2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI new car reviews

The new Golf TDI. Doesn't look like a diesel, does it?
Power comes from VW's clean diesel TDI.

Better than: The standard Golf.
But not as good as: The GTI.
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 75.18

A diesel-powered VW Golf isn't anything new. A million years ago, the original Golf--known here as the Rabbit--could be purchased with a diesel engine under the hood. The latest Golf, now entering its sixth generation, can be ordered with the TDI engine. It's like we've gone full circle.

The new Golf TDI is powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine. And here's a shocker: Our test car had a real six-speed manual transmission. Yes, one with a clutch pedal and everything.

Our test car was also fairly loaded, boosting its sticker price up to nearly $26,000. The touch-screen navigation system alone added $1750 to the tally; the sunroof ate up another full grand.

We don't usually spend a ton of time discussing mileage figures, but the Golf TDI has posted some nice numbers with the EPA: 30 mpg in the city and 41 on the highway.

Other staff views

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

Remember how diesel versions of cool cars were usually kind of lame? That's not really how the Golf rolls.

For one, it doesn't look like a boring car. I know, sounds lame to first mention looks, but doesn't the mention of a diesel-powered Golf conjure up images of wheel covers and a bare bones vinyl interior? This one looked closer to GTI than grocery-getter.

It also doesn't sound like a diesel. Okay, maybe you could hear a tiny bit of that diesel knock, but you had to stretch to hear it.

It definitely didn't smell like an old-school diesel. Knock off the TDI badge, and to everyone else it's a regular Golf sporting some cool alloys.

Torque? Yep, it's all here. The spec sheets lists 236 lb.-ft., and there's no real reason to rev it to redline. And speaking of revving to redline, the six-speed tranny was nice. Yeah, a DSG might help those economy numbers, but the six speed worked nicely.

One more compliment: nice seats.

Joe Gearin Joe Gearin
Associate Publisher

Although the TDI Golf is not intended to be a sporting machine, most enthusiasts find it interesting. The good fuel economy, massive cruising range, and prospect for incredible amounts of torque are all things that make us go "hmmmm." Unfortunately, there isn't an enthusiastic bone in this Golf's body. Not that it's all bad—this is a thoroughly decent car. It's quiet, reasonably powerful, and a very comfortable place to spend time. The interior is upscale, and the seats are supportive and multi-adjustable. This Golf rides softly, but it's always composed. Steering feel is good, and the chassis holds on predictably when pushed to the modest limits of its all-season tires. The TDI Golf is even a good value at around $25K--a lot of car for the money.

What the Golf lacks is any sort of zest. The engine is powerful enough, and it goes about its business in a very non-diesel sort of way. However, it can only hide so much. The low redline, industrial sounds coming from under the hood, and lack of any real urgency constantly remind you that efficient operation is this car's purpose.

VW was careful to include thoughtful reminders of its past, like the great seats that have been a company tradition for years. Did they have to include the horrible, stick-in-a-bowl-of-Jello shift linkage that has plagued VW for the last 30 years? This TDI features nearly the exact shifting feel as a 1977 Rabbit, which is not a good thing. We understand the desire for continuity throughout a product line over time. Traditions can be good, like the seats. However, tradition shouldn't suck, and this VW's gearbox does. Think Alfa GTV6 or Porsche 914 and you will be getting close. Okay, the VW isn't quite that bad, but there is no joy in rowing this gearbox. It may seem blasphemous to an enthusiast, but this car would be a better match with VW's excellent DSG transmission.

With us, the TDI averaged 39.5 mpg in mostly highway driving--good mileage numbers for sure, but not high enough to offset the higher diesel prices and the lack of a pulse. For around the same price, a MINI Clubman seems to be a better choice for the enthusiast. You may lose a little space inside and a tiny increment in fuel savings, but Clubman provides more than enough grins to make up for it.

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Comments

View comments on the GRM forums
crankwalk
crankwalk Dork
3/10/13 5:00 p.m.

Just to add, in real world numbers the manual transmissions net better fuel economy than the DSGs overwhelmingly. I get 44 mpg avg on my '12 Jetta tdi 6 speed .On tdiclub.com there is a large comparision with the results showing when driving for FE the 6 speed turns lower cruising rpm's on the highway.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/10/13 12:00 a.m.

A diesel-powered VW Golf isn't anything new. A million years ago, the original Golf--known here as the Rabbit--could be purchased with a diesel engine under the hood. The latest Golf, now entering its sixth generation, can be ordered with the TDI engine. It's like we've gone full circle.

The new Golf TDI is powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine. And here's a shocker: Our test car had a real six-speed manual transmission. Yes, one with a clutch pedal and everything.

Our test car was also fairly loaded, boosting its sticker price up to nearly $26,000. The touch-screen navigation system alone added $1750 to the tally; the sunroof ate up another full grand.

We don't usually spend a ton of time discussing mileage figures, but the Golf TDI has posted some nice numbers with the EPA: 30 mpg in the city and 41 on the highway.

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