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.
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