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2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI – click above for high-res image gallery

It's time for American consumers to stop being scared of small diesel cars. Currently, we can't think of a single automaker that isn't shelling out bags of money to research and develop new hybrid powertrains – cars that are efficient first and fun-to-drive second (or third, or fourth). Diesel vehicles, on the other hand, offer a different sort of solution. Gobs of torque delivered at low revs and impressive fuel economy work together without sacrificing too much in the way of driving pleasure. Besides, does anyone really want to live in "One Nation Under Prius?"

Volkswagen introduced us to its new Jetta TDI a little over a year ago, proving that clean diesel technology offers a way forward for anyone who gives a hoot about driver involvement. Now, the automaker has fitted its well-received 2.0-liter diesel engine in the all-new sixth-generation Golf. Can this hatch prove to America that it's possible to fuse efficiency and enthusiasm together in a high-quality package? Can you really have your cake and eat it, too? Hit the jump to find out.

Photos by Drew Phillips / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

Visually, the 2010 Golf is simple yet stylish. Gone is the chrome-heavy nose of the last-generation car, and while the overall shape hasn't changed a whole lot, it's important to note that the MkVI Golf doesn't share a single piece of bodywork with the MkV Rabbit (yes, we're glad the name has been changed back, too). What Volkswagen has done is something that's really underappreciated – make a car that's visually appealing while not being over the top. These days, it seems that some automakers put too much effort into creating bold design for little more than shock value, and it's refreshing to see that Volkswagen stands by its core goal of attractive simplicity.

TDI models come standard with a more robust kit of appearance extras, including foglamps and ten-spoke wheels wrapped in 225/45 17-inch Continental ContiProContact tires. The larger alloys are very sharp, and having the wheel wells pushed out to all four corners lends the hatch a more aggressive stance. What's more, the MkVI Golf is one inch wider than the outgoing Rabbit, but 0.4 inches shorter in length, and while these minor dimension adjustments aren't immediately noticeable when walking up to it, they indeed improve the platform's overall dynamics once you're plowing down the road. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

To reiterate on a phrase we used earlier, a theme of attractive simplicity is indeed carried over into the VW's interior styling, with an added dollop of refinement, to boot. If there's one thing we'll never complain about regarding Volkswagen products, it's the high quality feel that's put into every interior across the automaker's lineup. Every touchable surface in the Golf's cabin feels class-above great, and if you take time to really study every part of the cockpit, Volkswagen's attention to detail is easily recognized. Even the most untouched bits of plastic have been carefully fitted and fastened to create a cabin that feels really, really solid.

The TDI is the most expensive model to carry the Golf moniker, but with it comes a host of standard equipment only available as options on lesser trim levels. Steering wheel-mounted audio controls, a touchscreen audio interface with six-disc CD changer, multimedia device interface, Bluetooth connectivity and Sirius satellite radio round off some of the infotainment staples, and things like carpeted floor mats, leather-wrapped shift knob and handbrake, and rear HVAC vents add to the already sizable raft of interior refinements. In keeping with the aura of simplicity surrounding the Golf, all of the cabin switchgear is easy to locate, with dials and buttons falling right to hand. Our test car was equipped with VW's newer optional navigation system, which is incredibly simple and intuitive to use. We like the integration of the auxiliary media input into the interface, and while the graphics and controls aren't as high-tech as what you might find in Ford's much-loved SYNC system, they're better than the systems found in competitors like the Honda Civic or Nissan Sentra (though, to be fair, those vehicles retail at substantially lower price points similarly equipped), as well as newer competitors like the Mazda3.

Overall levels of comfort are quite good, and we're big fans of the highly supportive seats that Volkswagen has fitted in the Golf. Bolstering for both the seat backs and bottom cushions are excellent, and if you find yourself doing any spirited driving (which you should – trust us), your body won't slide around at all. What's more, the vast levels of support also provide generous levels of comfort. We never felt fatigued or sore after long stints of driving. Rear seat passengers are forced to deal with a flat, though relatively comfortable bench, but if you're going to be a passenger in a Golf, call shotgun. Seriously.

