2012 Volkswagen Golf TDI – Review and Test Drive

By Jonathan Spira on 4 June 2012
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The Volkswagen Golf has been available for a good part of its 38 years in the U.S. as a diesel since the introduction of the original 1974 Golf.  In the U.S., it was introduced at that time as the Rabbit.

Volkswagen has named many of its cars after prominent winds (witness the Scirocco, the Passat, and the Jetta) but originally felt that the Golf moniker wouldn’t fly in the U.S. so the Rabbit nameplate was used instead.

With the Golf/Rabbit, Volkswagen started the shift away from the rear-engine, rear-wheel drive cars that had made a name for the company for more than 30 years.  The new car was also a pioneer in the compact hatch segment and it has successfully followed its original boxy template, offering a combination of lots of room and excellent fuel economy, ever since.

Currently in its sixth generation, the Mk6 version of the Golf made its debut at the 2008 Paris Motor Show, going on sale in 2009.

The Golf TDI is available both as a two-door hatchback and a four-door hatchback.  The base two-door model with standard transmission starts at $24,235 and a fully-equipped four-door with DSG automatic transmission and tech package will run $28,340. Standard equipment includes a sport-tuned suspension and alloy wheels.  The only options are navi and xenon headlamps.


The 2012 VW Golf TDI comes with a 2.0-liter engine that develops 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, making it possible to get from 0 to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds, a time that is noticeably faster than hybrid models that fancy themselves in the same class.

The Golf comes equipped with a manual 6-speed transmission or an optional DSG automatic.  I had the chance to drive both extensively and would be hard pressed to choose although the DSG does add $1100 to the total cost of the car.

The Volkswagen DSG (Direktschaltgetriebe or direct shift gearbox) is perfectly paired to the engine and shifts quickly.  On the other hand, I do prefer manual shifting and the car’s fuel economy did not appear to suffer even though I know that the DSG’s computer can probably shift a bit more efficiently.


The Golf’s interior puts other cars in its price class to shame.  The only car that can compete in terms of the materials used is the Volvo C30 but the Golf is much, much roomier (even though the outward dimensions of the two cars are similar) and is far more comfortable.

Inside the cabin you’ll find high-quality plastics and aluminum trim.  The word that comes to mind is “tasteful” and there’s a no-nonsense feel to the cabin that says “We’re here for Fahrvergnügen.”

The seats, incidentally, are heated, and even the Golfs without navi get a touchscreen that controls many car functions and the stereo.  The stereo includes VW’s Media Device Interface with iPod support and Bluetooth as standard.

The layout of the controls is excellent.  The touchscreen stereo is easy to operate and the three large knobs for the climate control are self-explanatory.

Click here to continue to Page 2Driving the 2012 Volkswagen Golf TDI

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