2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI: First Drive Of All-New Diesel Hatchback

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In today's American car market, 45 miles per gallon is a rare occasion, and 50 miles per gallon is pure fantasy. That's the case for nearly any vehicle that has a fuel tank and isn't a hybrid—and for many hybrids, actually.

Enter the 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI, a vehicle that seems to buck those generalizations completely, with the commendable 49 mpg we averaged in a week and 275 miles of driving. And this was all achieved in comfort, from a car that feels zippy and responsive.

Every other car we can think of that returns mileage even approaching that range seems to involve some glaring sacrifice—in performance, comfort, or refinement, for example. But in our week with the new Golf TDI, we intentionally drove it with flow of traffic, and used it as we normally would as a daily driving or commuting car—not as complete leadfoot drivers, but by no means hypermiling or being exceptionally mileage-minded.

Even in the possibility that the trip computer was a little optimistic, our test number is significantly better than the 2015 Golf TDI's 31 mpg city, 42 highway rating with the six-speed manual transmission, as we tested it. And it's a few mpg better than what we saw with the last-generation Mk6 Golf.

This is the new, seventh-generation (A7) Golf, and under the hood there's also a new version of VW's well-established 2.0-liter in-line turbocharged diesel four. According to VW there are no parts carried over to the new EA288—only the cylinder bore spacing. This engine is now up to 150 horsepower (10 more than the previous version), with peak torque at 236 pound-feet. Internal friction has been reduced a significant 15 percent; it moves to a SOHC design; and there's now variable cam phasing for both the intake and exhaust valves. Emissions have been reduced by about 40 percent versus the previous engine, with the help of exhaust after-treatment.

An even smoother, more rev-happy TDI

In character, it's a step smoother and quicker-revving than the previous/outgoing engine, especially once it's fully warmed up. We revved it up near 5,000 rpm once or twice to see what it's like, and it's still surprisingly smooth. But there's really no need; this is an engine that is best kept between its 1,750-rpm torque peak and its 3,500-rpm power peak when accelerating. We generally upshifted before revs reached 3,000 rpm and followed the shift guide that's built into the instrument cluster, advising you which gear you should be in for best fuel economy. When cruising, as that system points out, it's happy lugging even at 1,100 or 1,200 rpm.

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