Stick Shift: 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI

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Image provided by Volkswagen.

 

By: Brandon Randall

When the very first Volkswagen Golf, known to many as the MK1, was unveiled in 1974, it was positioned to replace the rapidly aging Beetle. It quickly proved to be much more than a mere replacement, surpassing the little bug in almost every way. The Golf ushered in an era of success and growth for VW similar to what the 3-series did for BMW and the Civic did for Honda. Now, over 30 million units later, the Golf remains as fun and popular a choice as ever.

While each generation bears an unmistakable resemblance to the previous, there have always been marked improvements with each new installment. The Golf has progressively become bigger, stronger, more efficient and more refined. All of this without ever losing that spark and spunkiness that has always made it a blast to drive.

Before me is the 2015 model. Volkswagen’s newest member of the Golf family tree. Even better is that it’s the TDI version. This impressive and highly developed turbo diesel engine has been steadily gaining popularity due to its dependability and incredibly high MPG ratings. Many of the unmistakable drawbacks of owning a diesel have been eliminated in the newest Golf. In fact, besides the slightly rough idle with cold start-ups and the low redline; the 2015 Golf hardly discloses its combustion ignition secret at all. It idles quietly once warmed up. It doesn’t smoke or stink like many diesels. You get all the benefits and hardly any of the drawbacks.

Changes to the cars exterior are subtle over the 2014 model but well executed to maximize square footage on the inside. Gaps between body panels seem tighter and individual pieces stronger. The design evolution that has touched many recent VW models continues in the Golf, increasing its refinement while preserving its hot hatch playfulness.

In general, the Golf is a small car designed to feel big on the inside, and it accomplishes this very well. While the first generation VW Golf’s interior was as austere and uncomfortable as a cheap Thai Hostel, today, few expenses are spared, creating a cabin space with a level of richness that approaches some of the top German brands, like Audi and Mercedes. The interior is airy, with more space than previous models. The low revving diesel engine helps keep cabin noise to a minimum and the layout is tidy with rich finishes of noticeable quality. The quartz gray leatherette seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and hand brake add softness to the cabin while the sliding panoramic sunroof helps to further enlarge the space.

I was disappointed by the lack of a USB port. Why every car in this modern age isn’t fitted with one is beyond me. The control screen was also a little small. I did enjoy the crisp, vivid display though, especially while using the back-up camera. Happily, the Golf continues to stretch for new levels of luxury and technology while maintaining a reasonable price point.

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Image provided by Volkswagen.

 

Of course, a primary reason to buy a diesel is for the stellar fuel economy. So here’s the breakdown. According to Volkswagen, the new Golf will do 31 mpg trolling around town and an impressive 43 mpg on the highway. Power comes on heavy and early thanks to the ample amounts of torque at low rpm’s characteristic of many turbo diesel engines.

Ride quality is sporty but compliant. It doesn’t corner as level as the new Mazda 3 but feels more comfortable and at ease as a daily driver. It can be mild mannered and well behaved or completely off the leash depending on your mood. Largely thanks to its excellent acceleration and responsive 6-speed transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.

The new VW Golf offers a lot of fun and refinement for its class. BMW levels in many cases, but it’s at a cost. My model as tested came in at $32,000. That’s around $10,000 more than the entry level Mazda 3 and $14,000 more than the Ford Focus! Those being two of its top selling class competitors. Whether the differences are substantial enough to justify the extra cost is as easy to discover as a test drive at your local dealership. However, once you’ve had a taste of what’s kept the VW Golf iconic for so many decades, it’ll be hard to settle for anything less.

Price as tested: $32,005.00

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