Twenty percent of Americans who buy a Volkswagen order it with a diesel engine. Is that because they’re the sort of soy-milk-sipping, socialism-endorsing weirdos who secretly wish they lived in Europe? Perhaps. More likely, it’s because they recognize that Volkswagen TDI models provide a sweet balance between performance and efficiency.
The 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI doesn’t just win us over because we can average more than 40 mpg on the way to work without even trying. There’s also an eager punch to this turbodiesel engine that helps us feel like we can tear past traffic at will. With only 150 hp, the Golf TDI is one of the slower compact hatchbacks on sale today. But the 2.0-liter engine’s 236 lb-ft of torque, at your disposal from just 1,750 rpm, provides instant acceleration in the real world. With its greater low-end torque and six-speed manual (instead of the gasoline model’s five-speed), this engine is far more peppy to drive than the gasoline-powered Golf TSI.
In all respects, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI is one of the most pleasant ways to get a 45-mpg EPA highway rating. The taut sheetmetal and tidy, logical interior could pass muster in an Audi showroom. The near $30,000 sticker on this SEL model is pricey for the compact segment, but it includes nearly every high-tech feature we’d want: forward-collision warning, touchscreen navigation, push-button start, satellite radio, and heated seats. It also has European poise you won’t find in other small cars. The Golf filters out bumps and road noise far better than the Mazda3, the most fun-to-drive mainstream hatch in this segment, but the suspension is still game to play if you want to flick the car through a roundabout.
Buying a Golf TDI to save money at the pump, however, does require some careful calculations. During our test, a gallon of diesel cost an average of 46 cents more than a gallon of gas nationwide, and Volkswagen charges some $1,350 more for diesel Golfs than an equivalent gas model. But the diesel’s fuel-economy advantage is significant enough — 36 mpg combined in EPA testing compared with 30 mpg combined for the gas model — that it should still be cheaper to drive a diesel Golf over the long run. In our long-term tests of diesel-powered Volkswagens, a 2009 Jetta TDI and a 2012 Passat TDI, we have found the ownership costs to be exceptionally low.
There is quite literally a Golf for any driving style and price point, from the $18,815 base TSI to the 292-hp R, and each version is a standout in its segment. But more so than any other variant, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI strikes us as the ideal car for commuters because it best exemplifies the Golf’s virtues: efficiency, quality, comfort, and fun.
2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SEL Specifications
- Price: $29,215/$29,510 (base/as tested)
- Engine: 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve turbodiesel I-4/150 hp @ 3,500 rpm, 236 lb-ft @ 1,750-3,000 rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- Layout: 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, FWD hatchback
- EPA Mileage: 30/45/36 mpg (city/highway/combined)
- L x W x H: 167.5 x 70.8 x 57.2 in
- Wheelbase: 103.8 in
- Weight: 3,080 lb
- Headroom (first/second row): 38.4/38.1 in
- Legroom (first/second row): 41.2/35.6 in
- Shoulder room (first/second row): 55.9/53.9 in
- Cargo room (behind second/first row): 22.8/52.7 cu ft