up is nicely progressive; the six-speed, DSG twin-clutch transmission is available for $1,400. A similar sum buys you a sunroof.
This Comfortline trim comes well equipped with electronic stability control (ESC), 16-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats and washer nozzles, leather accents, radio with single in-dash CD player and eight speakers, driver & passenger front airbags, side airbags and side curtain airbags, engine block heater and front fog lights.
Other nice touches include auto climate control and heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals.
To get Bluetooth, the $1,300 Multimedia Package is necessary, and this also adds USB input, upgraded audio with touch-screen, SIRIUS satellite radio, digital compass, multifunction steering wheel and trip computer.
Go for the $28,775 Golf TDI Highline and you get all this plus leather and a sunroof.
It’s on the road where the Golf TDI will win your heart. The 2.0-litre common-rail turbo-diesel four makes 140 horsepower and a substantial 236 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,750 to 2,500 r.p.m. While the horsepower figure might look a tad weak when compared to some competitors, it’s the diesel twist that speaks the loudest.
Off the line, the TDI won’t match the 2.5-litre five-cylinder gas engine for smoothness or acceleration, but once under way, the torque effortlessly pushes the little hatch along like the hand of God. Its Germanic autobahn breeding is evident on the highway, being rock solid and exceptionally quiet (the four-pot is barely turning over). This car has long legs and it’s all too easy to creep well north of the speed limit. Fittingly, there is a warning that will chime when you’ve exceeded the set speed.
The trademark VW mechanical harmony is here – fine steering feel, a responsive and well-balanced chassis and a big car compliant ride. Having just stepped out of a Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTec, I actually liked the Golf’s ride better. Not to mention the seats and the steering; decent sounding audio, too.
This is a car I wouldn’t hesitate to take on a cross-continent journey – and over many much higher priced vehicles.
With its tall greenhouse, outward visibility is good, and as you might expect, there is plenty of headroom both front and back. The rear seats don’t quite fold flat, but with 1300 litres of space, you sure can put a lot of stuff back there.
For 2010, the TDI accounted for about one third of Canadian Golf sales. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the VW Golf TDI is a car you’ll buy and drive ‘till the oil runs out. And in Amaryllis Red Metallic, it’s pretty sexy too.
Pricing: 2011 Volkswagen Golf TDI Comfortline
Base price: $25,275
Options: $1,300 (Multimedia Package)
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $28,040
Buyer’s Guide: 2011 Volkswagen Golf
Crash test results
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)