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#12

in Affordable Small Cars

MSRP: $19,995 - $27,995
Invoice: $19,195 - $26,875
MPG: 23 City / 30 Hwy
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Volkswagen Golf Performance

Reviewers say that the 2014 Volkswagen Golf has plenty of power, but they’re disappointed in its fuel economy ratings, which are on the low end of the class. They much prefer the turbodiesel Golf TDI for its excellent fuel economy and added torque. All models have terrific handling and are fun to drive, auto writers say, pointing to crisp steering, strong brakes and a firm, yet comfortable, ride.

  • "… the Golf TDI delivers hybrid-level fuel economy without sacrificing performance.” -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Out on the open road, the 2013 Volkswagen Golf further proves its worth with confident handling and a comfortable, secure ride quality." -- Edmunds (2013)
  • "It's Euro-firm but generally absorbent except on super-craggy pavement. Body motions are well controlled. TDI versions' 17-inch wheels and sport suspension make for more jiggle and thump over patchy surfaces and pavement breaks, but the ride is never close to harsh." -- Consumer Guide (2013)
  • “For the planet-conscious, the Golf offers an optional turbo-diesel, which burns fuel with the stinginess of a hybrid and, thanks to a firmed-up chassis, blazes through corners with sports-car ambition." -- Car and Driver (2011)

Acceleration and Power

The base Volkswagen Golf has a 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The Golf TDI has a 140-horsepower turbodiesel 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine, which is paired with a six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automated manual transmission. The base Golf gets an EPA-estimated 23/30 mpg city/highway, which is low for the class. The Golf TDI gets 30/42 mpg with either transmission, which is excellent for a small car.

Reviewers say the base Golf has plenty of power, but they much prefer the Golf TDI for its improved fuel economy and added torque. Reviewers say the manual shifter is easy to use and the automatic transmission receives praise for its brisk power delivery.

  • "The 2.5-liter base engine won't blow your socks off with its performance, but it gets the job done. The real star of the Golf line is the 2.0-liter TDI turbodiesel that brings impressive fuel economy as well as ample low-end torque, making it nearly as quick as the GTI.” -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The base 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine also adds to the overall experience by providing more power than its rivals, but unfortunately this comes at the expense of fuel economy." -- Edmunds (2013)
  • "The manual transmission has short throws and an easy-to-modulate clutch. The conventional 6-speed automatic delvers prompt shifts." -- Consumer Guide (2012)
  • "It feels like a GTI, just a bit slower. Either transmission is a delight." -- Car and Driver (2011 Golf TDI)
  • "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 (2010)

Handling and Braking

According to reviewers, the 2014 Volkswagen Golf handles nimbly and has one of the most balanced rides in the class. They say the Golf TDI has a firmer ride, but all models work well as daily drivers with a comfortable, composed ride that absorbs most bumps. Several test drivers note that the cabin is very quiet compared to rival compacts’ cabins.

  • "As the 2014 Volkswagen Golf shares the same basic platform and suspension components as the sportier GTI, the little compact enjoys a level of handling and stability not found in most entry-level compacts. With direct steering, a smooth but firm ride and a cabin isolated from road and wind noise, the Golf feels much more upscale than its $20,000 starting price might suggest.” -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "All Golf models blend an absorbent ride with agile front-wheel-drive handling, making them among the best balanced compact cars around. The upmarket TDI turbodiesel models have a slightly firmer suspension with 17-inch wheels (versus 15s), partly to offset their heavier engine, but all these cars are daily-commute comfortable and fun to drive." -- Consumer Guide (2013)
  • "At highway speeds, the Golf is significantly quieter than other hatchbacks. Alternately, you can take it out on a curvy road and the well-weighted steering will inspire confidence." -- Edmunds (2013)
  • "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 (2010)
Review Last Updated: 5/14/14

Next Steps: Volkswagen Golf