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2013 Volkswagen Golf / GTI Reviews at TrueDelta: Still happy with Golf TDI after first 5,000 miles by dfrankhaley

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Introduction

Fun to drive while getting mid-40's miles per gallon. Quiet, enough room for a small family, and remarkably well made. What's not to like? See below.

Reviewed: 2013 Volkswagen Golf / GTI

4dr Hatch turbocharged 140hp 2.0L I4 Diesel 6-speed manual FWD

Why the 2013 Volkswagen Golf / GTI?

Fuel economy

Hard to argue with 40+ miles per gallon (and we are getting better than that on some tanks). Just took at 1500 mile road trip and averaged 50.8mpg. Diesel is currently cheaper than premium too. The Golf R is EPA rated for 24mpg but less if driven hard. Update: after 3 months 5,000mi getting 44 mpg combined.

Insurance cost

Both VW's have strong residual value. The diesel is in high demand b/c of good fuel economy, and is cheaper to insure. I looked at pre-owned diesels but their strong residual value made them a poor value vs. buying new. With 29 million on the road, there's a guaranteed market -- people like these cars.

Price or payments

The TDI was more than $7,000 cheaper than a Golf R. You have to really want the R to pay the premium. I wanted it more than my wife did. Guess who won? Three months later, I'm very happy with the economy but feeling no pain as the car is still great to drive everyday.

Ride smoothness

The TDI has a sports suspension, but the R is lower and stiffer and handles much better. That said, you can cover distance on rough windy roads about equally quickly in either one. The TDI has a better highway ride, for sure. It is amazingly quiet, even with snow tires just mounted.

Powertrain performance

The TDI has gobs of torque down low and feels stronger than it is. Subjectively, it's a blast to drive. Of course the R has a lot more power, especially as the revs rise and at higher speeds. But at most speeds that matter, the TDI is great. It is something of a shock to look down and see that you are turning 1400 rpm. Keeping the revs down really pays off at the pump.

Why Not the 2013 Volkswagen Golf / GTI?

Reliability & durability

There is a major potential problem with the Golf TDI in the form of the high pressure fuel pump. The concern is that the Bosch unit does not like American low sulfur diesel fuel because of its relatively lower lubricity compared to Euro diesel fuels available where the car was designed. When the pump fails, it can send metal shavings throughout the fuel system, and require major replacements to the tune of $8-10,000. This is a sword of Damocles hanging over the head of any TDI owner. Three or more design revisions have been implemented, but the problem still shows up. Are you willing to take a chance they finally got it right in your car?

Tires

Golf TDI comes with low rolling resistance all-season tires. They are OK around corners, but not very good when braking, especially on wet roads. I wish I had insisted on performance tires (or winter snow tires) rather than "no-season" tires that I got.

Audio & nav systems

The mid-level stereo system is barely adequate sound-wise. The nav and phone are nicely integrated, but the sound quality is poor. It actually sounds fine when sitting still, but there are no subwoofers, and the sound gets very thin at speed. Even the Dynaudio upscale system is not all that great.

Brand reputation & image

VW does not have that great a reputation in the U.S. This is a shame because the Golf really seems to be a well-made vehicle. Time will tell whether it holds up, but there are many horror stories of poor service, poor dealers, and the factory not standing behind their warranties. I'm hoping that VW has improved their ways, but this remains a major sticking point.

Color choices

VERY difficult to find the car in a parking lot. VW only has one color = BLAH. Grey, black, white, silver. Wanted a Tornado Red, but not available in my area. Maybe I should mount bright racing stripes to avoid the total anonymity (altho useful in patrolled traffic zones). Even our blue car is still more gray than blue. Dullsville. But if that's one of the bigger negatives, there's not much wrong with the car.

This review was originally a two-car comparison review. Read the other half here.

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