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#5

in 2011 Affordable Small Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $10,997 - $15,540
Original MSRP: $17,995 - $24,985
MPG: 23 City / 33 Hwy
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2011 Volkswagen Golf Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The 2011 Volkswagen Golf’s standard five-cylinder engine and optional diesel engine that boasts great fuel economy help make the Golf one of the most competitive drivers among affordable small cars. Its top-notch performance, however, comes with a cost. The diesel trim is one of the most expensive cars in the class. Plus, if buyers opt for the cheaper gasoline engine, fuel economy is compromised. 

  • "When we encountered stretches of bumpy cobblestones in Dresden, even the sport suspension setup on the TDI proved to be well behaved and comfortable, which bodes well for some of the neglected roads the TDI will have to endure Stateside." -- Autoblog
  • “Equipped with the sports suspension the MK VI Golf is rock solid at speed, corners with a near complete absence of body roll, changes direction quickly and has very communicative steering for a front-wheel drive car. All that, but it still manages to absorb bumps and ruts like a luxury car." -- Jalopnik
  • "Both models feel comfortable and composed at all speeds, absorbing pavement imperfections well.” -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

The Golf is one of the most powerful subcompacts on the market. Test drivers love the pep its five-cylinder 170-horsepower base engine provides. 

Reviewers are most enthused with the Golf’s optional TDI model. It has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel engine that releases 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. The EPA says the base Golf gets up to 23/33 mpg city/highway with the five-speed manual transmission, while the diesel model gets up to 30/42 mpg. 

  • "Regarding the Golf's current lineup, we strongly recommend the TDI model because of its higher level of equipment, strong engine and superior fuel economy. The base engine is powerful for the class, but fuel economy suffers for it." -- Edmunds
  • "The 2.5 has enough pep for any situation; its transmission is smooth and responsive. The TDI pulls away strongly from a stop and makes short work of highway passing maneuvers; turbo lag is minimal. TDI's 6-speed automatic can be lurchy around town, but it smooths out at higher speeds and delivers power promptly.” -- Consumer Guide
  • "Still, the Golf we'd choose would have to be the 2.0 TDI. You simply don't miss those 30 horses, especially when they've been replaced with an extra 59 lb-ft of torque. The car's a blast to drive, and the great fuel economy means you're as close to guilt-free as you can get behind the wheel." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "Both engines offered more than adequate performance, but-because it is torque that gets you launched and accelerating from a stop-the amazingly quiet and civilized turbodiesel feels stronger most of the time.” -- AutoMedia.com
  • "The base, gas-powered five-cylinder engine puts out an adequate, if not inspiring, 177 hp, but its rough revving characteristics and lackluster fuel economy pale in comparison to the available oilburner." -- Autoblog

Handling and Braking

The 2010 VW Golf’s composure on the road is impressive. The car comes with standard anti-lock brakes and traction control, plus VW's Electronic Stability Program. The new TDI diesel models features sport suspension, which reviewers love.

  • "The car [is] generally comfortable on broken pavement, largely because of its capable suspension and excellent seat design, but don't expect the same isolation from buckled asphalt that some competitors offer." -- Edmunds
  • "Rough-road ride was comfortably compliant, the power 4-wheel disc brakes were strong and fade free, and the typically crisp electro-mechanical, variable-assist, quick-ratio power rack-and-pinion steering gave us spot-on feel, feedback and accuracy." -- AutoMedia.com
  • "The steering provided adequate feedback when we had the chance to dive-bomb a few corners, a when the occasional delivery van became a rolling roadblock in the left lane, the Golf's brakes -- while lacking in feel -- were up to the task, easily reigning in the party from 115 to 60 MPH." -- Autoblog
  • "All are sporty and agile with little body lean; TDI's sport suspension means even more nimble cornering ability. Braking is smooth and strong." -- Consumer Guide

Next Steps: 2011 Volkswagen Golf

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