I bought the clean diesel version of this car for a daily driver a few months ago ( http://grassrootsmotorsports.com/reader-rides/3759/ ). It was $24.3k out the door, I chose it instead of the equivalent GTI for about the same money. I never considered the base model Golf. The only other car I briefly considered was a base model Cooper S, but it didn't have enough room inside.
So far I have been quite impressed. The Golf TDI is german built not mexican built like the Jetta TDI, and it gains some "GTI-ish bits" that make it extra fun... namely stiffer suspension than the base model car, 17's with all season 225 Continentals, color touch screen audio with bluetooth, better seats, fog lights, etc. It also has, predictably, gobs of torks whenever you want 'em. Which is really neat for squirting out of a corner, or merging onto a highway, or passing someone on a highway... i.e. the real-world performance of the Golf TDI is much better than the 0-60 times (around 8 seconds) suggest.
Handling is decent, the chassis feels pretty stiff over bumps. It understeers of course, but careful corner entry fixes much of that. As would a better set of tires - the stock all season Continentals like to howl and really don't have a lot of grip. H&R has a 24mm adjustable rear swaybar available for the car, which should improve things nicely... I'll find out eventually.
I think the stock dampers are a bit soft especially in the rear, but that's to be expected. (Also keep in mind my last daily was an E36 M3 with Bilstein Sports!) My TDI will probably get Koni FSD's or similar at some point.
Stock brakes feel good, firm pedal with good modulation and not too "bitey"... also the stock pads aren't particularly dusty, which is nice.
Shifter is nice but a bit notchier than I prefer. Clutch is buttery smooth. Steering feel is good but not great (again, I'm coming from an E36 M3...) I'm not a fan of the factory ESP/ASR/e-diff nonsense - I wish the car had a real LSD, but I guess it's not intended to be an autocrosser. ;-)
As mentioned the interior is pretty nice. Fit and finish wise in general I've seen better from BMW and other high end brands, but that was on much more expensive cars. The hidden rear hatch release does confuse people, as does the fact that there is no visible key hole on any of the doors.
Anyway, after ~3k miles the car has turned in an average of 39mpg. That includes a whole lot of city driving with the a/c on. I'm regularly getting 600+ miles from 14.5 gallons of 45 cetane, and I'm certain the car could go 700 highway miles on one tank if I was capable of driving it gently. ;-) We'll see how it holds up, I'll probably only keep it for 4-5 years.
Long story short - this new "Mark 6" chassis is pretty neat, and all its iterations at various price points are definitely worth considering! (You can get into a base Golf for around $20k, but you can also spend nearly $30k on a fully optioned GTI.)