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Volkswagen Golf/GTI

Volkswagen Biding its time.

DIESEL

Volkswagen offers four different models making between 140 hp and 256 hp, each of which is available with two or four doors. All Golfs feature a dynamic chassis and responsive steering that make them a joy to drive. Other common traits include exceptional visibility and a spacious, high-quality interior that compares well with cars costing twice as much. The base five-cylinder engine is sufficiently powerful but can’t come close to the 40 mpg achieved by other compacts. Efficiency-minded buyers will want the diesel-powered TDI, a peppy and refined engine that is rated at 30/42 mpg city/highway. The diesel model is pricey, though. The top performer is the Golf R, a $34,000 all-wheel-drive, turbocharged Golf that produces 256 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. It’s quick and planted, but we prefer the less-powerful front-wheel-drive GTI. The GTI is the only car ever to win our top honor, Automobile of the Year, twice. The Golf R and the GTI use the same 2.0-liter turbo, but the GTI is tuned to be smoother and have a more linear response and minimal turbo lag. Buyers have a choice of four transmissions. Volkswagen’s acclaimed dual-clutch automatic has sophisticated computer programming that mimics the function of a limited-slip diff without adding torque steer. And the GTI’s steering is as good as it gets with front-wheel-drive cars.

COMPETITORS

Ford Focus

Honda Civic

Hyundai Elantra

Subaru Impreza

new for 2013

Volkswagen has already pulled the cover off the seventh-generation Golf, but we’re not ready to pass along the details — yet. You see, the new car goes on sale in Europe a full year before it arrives in America, so we have until early 2014 before these Golfs show up in dealerships. The current Golf remains a great buy, just don’t be disappointed when you’re driving “the old model” within a couple months of your purchase.

SAFETY EQUIPMENT

Standard features include ABS; front, side, and side curtain air bags; tire-pressure monitoring; and traction and stability control.

High Mileage

MPG

CITY 19–30

HWY 27–42

PRO

Great handling and steering

An engine for every purpose

Upscale cabin

CON

Mediocre fuel economy

Conservative styling

Base Price Range: $18,790–$34,785

SPECIFICATIONS

DRIVE: Front-wheel, 4-wheel

TRIM LEVELS: 2.5L, TDI, GTI, R

BODY STYLE: Hatchback, 5-passenger

ENGINES: 2.0L turbo-diesel, 140 hp, 236 lb-ft

2.0L turbo I-4, 200/256 hp, 207/243 lb-ft

2.5L I-5, 170 hp, 177 lb-ft

TRANSMISSIONS: 5- or 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic, 6-speed dual-clutch automatic

PASSENGER VOLUME: 92.9 cu ft

CARGO SPACE: 15.2 cu ft

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