2013 Volkswagen Golf

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2010 Volkswagen Golf — Review

This 2010 review is representative of model years 2010 to 2014.
By James Tate of MSN Autos
Rating: 8.9

Bottom Line:

Though technically new, the 2010 Volkswagen Golf retains much of what made last year’s car so great. A new Clean Diesel engine option means a new level of efficiency — significantly better than that of its competitors — and it’s still a blast to drive.
Pros:
  • Great gear ratios in the 5-speed manual
  • Logical interior
  • Gobs of space inside
Cons:
  • Europe gets even better engines
  • Diesel commands a sizable premium
  • DSG transmission available only with the diesel

What makes a small car great? Is it good looks? A high fun-to-drive factor? Awesome fuel economy?

Well, the new 2010 Volkswagen Golf hits the mark on all accounts, thanks to the addition of a frugal but torquey diesel engine that bumps fuel economy to 41 mpg on the highway.

Even more importantly in these financially trying times, you get it all at a price about the same as the previous model. Now that's a deal, no?

Model Lineup
The 2010 Golf wears a number of suits to fit buyers' needs. Both the gasoline and diesel versions are available in 3-door and 5-door hatchback configurations. While both cars share a wheelbase and a rather spacious back seat, it goes without saying that getting in and out of the 5-door is much easier.

The base Golf packs a surprising amount of standard features, including cruise control and power locks and windows. Base wheels are 15-inch steel with all-season tires, but for a little extra coin Volkswagen has much sharper 17-inch alloy wheels available. Standard safety equipment includes daytime running lights, anti-lock brakes and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

Volkswagen has positioned the Golf TDI (the diesel) as more of a premium model. It comes with a 3-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel instead of the plastic unit found on the base car, as well as the touch-screen sound system and 17-inch alloy wheels. Navigation and adaptive xenon headlights are available for the TDI as options.

Under the Hood
The base Golf gets its power from the same 2.5-liter inline 5-cylinder found in last year's model. That means there's 170 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque on tap — big numbers for such a small car. Buyers can choose between two gearboxes: a 6-speed automatic or a 5-speed manual. In manual trim, the smart gear ratios make the car feel peppy and light on its feet, making the most of the available torque for plenty of low-end grunt.

The big news this year is the Golf TDI's 4-cylinder 2.0-liter Clean Diesel engine. The engine is a jewel in the Jetta TDI, and being wedged into the Golf hasn't dulled it at all. With 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, the Golf TDI is a blast to drive. Bolted to the engine is your choice of a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed dual-clutch DSG gearbox, and while the DSG offers slightly better fuel economy, either choice nets you hybrid-rivaling efficiency numbers at the pump.

Inner Space
Both the base 2010 Volkswagen Golf and its diesel counterpart offer an uncluttered cabin. The dash is simple, with subtle brushed metal accents. The one real detraction is the polished black plastic climate control; it feels cheap compared with the quality of the rest of the interior. While the base Golf's plastic steering wheel is a bit disappointing, it's par for the segment; the only reason you notice it in the Golf is because the rest of the materials are so upscale. Still, we prefer the leather-wrapped unit in the TDI.

Up front, the driver gets a clear display with easy-to-read gauges, including a plate-sized tachometer and equally epic speedometer. The front seats serve up hefty bolsters, but are wide enough to accommodate even the broad backside of the average automotive writer. Behind the rear seats you'll find plenty of storage space for groceries and even small furniture items. Despite this, the rear seat is bit tight for a most adults. If you plan on cramming two friends back there on a regular basis, we'd recommend opting for the 5-door.

On the Road
The 2010 Volkswagen Golf is an excellent driver. In gasoline-powered, 5-speed trim, the car feels as if it has more power than it actually does, thanks to perfect gear ratios. There's an impressive well of torque to draw from when going for a tight pass or frolicking up a steep incline. And while there's nothing outright wrong with the 6-speed automatic available in the gasoline Golf, it's simply overshadowed by the solid 6-speed dual-clutch unit found in the diesel.

The Golf TDI's boundless torque instantly does away with any worries about the lack of horsepower compared with the larger gasoline engine. Inside the cabin it is so quiet you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two engines at idle — the purring diesel is that smooth. Really stomp on the throttle and you're given a heady chorus from the engine bay and heaps of grin-worthy thrust. All this from a 41 mpg car? It's almost too good to believe. The 6-speed dual-clutch gearbox is a marvel, allowing the driver to quickly select gears with steering-wheel-mounted paddles while providing near seamless shifts — good enough that we would almost have it over the excellent 6-speed manual.

Diesel fanaticism aside, both cars manage to return some pretty impressive fuel economy numbers. When equipped with the 5-speed manual transmission, the base Golf returns 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway, while the 6-speed automatic delivers 23/30 mpg. Of course, the real star of the show is the Golf TDI, with 30/41 mpg with the DSG.

Right for You?
If you're after a daily driver that won't drain your bank account or lull you to sleep when you're behind the wheel, the 2010 Volkswagen Golf is the way to go. With an interior well ahead of the competition, smart exterior styling and one of the most efficient diesel engines on the market, it's hard to fault.

James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side asSenior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.

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BB03 - 8/27/2014 8:21:34 AM