Since Volkswagen introduced its latest clean diesel technology on the 2009 VW Jetta, it has been touting the cars as a fun alternative to hybrid-electric vehicles. For 2010, VW offers the TDI engine in the VW Jetta, VW Jetta SportWagen, VW Touareg and, this week's road test, the VW Golf. The 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI may focus on being a fuel-efficient city car, but it actually stands as a mid-level model between the base Golf and the sport-tuned VW GTI.
The Golf TDI is available as a two- or four-door hatchback, and it competes against a wide variety of vehicles ranging from economy hatchbacks like the Toyota Yaris, sportier hatchbacks like the Volvo C30 and even hybrid hatchbacks like the Honda Insight. Although the base Golf has a starting price of $17,490, the diesel-powered VW Golf TDI has a starting MSRP of $21,990 with this two-door test vehicle having an as-tested price of $25,914 after options. Those looking to buy a Golf TDI (or any other VW diesel vehicle) may want to act fast as the maximum tax credit expires June 30, 2010. The 2010 Golf TDI qualifies for the federal Advanced Lean-Burn Vehicles tax credit amounting to $1,700 for the automatic and $1,300 for the manual.
2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI Exterior
New for 2010, the VW Golf has a familiar shape as last year's Rabbit, but it is much less bubbly thanks to its squared-off edges and a more identifiable front end. This new styling will eventually spread to other VW models such as the Volkswagen Touareg, Volkswagen Jetta, Volkswagen Passat and even the flagship Volkswagen Phaeton that is likely to be reintroduced into the North American market. VW's first order of business was to give the Golf a facelift by adding narrow, rectangular headlamps for a more aggressive look and a more upright grille and fascia to add more character. In the rear, the only major change is the new taillights design that mimics the shape of the headlamps. Overall, the new Golf design doesn't stray too far from the previous-generation model and even carries over some of the more unique cues such as the rounded C-pillar, upswept beltline and, of course, the hidden decklid latch incorporated into the rear VW logo.
This test car came in VW's Blue Graphite Metallic exterior hue and equipped with the standard 17-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels which both help to give the Golf TDI the look of a true sleeper. In fact, aside from the clattering engine, the only way to tell the Golf TDI apart from other Golf models is the small 'TDI'? badge on the liftgate.
2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI Interior
While the exterior of the sixth-generation Golf is noticeably different, interior changes are much more subtle leaving the cabin materials alone which are probably the best in this class. In true VW form, just about every surface inside the TDI is either soft touch or smooth leather such as the steering wheel and parking brake lever, and except for the leather-wrapped surfaces, the base Golf features the same cabin materials. Getting comfortable behind the wheel is easy with the practically limitless adjustments afforded from the manual front seats and the tilt-and-telescoping steering column. New for 2010, the driver also benefits from a clearer, easier to read instrument cluster that now features bigger gauge pods and a larger central display screen.
For drivers who are just looking for a good car to drive around town, the front seats in the Golf TDI may be a little firm, but they are great to hold the driver and front passenger in place during tight cornering maneuvers. Being a two-door, access to the rear seat is actually easier than it looks thanks to the single handle that allows both front seats to tilt and slide forward. Once in the back seat, it provides enough hiproom, legroom and headroom to accommodate three adults. Two of the only major downfalls of the new Golf's interior are that it is only available in black and the center console storage area is practically non-existent.
This test car came with a handful of options that bumped the final price of the car up by $3,174. The $1,750 touch-screen navigation system and $1,000 power sunroof added to the fun factor of the Golf, while the $225 Cold Weather Package (consisting of heated front seats and heated washer nozzles) and the Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity added to the convenience of the cabin. The navigation system is well worth the extra money with its crisp display and fast operation. Although the addition of this navigation system requires the replacement of the six-disc in-dash CD changer with a single-disc player, the car still comes standard with an integrated iPod connector and an auxiliary jack.
2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI Performance & Handling
As its name suggests, the 2010 VW Golf TDI replaces the base Golf's 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter inline-five with a diesel-burning, 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct injected (hence TDI) inline-four. This is the same engine that is found in the Jetta TDI, and it features the same output of 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. This test vehicle came with the base six-speed manual transmission which gets EPA fuel economy estimates of 30 miles per gallon in the city and 41 mpg on the highway, but the optional six-speed, dual-clutch DSG transmission further improves highway fuel economy to 42 mpg.
With all that torque in such a little car, the Golf TDI handles itself surprisingly well thanks to a sport-tuned suspension and the use of Electronic Differential Lock (EDL) and Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR) - both of these help keep the car firmly planted in the corners. Although the TDI isn't billed as a performance car like the GTI, it does manage to feel sporty and nimble even against the proven hot hatch, but it is also a good daily driver which is probably what more people will be buying it for. While HEVs make great city cars, the technology is generally useless on the interstate, but the combination of its small size and fuel-efficient diesel engine makes the new Golf TDI a great choice for both city and highway driving.
2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI Safety
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has yet to test the two-door version of the 2010 Golf, but the four-door model received a five-star rating for side-impact protection and four-star ratings for frontal-impact protection and rollover avoidance. Likewise, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) only lists test results for the four-door model, but it was named as a 2010 Top Safety Pick for receiving Good ratings for frontal-, side- and rear-impact protection as well as a Good rating for roof strength. Standard safety features for all 2010 Golf models include six airbags, electronic brake-force distribution with brake assist, four-wheel anti-lock brake system, tire pressure monitoring system, traction control and electronic stability control.
Having built its reputation on a single small car, the Beetle, Volkswagen has once again showed that small cars can be both fun and economical with the 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI. In the on-again-off-again naming system for its compact hatchback, the Golf nameplate returns yet again for the sixth-generation design. Along with the naming shared with its European counterpart, the North American model is now available with a diesel engine on the Golf TDI. Dropping a torquey little diesel under the hood has made this affordable, little hatchback an exciting car to drive that just so happens to be quite a green car, too. After a week behind the wheel of the all-new Golf TDI, it is clear that helping to save the environment doesn't have to expensive or boring.
Volkswagen provided the vehicle this road test review.
Select photos by Jeffrey N. Ross