The shining star of the Golf TDI, however, is its engine. Volkswagen introduced its 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder mill to the U.S. in late 2008 with the launch of the Jetta TDI, and we've always been quite fond of this powerplant. Offering 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, the diesel hatch has more than enough power for any sort of driving scenario, while still providing excellent efficiency. Volkswagen claims 30 miles per gallon in the city and 42 on the highway for our DSG-equipped test car, and without even trying to drive efficiently, we easily pulled off 37 mpg during our week-long test. This is clearly the most attractive part of the TDI package to consumers, but for enthusiasts, there's another hidden treat. Superb fuel economy is one thing, but being able to achieve it under spirited driving is another thing, and when we find ourselves discussing the Golf TDI with friends and colleagues, the first thing we talk about is how good to drive the little hatch is, not what sort of mileage numbers we achieved.

Off the line, all 236 pound-feet are fully delivered between 1,750 and 2,500 rpm, and there's really never a need to rev higher in any gear. The 140 available horses come on fully at 4,000 rpm, but we're quite fond of diesel power delivery and were happy to leave the tachometer needle sitting below 3,000 in all six gears. Volkswagen claims that runs to 60 miles per hour can happen in 8.6 seconds, and while that figure certainly won't blow you away, keep in mind – this car was built for efficiency, not speed. The six-speed dual-clutch gearbox is a good fit for the 2.0-liter TDI mill, though the addition of steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters is a little nonsensical with all that torque. With the shifter left in 'D,' the transmission keeps the revs right where you want them, and we never felt the urge to move through the gears ourselves. Plenty of power is available down low for passing situations, and we love being able to leave the transmission in sixth gear when overtaking slow-moving trucks on the highway.

As we've come to expect from German-bred cars, the TDI's handling dynamics are up to par for the segment – if not over. Interestingly, diesel models benefit from sportier suspension geometry over normal gas Golfs, making it a real champ for enthusiastic jaunts down our local back roads. The Golf's suspension is nicely composed through the bends, with little body roll to speak of – even during aggressive handling maneuvers. What's more, the sportier suspension setup was never a hassle on the cracked, pothole-ridden streets of metropolitan Detroit – the ride is disciplined and well-snubbed, but not harsh. It's a real winner, and when matched with the power delivery characteristics of the TDI mill, we find the Golf to be exceptionally poised for all types of driving, both calm and spirited. No, it's not going to run toe-to-toe with big brother GTI, but it's surprisingly good when pushed.

Overall steering feedback is quite good, though we take slight issue with the rather dead on-center feeling. Still, a lack of torque steer and quick response by the driven wheels inspire confidence. The brakes themselves work perfectly well, but there's quite a bit of travel in the actual pedal and a general feeling of mushiness when stopping. That gripe aside, we're very impressed with the Golf TDI's dynamics. It isn't a performance car, but if you're listening, it's game for being driven like one.

So while the Golf TDI may earn a gold star in our road test, we're still a little weary of Volkswagen's overall reliability and propensity for electronic glitches, though the automaker has stated on many occasions that it is working hard to resolve these issues. Then there's the issue of price. Golf TDI models start at a relatively modest $22,354, but adding on features like the navigation package, sunroof and fancy gearbox will easily add thousands to that price. It's a great car, this TDI, but we can't help raising our eyebrows at the $28,260 as-tested figure of our four-door test car. Still, tread lightly on the options list, maybe stick with the a-okay six-speed manual transmission, and you've got a tidy little package for a reasonable amount of coin – especially in view of how much you'll save on fuel.

We think people who look beyond the Golf TDI's price tag will be extremely impressed. It's worlds better to drive than your run-of-the-mill Prius or Civic Hybrid, and there isn't too much of a fuel economy sacrifice in the long run. Plus, the car's robust interior packaging and high levels of refinement make it feel much more upscale than its price tag would suggest. We'd gladly drive one every day of the week.

