August 6, 2011

Review: Volkswagen Golf

The first car is the car CelloMom is most familiar with, as it is the current family car, and the one we covet next. Except that the version we truly covet is not available in the US (for now): the VW Golf.

This car is pretty much a standard family car in Europe: nothing special, nor bottom of the line, just plain vanilla. Gets you and your family from A to B. In the US it is regarded as a "starter car", and when we bought ours a decade ago we were pleased to start receiving advertising aimed at a demographic group which was more than a decade younger than our actual age at the time. CelloMom thought it was a good deal for a car to come complete with a 10-15 year age reduction package for the driver, so it was the natural place to start looking for a new car: this time around, the age reduction is bound to be in the 20-25 year range.

The table below shows a same-model comparison, between one available now in the US (the Golf TDI 2.0L), and one with a smaller engine (the Golf TDI 1.6L), both with 4 doors and manual transmission.

Unsurprisingly, the smaller engine gives less power; and you only get 5 speeds in your gearbox, not 6. But let's be realistic, for a car the size of a Golf (barely 3000 lbs empty weight), 105HP gives more than enough acceleration for most daily business. 140HP in the 2.0L TDI Golf is good for young male denizens of the Autobahn who are fearless and have girlfriends to impress; someone like CelloMom would only break the eggs in her grocery bag; not to mention the cello.

What you give up in power, you get back in fuel efficiency: The 1.6L TDI Golf gets 50mpg in actual use while the 2.0L version gets 43mpg. So with the smaller engine you get mileage equal to that of a Toyota Prius, without having to carry batteries. In Europe, the 1.6L version is cheaper than the 2.0L by about €2000, and after purchase you enjoy the fuel savings for the lifetime of the car (and the fact that you never come home with broken eggs).

Cellomom does have reservations about the longevity of the diesel filter which keeps down the particulate matter in the exhaust stream. Only time will tell how reliable those will prove to be. Also, a 3/4 cello only fits diagonally in the trunk. However, CelloMom has successfully hauled a rather amazing assortment of home construction material in the 2001 Golf, the hatchback proving a very versatile configuration. If the Golf 1.6L Bluemotion TDI showed up here in the US, CelloMom would buy it.


VW Golf, Same-Model comparison, different engine size.

Available in US Smaller engine
Type TDI 2.0L 4-door TDI 1.6L 4-dr Bluemotion
Year 2011 2011
Emissions rating EURO5 "A"
MRSP US$ 23,885

€ 17,770 (pre-tax)

City/Hwy (mpg) (30 / 41)
City/Hwy EU quoted, liters/100km 5.4 / 3.8 4.7 / 3.4
avg. EU quoted, l/100km(mpg) 4.3 (55) 3.8 (62)
avg. actual, (mpg) (43) DOE (50) Honest John
CO2 quoted, g/km 114 99
CO2 actual, g/km 158 147
Engine 4-cyl, 2.0L turbo 4-cyl, 1.6L turbo
Power 140 hp @ 4000 rpm 105 hp @ 4400 rpm
Gears 6-spd manual 5-spd manual
Fuel Diesel Diesel
Length, mm(in) (165.4in) 4199 mm
Width, mm(in) (70.3in) 1786 mm
Height, mm(in) (58.3in) 1512 mm
Weight, kg(lbs) (2994 lbs) 1360 kg
Trunk volume, liters(cuft) (15 cuft) 556 L
Turning radius 35.8 ft 10.9 m
Top speed 125 mph 190 kph (120mph)

Post revised Sept. 5, 2011 to add real-use fuel economy, and to adjust CelloMom's ratings and amend text accordingly.

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