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