2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI

Wow, this clutch is vastly superior to our departed Four Seasons Jetta TDI's. There's good feel, although I could do without the pulsating sensation that comes through the pedal all the time, and it's easy to take off smoothly, which was never the case with our Jetta.

Before I drove the Golf TDI, I thought it would be the ideal hatchback for me. I like the idea of a five-door car with a diesel engine and a manual transmission, but the night before I drove the Golf TDI I was driving our Automobile of the Year winning GTI. Both cars have 2.0-liter engines with turbochargers and direct injection. Going the diesel route nets you 236 lb-ft of torque to the gas engine's 207 lb-ft, but the diesel's mere 140 hp is far less satisfying than the gas engine's 200 hp, especially since the diesel has a much narrower power band. For some people, the extra 9 mpg (EPA combined rating) will make the TDI a great choice. With my (mostly highway) driving habits, the difference between 41 and 31 mpg is pretty minor compared with the amount of fun I have behind the wheel of a GTI.

The great part about the Golf, though, is how versatile the platform is. You can choose from a frugal diesel engine, a high-revving gasoline engine with a turbo and direct injection, or a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that costs quite a bit less than either of the turbo choices. No matter which powertrain you choose, you get a great interior, good packaging, and the feeling that you're buying into a well-built car instead of a bargain-bin compact.

Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor

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Edward A. Sanchez
Again, I'm skeptical. I do not dispute the positive first impression the interior materials and paint finish impart. But in my experience, VW spends money on the areas that consumers will touch and interact with on a regular basis (not necessarily a bad strategy in and of itself) but consequently, cheaps-out on behind-the-scenes or below-the-surface components and engineering. Case-in-point, the notoriously fragile window regulators on the Mk4 Golfs/Jettas. Until I'm convinced VW's inherent quality is up to the same standards as its admittedly impressive paint and interior materials, I'm not buying.

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