Mayflies, as it turns out, are a lot like cars. Admittedly, we’re not what you’d call scientists, but we did enough research to learn that these insects spend up to a couple of years hanging out below the surface of water bodies, developing and maturing, after which they break the surface. From there, the clock starts ticking, with death coming in as little as a few minutes or as long as 24 hours. The lifecycle of a car is much the same: years of development followed by almost instant obsolescence.
Given that kind of pressure, car companies are forced to frequently tweak and freshen their models to keep them relevant and competitive. The 2010 Volkswagen Golf is a perfect example, as it enters the fray with the same high-quality interior that has put it on the map, though now it’s accented by contemporary styling. Plus, in keeping with the hot topic of the day, there’s a more fuel-efficient version available for public consumption. The changes don’t ensure eternal life, but they do make the 2010 Golf a strong contender in a brutally competitive environment.
Photos courtesy of Volkswagen.
#10. Out with the Rabbit, in with the Golf. Again.
Those familiar with Volkswagen have seen this move before: The Golf replacing the Rabbit, and vice versa. For 2010, the Golf name returns, and with it comes revised styling in and out, including a sleeker front end, new taillights, and sheet metal that’s been tweaked top to bottom. The updates are far from drastic, but taken as a whole, they provide VW’s compact car with a fresh look that highlights its change from Rabbit to Golf.
#9. Yes, that is a TDI badge on the new Golf.
A 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter five-cylinder is standard for 2010, but more important than that is what’s newly-available under the new Volkswagen Golf’s hood. That’d be a clean-diesel engine shared with the Jetta TDI, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-banger good for 140 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque. The “clean” part is thanks to the federally-mandated use of ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel and the work of a particulate filter incorporated into the Golf’s exhaust system. Like the Jetta, the ’10 meets the same air quality standards set for regular gasoline-powered cars in all 50 states. When mated to a standard six-speed manual, the Golf TDI scores an EPA-estimated 30 mpg city/41 mpg highway; swap in an optional six-speed DSG automatic and you’re looking at 30 mpg city/42 mpg highway.
We haven’t driven a Golf TDI yet, but we have plenty of experience with the same engine in the Jetta Sedan and Jetta SportWagen, and can tell you that the powertrain delivers equal parts efficiency and fun.
#8. Prices start at about $18,000 for gas models and $23,000 for the TDI.
If you’re seeking the least-expensive compact car on the market, the 2010 Volkswagen Golf is not the ride for you. You can get into any number of Kias, Hondas and Chevrolets for less than the Golf’s $18,370 base price (including destination charges). That’s what your dealer will want in exchange for a two-door Golf 2.5 decked out with the gas engine, a five-speed manual gearbox, and basics like power windows and locks. Move up to the four-door 2010 Volkswagen Golf 2.5, available only with a six-speed automatic transmission, and you’re just a smidge over $20,000. Shoppers keen on the Golf TDI’s promises of turbocharged thriftiness can plan on shelling out about $23,000 for a model with two doors; add in another $600 if you want the four-door variant. Along with the diesel engine come features such as a Bluetooth connection, a sport suspension and satellite radio. Options for the Golf include rear-side airbags, a sunroof, a Cold Weather Package that adds heated seats and nozzles (a must here in New England), and techno goods like a navigation system and Dynaudio unit.
#7. A top-notch interior is one of the 2010 Golf’s greatest strengths.
Every car brand has something that sets it apart from the pack. These features run the gamut from long warranties to perceived reliability. In the case of the 2010 Volkswagen Golf, it’s a top-notch interior that will cause some shoppers to dismiss others’ attempts at meeting their affordable compact-car demands. Inside our Golf 2.5 tester were soft-touch materials all over the dash, instrument panel and doors; there was also a mesh fabric on the headliner and even the pillars – a nice touch that goes a long way in dressing up the cabin. With the exception of ultra-luxury rides, every car’s interior plays host to its share of hard plastics, and the Golf is no exception, though use is minimized and the bits you’ll find feel solid and secure.
#6. Golf drivers are coddled, but rear passengers? Not so much.
The 2010 Volkswagen Golf’s quality interior bits wouldn’t mean much if the driver and passengers were forced to sit on uncomfortable seats. Thankfully, that’s not the case…at least for those treated to spacious front buckets offering plenty of thigh and side support. The driver, in particular, benefits from a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, but we were disappointed by the lack of a center armrest. Triple-setting heated seats, part of our test car’s optional Cold Weather Package, worked well to warm backsides on cold mornings.
Rear-seat passengers are not afforded the same level of comfort, mainly due to a flat and stiff bench. However, not all is lost, as riders will benefit from plenty of head and leg room, soft front seatbacks (great for your long-limbed friends), and a handy fold-down center armrest.