Photos by Drew Phillips / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      I purchased a 2011 Golf TDI a few months ago and I am nearing the 3,000 mile mark. So far so good, I have been nothing but impressed with this vehicle. Great fuel economy, tons of torque, really solid construction and a lot of fun to drive. I do understand people having concerns about VW products and I share some of these concerns myself. I have started a blog to capture my experiences with the TDI (for better or worse) and I hope that it will help someone else to make an educated decision when looking at the TDI. You can check it out at: http://2011golftdi.blogspot.com/
      • 4 Years Ago
      New Beetle TDI Owner here, year 00' with over 400,000 km. No troubles at all, one of the most reliable vehicles i've ever owned.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I have a 2010 VW Jetta Sportwagen TDI,Front end and interior identical to Golf. Plus a nice large cargo area

      last weekend went on a road trip down to cape cod, cruised at 65-70, 52.8 MPGs! . I didn't believe the trip computer and refuled and sure enough 53 MPGs
        • 4 Years Ago
        Glad you brought up this point. I just went on the configurator and couldn't figure out why someone would pay nearly the same money for a Golf TDI when they can have a slightly larger, just as efficient albeit slightly slower car for the same money.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I would go the wagon route also with the diesel also. Any idea how much it can tow?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Trying to buy a TDI for 4 months but all dealers are charging over sticker

      I've also read quite a few user reviews about expensive DSG maintenance

      f that

      • 4 Years Ago
      We expect Autoblog to press VW on prices. Is not the Golf built in Puebla Mexico and aren't 90% of the parts made in Mexico? If so why is it so expensive?

      I can well imagine that when firmly latched on to the VW teat it's hard to give it a bite, even a little one.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This is my next car (if the Golf R doesn't come to America) after my R32 lease is up.

      Bring on the diesel!

      Volkswagen why wont you bring the GTD?
      • 4 Years Ago
      A VW tech tells me "2006 & newer" can be trusted for reliability.
      The style is uncluttered and timeless.
      I like to see a manufacturer have a commitment to a design for at least 8 years.
      VWlong cycle crates resell value. Most buyer take 5 yrs. to pay for new car.. so why change it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've been watching the Jetta and Golf pretty closely. Seversl other articles found fault with the DSG saying it was clunky when pulling off the line...is this still true? Is it a smooth shifter now? I'm still wanting the manual but we're moving to the big city (Dallas) and all that traffic makes me think about the DSG if it isn't too terrible.
      • 4 Years Ago
      diesels suck
        • 4 Years Ago

        Good come back! I'll go get my Honda Formula 1 car now, because I was TOTALLY comparing to things I can't buy or drive on the street!

        • 4 Years Ago
        Fact: Formula 1 engines typically rev up to about 18,000.
        Fact: Motorcycle engines commonly reach at least 10K.
        Fact: Even a Honda VTech is only good for about 8K.
        Fact: Most 4 cylinder passenger car gas engines aren't allowed to spin to even 7K.

        Inevitable conclusion to your line of reasoning: All commonly available passenger car engines suck.

        Analysis: Fail

        • 4 Years Ago
        Autoblog, can we please remove this guy's half star?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Fact: They're low on power.

        Fact: They don't rev high.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Didn't read all the comments and its probably been mentioned.... Those wheels look like the old MazdaSpeed 3 wheels.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've test driven a MkVI GTI, and from the pics of the TDI, I'd say they have 95% of the same interior items. That said, I don't think asking just shy of 30 for a well equipped model is too much. I am a little concerned that that price doesn't include the Xenon head lamps, or leather interior, but it's still comparably equipped to larger sedans in this price range. The problem is most Americans think if it's a small car, it has to be cheap.
      • 4 Years Ago
      "Gone is the chrome-heavy nose of the last-generation car,"

      Umm... You're thinking of the MkV Jetta (and yes that chrome was terrible). The MkV Rabbit had NO chrome on the front except for the usual VW badge.
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