2010 Volkswagen Golf Review

2010 Volkswagen Golf - Iconic car.


Volkswagen's new Golf hatchback has dropped the "Rabbit" name for the U.S. market. And the automaker's sixth-generation Golf has sharper styling, an upgraded interior and an available fuel-frugal "clean" turbocharged diesel engine.

The Golf, as it's always been called in Europe, is among models that Volkswagen feels will significantly increase its U.S. sales by 2015. The Volkswagen Jetta has the same basic design, but is more popular here because it has a conventional trunk, whereas the Golf is a hatchback with a flip-up rear hatch through which cargo is loaded.

Many Americans largely associate hatchback models with the cheap Japanese hatchbacks once sold here. But things are changing, with hatchbacks becoming more popular among younger folks, who, like Europeans, like a hatchback's versatility.

The Golf's surprisingly good diesel is in the new upscale Golf. More Volkswagen models might have the automaker's "clean" diesel engines by 2015--if not sooner. Americans should toss preconceived notions about diesel engines because the Golf 2-liter, four-cylinder diesel is smooth, quiet and provides fuel economy similar to that of some gas/electric hybrid autos.

Both front-wheel-drive Golf compacts have two or four doors and mostly the same proportions of the 2009 Rabbit. The new Golf  models won't win beauty contests, but looks wider and lower, with additional sharp lines and soft curves and a more commanding road presence.

Among new features are a different front end design with a wider, double-bar grille, no side moldings for a cleaner look and updated taillights. The lower rear bumper has a blacked-out insert and a cutout for a pair of exhaust tips.

The quiet interior has supportive front sport seats, and there's a rear armrest and split folding seat for added cargo space. The cockpit still looks a little spartan, but not cheap. For instance, brushed metallic appearance trim inserts are on the dashboard and in door panels and accent the redesigned instrument panel and center console.

There's still a fair amount of plastic, but it's high-quality material. And the center of the rear seat is soft enough to comfortably accommodate a fifth passenger--not the case with many cars. Gauges can be easily read, and a large glass area provides good visibility. But  audio and climate controls should be larger.

The cargo area is nicely shaped, but not especially long. The flip-forward rear seatbacks sit flatter in the four-door version  than in the two-door, although the four-door cargo area opening seems higher..

List prices range from $17,490 to $23,690. There's lots of standard comfort, convenience and safety equipment, including air conditioning, cruise control, power windows and locks and an 8-speaker sound system. The diesel model adds such features as a touch-screen sound system and a sport suspension with vehicle lowering 17-inch alloy wheels with performance tires.

Options include a $1,000 power tilt-and-sliding sunroof, $225 cold weather package with heated seats, $199 bluetooth connectivity, $350 rear side air bags, $700 xenon headlights, a $476 advanced sound system and a $1,750 navigation package. 

The diesel has gobs of torque, which made it seem like a potent small V-8 when I drove a Golf TDI diesel model, occasionally topping 100 mph, on German high-speed highways (autobahns)  from Wolfsburg to Berlin after a media preview of the Golf at Volkswagen's giant, sprawling manufacturing facilities at its Wolfsburg headquarters.

The other new Golf 2.5L model introduced here had an advanced 2.5-liter five-cylinder gasoline engine that also allowed easy 100 mph cruising. However, it feels and sounds a bit harsh.

The gas engine develops 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, while the TDI diesel generates 140 horsepower, but 236 pound-feet of torque.

The gas 2.5L two-door comes with a standard five-speed manual transmission, and the four-door version has a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic control that lets a driver shift manually with a push of the gear lever.

The Golf TDI diesel has a standard six-speed manual gearbox or an optional six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) with Tiptronic that delivers the performance of a manual  with an automatic's precision.

The DSG has an automated dual-clutch system that instantly engages and disengages gears without need for a driver-activated clutch pedal. Shifts lack the power loss that occurs when using a traditional manual transmission. The DSG can be manually shifted by tapping the gearshift lever or using shift paddles near the steering wheel.

Both Golf models are fairly quick. The 2.5L does 0-60 mph 7.8 seconds with the manual and 8.1 seconds with the automatic. Estimated fuel economy with the manual is 22 mpg in the city and 30 on highways. The numbers are 23 and 30 with the automatic.

The TDI sprints to 60 mph in 8.6 seconds with both the six-speed manual and DSG transmissions. Estimated economy figures are 30 mpg in the city and 41 on highways, or 30 and 42 with the DSG.

The Golf is a kick to drive, thanks largely to rigid laser-welded unibody construction that keeps everything in line as the car streaks along. It hugs the road at high speeds, with an all-independent suspension, and the ride is very supple. The TDI's updated sports suspension makes it especially nimble, but its wider tires were somewhat noisy on some roads.

Steering is on the firm side, but is quick and enhanced by an electro-mechanical variably assisted power rack-and-pinion system. Anti-lock all-disc brakes with hydraulic brake assist and electronic brake-pressure distribution provide quick stops. They're activated by a pedal with a firm, progressive feel.

The brake system works with an electronic stability system that includes a collection of traction and safety features such as anti-slip regulation and an electronic differential lock.

There are 40 different safety features that work together to help avoid accidents when possible and help protect occupants when an accident is unavoidable. These include six air bags and three-point safety belts in all five seating positions.

Doors have big outside handles to assist entry. The two-door has large, long doors, but entry to the rear isn't very difficult from either side of the car because front seats easily slide out of the way. The four-door model's rear doors open wide.

The hood glides open with its single hydraulic strut, providing easy access to fluid filler areas.

An iconic car in Europe, the new Golf promises to make more of a name for itself in America.

Visit DanJedlicka.com for more road tests, interviews, and classic car articles.Visit DanJedlicka.com where veteran auto writer Dan Jedlicka reviews the latest cars and trucks in an easily understood but detailed manner. In addition, Dan's Web site also includes colorful classic and collectible car articles, a letters column and candid interviews with auto-field personalities.

Dan Jedlicka

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Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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