#5. No complaints about the Golf’s primary controls. And we like to complain.
Except for an automatic transmission and the Cold Weather Package, our four-door 2010 Volkswagen Golf 2.5 test car was a base-model ride. As such, we didn’t expect to find any high-falutin, fancy-schmancy technology that would cause us to scratch our noggins when attempting to turn on the defroster. And we were right. Inside the Golf are simple controls for the climate control system, with the heated seats activated by clicking the temperature and mode dials. Likewise, the Golf’s entry-level audio unit is mind-numbingly easy to operate thanks to large, well-labeled buttons that look as though they were borrowed from some electronic doo-dad you bought for your great aunt with deteriorating eyesight. We’re not sure why Volkswagen decided to dedicate these large, gray Chiclets to adjusting treble/bass/etc. while requiring a tap of one of the dials to access the more commonly used seek function, but that’s a minor point.
#4. The Golf gulps more cargo than its compact size suggests.
The term “compact car” just might have you envisioning a four-wheeled box that will get you from point A to B relatively efficiently. Chances are you won’t plan on using the thing to help a friend move or pack it up for a killer road trip. Shoppers with that mindset will be surprised not only by the Golf’s 12.4 cubic-foot cargo area, but also the versatility and spaciousness of its interior. In addition to a sizeable trunk, our tester featured a rear-seat pass-through that allows for transportation of long items while still accommodating a driver and three passengers. Kick the backseat drivers to the curb, fold down the rear seat, and you’ve created gobs of room that’s easily accessible due to the wide trunk opening. Second to the quality materials, this is what we consider to be one of the Golf’s best assets. Elsewhere in the cabin are several cubbies – lined with rubber or fabric – and plenty of cupholders.
#3. Our gas-powered 2010 Volkswagen Golf averaged about 27 mpg.
For this evaluation, Volkswagen provided us with a gasoline-powered 2010 Golf 2.5. Our tester featured the optional six-speed automatic, and though it was not the favored DSG unit, this transmission does include a sport mode. The 2.5-liter five-cylinder has been moving Volkswagen models for quite some time, and with this latest test we still find ourselves at odds with the unrefined feel. To its credit, the Golf does use its 170 horses to get to up speed fairly quickly (VW estimates a 0-60 mph run of 8.1 seconds for our test car), but we expected better off-the-line response with 177 lb.-ft. of torque at work. Under full throttle the Golf’s engine makes a bit of a racket, though we can’t fault the 27 mpg we averaged over the course of a week and a few hundred miles. That’s about right, given EPA estimates of 23 mpg city/30 mpg highway.
The automatic transmission that’s paired with the 2010 Golf’s gas engine delivers smooth shifts, and thanks to its extra gear, keeps the revs down when traveling at legal freeway speeds.
#2. If you’re looking for sporty handling, think GTI rather than Golf.
Volkswagen builds a car for enthusiasts who like the looks of the Golf. It’s called the GTI. For buyers who don’t need or want a car that craves twisty roads, and who might be working with a smaller budget, the 2010 Golf is a solid choice. The steering is sufficiently responsive for a daily commuter, and the driver is granted some modicum of road feel through the wheel. Body motions are controlled, though you will unleash noticeable lean if you enter a corner with too much speed. Overall handling is average; however, the Golf shines when it comes to ride comfort. Since it’s now spring in New England, we had countless run-ins with broken pavement and irregular road surfaces, all of which the Golf tackled without allowing the effects to reach the cabin or driver. The suspension did a commendable job of isolating the bumps and potholes, and as a result, made the 2010 Golf feel planted and secure.
#1. Apples to apples, the 2010 Golf is a solid value compared to the Honda Civic and Toyota Prius.
One of the criticisms you’ll hear about the 2010 Volkswagen Golf relates to its cost. There are definitely models that can undercut the $18,000 starting price by thousands, including the Honda Civic Coupe DX. But when you configure the Civic to match the Golf 2.5’s standard features, the Volkswagen’s cost disadvantage drops to only a few hundred dollars. Jump up to a loaded Civic Sedan EX versus a pimped-out four-door Golf 2.5 and you’re once again close in price, though that includes a navigation system with the Honda and rear-side airbags with the VW.
Getting a nav system with the Golf requires opting for the TDI model, which based on its efficiency, we’ll compare to the Toyota Prius hybrid. Prices for entry-level versions are similar; the Prius is a few thousand extra when fully-loaded, but it delivers more equipment than the Golf TDI, which tops out at about $31,000.
There are, of course, fuel economy and maintenance costs to consider, but when subjected to an apples-to-apples comparison, the 2010 Volkswagen Golf is proven to be a solid value.