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3/4 Front Glamour 2013 Volkswagen Golf

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Expert's Rating

4.5Excellent

MPG 27 City / 37 Highway
Pros
  • Excellent handling
  • Spacious cabin
  • Hatchback practicality
  • Comfortable front seats
Cons
  • Limited rear visibility
  • Ride may be too stiff for some
It is at its very core and econo hatch, but the Golf also features a well-engineered suspension and pracicality you simply cannot find in a sedan.

Introduction

The rest of the world is about to get the sharp-edged new Mk7 Golf, but Stateside, we'll have to make do with a 2013 edition of the sleek Mk6. The Golf comes in two- or four-door versions, with either a 170-horsepower, 177-ft-lb 2.5-liter I-5, or a 2.0-liter turbodiesel I-4 with 140 horsepower and an asphalt-rippling 236 lb-ft of torque. Both motors carry over from last year.

A five-speed manual is standard fare with the 2-door 2.5 Golf, with a six-speed auto optional. Interestingly, opting for the 4-door 2.5 forces the six-speed auto—you can’t buy a 4-door 2.5 with a manual trans in the U.S. Both manual and automatic options feature six forward gears with the turbodiesel, though the automatic is a DSG dual-clutch unit. By VW’s reckoning, a 2-door 2.5 ought to return 23 mpg city and 33 highway. The 4-door 2.5’s six-speed auto is rated one better in the city, but two worse on the highway. The more expensive TDI is rated 30 city, 42 highway whether in 2- or 4-door form.

Inside even the most basic 2-door 2.5-liter model, the Golf offers a well-engineered, well-built cabin, which this year includes a standard MP3-compatible stereo system, power-adjustable heated outside mirrors, six standard airbags, an adjustable front center armrest, and a cooled glovebox. Electronic stability control is standard across the model range. If you’ve got the extra six grand or so to go TDI, you’ll add to those features a leather steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, a touchscreen sound system, heated front seats, halogen fog lights, 17-inch alloy wheels bolted to a sportier, slightly lowered suspension, and of course Volkswagen’s torquey, efficient 2.0-liter Clean Diesel inline four.

Competitors include Ford’s recently redrawn Focus, Dodge’s Alfa Romeo-derived Dart, Mazda’s bread-and-butter 3, and the Honda Civic. None come anywhere close to the TDI’s tidal wave of torque, although all four come within spitting distance of its 42-mpg highway fuel economy figure. And none can match the Golf’s almost Audi A3 levels of interior refinement.

Which Style To Buy?

2013 Volkswagen Golf
Starting price
$11,898

2013 Volkswagen Golf 2.0L TDI 2-Door

Recommended for: The budget-conscious new car buyer who's just gotta have that sensible VeeDub hatchback

With 236 lb-ft of torque, a standard six-speed manual, and a steeper asking price, the TDI 2-door offers zippy acceleration, 30 city miles per gallon, 42 highway miles per gallon, a better-appointed interior than the 2.5, and sporty 17-inch alloy wheels. The 2.5’s Convenience & Sunroof Package features come standard, like heated front seats and windshield washer nozzles, leather steering wheel, and touchscreen audio control—but for a sunroof, you’ll have to go for the $1,720 Navigation & Sunroof package, which adds touchscreen satellite navigation and a power tilting and sliding tinted sunroof. For an additional $1,685, the Tech Package adds HID headlights with daytime running lamps, Dynaudio premium sound, push-button start, and keyless entry. Opt for the DSG dual-clutch automatic on any TDI trim, and you can choose steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

2013 Volkswagen Golf
Starting price
$11,898

2013 Volkswagen Golf 2.0L TDI 4-Door

Recommended for: The budget-conscious VW buyer whose family just got a little bigger; three-pedal enthusiasts need not apply

The 4-door Golf has the same amount of space in the cabin as the 2-door, but with much easier access to the rear seats, which split and fold for plenty of space for all your stuff. The 4-door weighs just 80 pounds more than a comparably equipped 2-door, but is available only with the six-speed Tiptronic automatic. City fuel economy improves over the five-speed manual 2-door’s rating from 23 to 24, but highway mpg falls from 33 to 31. Other than that, the 2-door and 4-door 2.5L come equipped exactly the same, right down to the cooled glovebox, with the same short list of accessories. If you want more creature comforts, the Convenience and Convenience & Sunroof Packages are available. If you want a manual 4-door Golf, you’re going to have to swing for the TDI.

2013 Volkswagen Golf
Starting price
$11,898

2013 Volkswagen Golf 2.5L 2-Door

Recommended for: Diehard fans of both German engineering and epic fuel economy

The 2.5L 2-door, with the 170-horsepower straight five, is the cheapest way to find yourself in a new Volkswagen Golf. Standard features include an eight-speaker stereo with auxiliary input jack, 12-volt power outlets front and rear, 15-inch steel wheels, power-folding heated outside mirrors, a cooled glovebox, anti-lock brakes, and dual exhaust outlets. The rear seat splits 60/40 and folds flat, allowing better-than-decent cargo carrying capacity. A five-speed manual is standard, but you can opt for a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic and Sport modes. Typical of Volkswagen, the list of standalone options is very short—paint finish and color, a first aid kit, sportier wheels, some body cladding, a spoiler, and floor mats are about all you can choose from. But for an extra $1,035, you can opt for the Convenience Package, which adds heated front seats and windshield washer nozzles, a leather steering wheel, shift knob, and e-brake lever, and Bluetooth. There’s also the Convenience & Sunroof Package, which adds $1,875 to the price of a Golf with just the Convenience Package and includes all those features, plus a tinted power sliding sunroof, touchscreen sound system, an iPod cable, and 3 free months of Sirius XM satellite radio.

2013 Volkswagen Golf
Starting price
$11,898

2013 Volkswagen Golf 2.5L 4-Door

Recommended for: The VW devotee who wants it a Golf to do it all

The 4-door Golf TDI is the most expensive Golf money can buy (with the exception of the GTI and Golf R, but they’re two whole other stories). With easy ingress, egress, and reasonably comfortable seating for four adults, and the same 42-mpg highway fuel economy figure as any other TDI model, the 4-door TDI is a versatile hatch with a decidedly upscale feel. The Nav. & Sun. and Tech Packages are available, but be warned—with the Tech Package, a 4-door TDI will come close to thirty grand.

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