Freshly redesigned, the Volkswagen Golf is enjoyable to drive, smooth and fuel efficient. The front seats are comfortable and the cabin is austere but roomy, functional and of better quality than pre-2010 models.
The Volkswagen Golf is a front-wheel-drive compact car that comes in two-door and four-door body styles. Both seat five. The Golf offers a choice of a 2.5-liter five-cylinder gasoline engine or a 2.0-liter TDI diesel engine. The diesel offers much better fuel efficiency but the purchase price is much higher.
The Golf was completely redesigned for 2010, making this the sixth generation. The 2011 Volkswagen Golf carries over unchanged except for some updated technology. The 2011 Golf offers voice-controlled Bluetooth and comes standard with a single-CD RCD310 stereo.
Though freshly redesigned, the Golf looks like it always has. Inside is an austere cabin with comfortable seats. The Golf is roomier than it looks, and the trunk is large for the class. Audio and air conditioning controls are simple and easy to use. Driver visibility is excellent.
We found the Golf cruises quietly and easily with either engine. Handling and ride quality are better than that of the competition, and the brakes work well and hold up without overheating to repeated hard use.
The 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that comes standard puts out a very usable 170 horsepower at 5700 rpm and 177 pound-feet of torque at 4250 rpm. It offers a choice of Tiptronic 6-speed automatic or, on the 2-door, a 5-speed manual. This inline-5 gets an EPA-estimated 23/30 mpg with the 6-speed Tiptronic, or 22/30 mpg City/Highway with the manual. The manual offers better performance, able to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds, compared with an 8.1 second run for the automatic. It feels brisk from a standstill and responds readily to the gas pedal at highway speeds. The 5-speed manual gearbox is easy to shift, with a smooth, easy clutch pedal. The Tiptronic automatic shifts smoothly in automatic or manual mode.
The Volkswagen Golf TDI comes with a 2.0-liter diesel engine. TDI stands for turbocharged direct injection. The TDI model offers a choice of a 6 speed manual or a 6 speed dual clutch, automated manual, called the Direct Shift Gearbox, or DSG. This alphabet soup of technology results in superb fuel economy: The TDI gets an EPA-estimated 30/41 mpg City/Highway with the manual transmission, 30/42 mpg with the DSG. The TDI turbodiesel engine produces 140 horsepower at 4000 rpm, and an impressive 236 pound-feet of torque between 1750 and 2500 rpm. Note the diesel offers substantially more torque (236 foot-pounds) than does the gas engine (177), and the TDI delivers its peak torque at much lower rpm. Torque is that force that propels you from intersections and up hills. This suggests responsive performance around town from the TDI, the kind of driving most of us do most of the time, and that's exactly what we experienced. However, the gas engine propels the Golf off the line more quickly. The Golf TDI can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds (with either transmission), which is substantially slower performance than the 8.1 seconds offered by the standard Golf 2.5-liter gas model with automatic.
The 2011 Volkswagen Golf 2.5 liter 2 door ($17,995) comes with a 5-speed manual or the Tiptronic automatic ($19,095). The Golf comes standard with cloth upholstery, air conditioning with pollen filter, eight-way adjustable front seats with two way lumbar, 60/40 split rear seat with a center armrest and trunk pass through, RCD 310 AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio, cruise control, tilt and telescope steering wheel, power locks, power windows, power mirrors with heaters, steel wheels with wheel covers and all season 195/65R15 tires.
The 2011 Golf 4 door ($19,755) comes only with the Tiptronic automatic and is equipped with same as the 2-door. (All New Car Test Drive prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
Options include a power sunroof ($1,000), Cold Weather Package comprising heated front seats and windshield washer nozzles ($250), and Bluetooth connectivity ($300).
The Golf TDI 2 door ($23,225) and TDI 4 door ($23,885) come standard with the 6-speed manual but the DSG automated manual is available for both the TDI 2-door ($24,325) and 4-door ($24,985). Golf TDI models include leather trimmed steering wheel, shift knob and handbrake handle; a touch screen, eight speaker audio system with a 6CD in dash changer, iPod cable and six month SIRIUS satellite radio subscription; fog lights; sports suspension; and 225/45R17 high performance all season tires on alloy wheels. Options for the Golf TDI include bi-xenon headlights with the adaptive front-lighting system ($700), 300-watt Dynaudio Advance Sound system ($480), and a Navigation Package ($595) with the RNS315 system with touchscreen, memory card reader and Sirius Satellite Radio w three-month trial subscription.
Safety gear includes frontal airbags and front seat-mounted side impact airbags and side air curtain airbags and lower and upper child safety seat anchors. Active safety features comprise antilock brakes (which give drivers steering control during emergencies), electronic brake force distribution (which allocates braking where it can do the most good during panic stops) and brake assist (which primes the braking system when sensors indicate imminent brake application); electronic stability control (which attempts to keep the car heading where the driver intends during extreme maneuvers); and tire pressure monitors. Optional on four door models are rear seat side impact airbags ($355).