Despite some signs of recent change, most U.S. buyers still prefer four-door sedans to five-door hatchbacks. That’s why the Volkswagen Golf three- and five-door compact hatchbacks have always played a supporting role to the sales-leading VW Jetta compact sedan, which was completely redesigned for 2011.
The latest Golf was redesigned last year, and we think its conservative but crisper lines are an improvement over the previous model. It’s the sixth generation of Golf, and instantly identifiable as the latest in the lineage. And unlike the down-specced interior of the Jetta, the Golf retains its premium German feel, along with excellent handling and ride quality. Only the brand-new 2012 Ford Focus offers the same blend of tight cornering and behind-the-wheel precision as the Golf, which stood alone in the compact class for many years.
Unfortunately, that premium comes at a price, with the five-door Golf starting at $20,000. That’s up to $4,000 more than such new and surprisingly good entries as the Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, and Chevrolet Cruze, and it’s simply not competitive. The rich interior is matched by solid build quality, but that’s less of a distinction than it was just a few years ago.
The 2011 Volkswagen Golf has only two engine options: a 170-horsepower, 2.5-liter five-cylinder gasoline engine, and the same 140-hp, 2.0-liter TDI clean diesel offered in the Jetta. The gasoline five and its five-speed automatic work fine, but the lumpy idle is hardly refined. The TDI diesel is clearly the better engine, not to mention greener, and it’s the only Golf fitted with VW’s excellent paddle-shifted dual-clutch DSG “automatic manual” transmission.
The EPA rates the diesel Golf at 30 mpg city and 42 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 34 mpg; specifying the gasoline engine lowers the numbers to 24 city, 31 highway, and 27 combined with the six-speed automatic.
Front passenger space inside the 2011 VW Golf is good, but if you need to carry people in the rear, make sure you get the five-door, since rear-seat access is awkward in the three-door. Volkswagen is perhaps the only manufacturer offering a three-door compact hatchback, and the $2,000 cost premium for the five-door is probably worthwhile unless you’ll be driving alone and never need to put anything large in the rear seat.
New features added last year bring the Golf up to the equipment standard set by Korean and U.S. competitors. A CD player is standard, and Bluetooth can be ordered on any model. Befitting a price that can reach $28,000, the TDI model offers satellite radio, a sunroof, and many other options.
For more details, see the full review of the 2011 Volkswagen Golf on our sister site, TheCarConnection. The high-performance Volkswagen GTI model is also separately reviewed.
|2-Door HB (1)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|DSG TDI Specs||$24,325||$23,353||30||42|
|2-Door HB Automatic (2)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|2-Door HB Automatic Specs||$19,095||$18,331||24||31|
|2-Door HB Manual (3)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|2-Door HB Manual Specs||$17,995||$17,275||23||33|
|4-Door HB (2)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|DSG TDI Specs||$24,985||$23,986||30||42|
|Manual TDI Specs||$23,885||$22,930||30||42|
|4-Door HB Automatic (2)||MSRP||Invoice||MPG City||MPG Hwy|
|4-Door HB Automatic Specs||$19,755||$18,965||24||31|