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Road Test

Volkswagen Golf TDI 3 Door

by Mark Walker                                                                     Click here for more images

24th February, 2008

Many European nations don't penalise the drivers of diesel vehicles with higher taxes. As a result, diesel fuel is cheaper than unleaded petrol in most European countries. However, drivers in Europe still pay more for their fuel than drivers in Australia. Diesel was selling for 111.9 Euro cents in Germany when I drove the Golf TDI. The lowest octane unleaded available was selling for 127.9 Euro cents with the premium unleaded selling nearer to 140 Euro cents. Oil prices have since risen even more causing prices up further.

Diesel engines continue to grow in popularity. In the UK alone, diesels account for over 40% of all vehicle sales - and this is despite the UK being one of the minority of European markets in which the pump price of diesel is more expensive than unleaded petrol.

It is fair to say that manufacturers are contributing to the diesel revolution with improved refinement and performance together with increased variants to suit varying demands. European manufacturers are leading the way with diesel power and the Japanese manufacturers are now attempting to join in.

The Golf diesel driven during this road test in Germany was the 2.0 TDI fitted with the Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG). Starting in Berlin, I put some 2,000 kilometres on the odometer before returning the vehicle in Hannover , which isn't too far away.

The 2.0 TDI offers 103 Kw peak power output at 4,000 rpm and 320 Nm of torque between 1,750 - 2,500 rpm. This allows a surprisingly brisk getaway but the stand-out is its ability to offer consistent acceleration in all gears well beyond any speed limit you will encounter on Australian roads. The engine is very much at home between 100 and 180 km/h and makes overtaking very easy. The DSG box makes gear changes very smooth and helps make the vehicle feel smooth to drive. You still get the typical diesel rumble at idle. However, when driving the engine noise quite acceptable.

The published fuel consumption for the Golf 2.0 TDI is 5.8 litres per 100 kilometres (combined). Over a distance of 2,021 kilometres, I averaged 7.0l per 100 kms with the majority of those driven on autobahn at high average speeds. With a little less right foot and a lower speed, the figures would no doubt reconcile better to VW's numbers. The Golf is also available with the 1.9 litre diesel which is more frugal than the 2.0 litre. And the 1.9 litre diesel is not a bad engine around town. The main difference I found was in highway performance when acceleration is required at higher speeds.

The test car was fitted with Dunlop winter tyres. They came with a generous speed rating of 210 km/h which was communicated via an obvious sticker on the dashboard. Interestingly, VW say the 2.0 TDI is only good for 203 km/h. This might say something about driving on Autobahns. Many vehicles tend to be driven fairly close to their limits. I remember being overtaken by a Smart Fortwo when I was driving a Golf R32 on another occasion. Although logic says otherwise, it must have been moving at close to or even above 200 km/h. On this latest run, I lost count of how many Passat 2.0 TDI and A4 2.0 TDI's that overtook me and in doing so, made it feel like I was standing still. It is definitely not the engine that limits this car to 203 km/h.

The inclusion of satellite navigation is a luxury that is growing in popularity - generally as an option. It has obvious convenience and is a feature that is improving quickly. Volkswagen offer two versions of navigation in Europe. This vehicle is fitted with the basic sat nav which is quite acceptable. Most importantly, it is logical and easy to use. Surprisingly, it was also good at estimating the travel time. The only real difference between the basic and premium offerings from VW is the screen. The premium package comes with a larger, colour screen which can display more information. The both offer the summary data between the speedo and tacho which is an excellent feature that many competitors don't offer. The only bad thing about these units is the price - the cheapest VW sat nav package in Australia is $2,990.00.

Volkswagen do not currently offer the Golf 3 door in Australia with the lower-end models. In Australia, the 3 door is available in the GTI and R32 models only. The 3 door model does offer decent space, comfort and access in the back seats. Two adults or three children will travel comfortably in the rear.

Volkswagen offer three diesel options in the Golf line-up in Australia. The 2.0 litre turbo diesel is the most powerful but also the most expensive option of the two, with the 1.9 litre turbo diesel coming with lower fuel consumption, a lower price tag and less power. The 1.9 TDI Trendline starts at $27,990 (RRP) with manual transmission and the more powerful 2.0 TDI Comfortline with 103 kw starts at $32,490 (RRP) with manual transmission. The 2.0 TDI is not available in the base model "Trendline". For those wanting more power with their diesel, the highly desirable Golf GT Sport is now available in Australia with a choice of either petrol or diesel. The 2.0 litre turbo diesel for the GT Sport offers 125 kilowatts of power and is priced from $37,490 (RRP) for the manual transmission version. The superb DSG 6-speed auto is optional at $2,300.

The Golf diesel is a very worthy option for small car buyers. I personally like the Golf because it is a simple car for the driver but offers plenty of options for all types of buyers. The diesel option is great for some-one doing plenty of kilometres or people with an aversion to refuelling, but if its out of the price range, the cheaper 1.6 petrol is still a quality vehicle. And, of course, if you are after a quicker Golf, the GT Sport, GTI and R32 are all good options offering different qualities for different drivers.

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Note: For this assignment, our consultant, Mark Walker, travelled to Germany to undertake the task of driving the Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI in its 'homeland'. (Editor)

More Golf road tests and reviews are available, including the Golf GT, Golf R32 and Golf GTI.

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