By KBB.com Editors
Volkswagen's entry into the compact hatchback segment, the popular and well-known Golf, is a little bit pricier than its competition, but it also offers a level of refinement, handling and features few in its class can match. The 2011 Volkswagen Golf also offers one thing no competitor can match: A quick and fuel-efficient diesel engine. Freshly restyled in 2010, the 2011 model carries on with all the tell-tale markings that link it back through decades of Golf and Rabbit design. Available in two- or 4-door variants, the 2011 VW Golf combines safety, economy and affordability in a rather inconspicuous car that is loaded with-as VW used to put it-Fahrvergnügen.
With the 2011 Volkswagen Golf you get a car that feels solid, has Audi-like interior fit and finish and sells for well under $20,000. Fuel economy fanatics will love the TDI model whose diesel engine gets an estimated 42-mpg highway.
If your idea of a small car includes a small price tag, the 2011 Volkswagen Golf's window sticker will come as quite a shock. Long-term reliability, not necessarily a VW strong suit in the past, is as yet undetermined.
Changes for the 2011 Volkswagen Golf are minor. All Golf trims can now be equipped with Bluetooth hands-free cell-phone connectivity. Additionally, the standard audio system now features a single-CD player.
Driving Impressions The 2011 Volkswagen Golf may be classified as a compact but, from the driver's seat, it feels as solid and surefooted as any mid-size sport sedan. In virtually...every driving situation we felt nothing but confident our Golf could handle whatever we asked of it. Thanks to the Golf's Euro-tuned suspension, which is firmed up even more on the TDI, sharp turns were conquered with little fuss while bumps and road blemishes were absorbed as easily as a sponge soaks up a spill. The TDI model's impressive torque permits exhilarating off-the-line starts, although first-time manual-transmission diesel owners will probably need some time to adjust to the engine's relatively lower 5000-rpm redline. At highway speeds - and we're talking Autobahn here - the Golf is most impressive. If the Golf twins have one weak spot, it's their manual transmissions. Feeling somewhat rubbery and with long throws, the Golf's 5- and 6-speed manual gearboxes feel antiquated, especially when compared to the marvelous DSG 6-speed automatic.
The TDI Powertrain
It's cleaner, greener, and meaner all the way around. If you can afford it, the TDI is the way to go. Expect to be happy at the pumps thanks to its 40-plus miles per gallon efficiency. Expect to be happy on the roads with its 236 pound-feet of torque.
Cold Weather Package
This package includes heated seats and heated windshield-washer nozzles. Both features make enduring cold climates a little easier. It's an excellent option for those who live in places where winters can be harsh.
Inside the 2011 Volkswagen Golf is an interior unlike any in the segment. Unusually wide, the Golf excels in the areas of head and shoulder room, although the rear seat can be a bit cramped with four adults aboard. The Golf's materials, fit and finish are superb, and its available technology, such as the TDI's navigation and Dynaudio options, is an unexpected treat. The Golf's front bucket seats feature wide side bolsters and angled seat bottoms, mimicking the excellent sport seats found in the GTI. A thick-grip 3-spoke steering wheel greets the driver and, on TDI trims, is equipped with a multifunction control pad that operates the audio and information functions. From a practical standpoint the 60/40-folding rear seats, along with the hatch configuration, make the Golf part people carrier, part mini-cargo van.
Although it still rides on the previous-generation Golf platform, the 2011 Volkswagen Golf 's crisper lines create a compact car that is a bit more sporty and a tad more sophisticated than its competition. The two-box design (one box for the engine, the other for passengers and cargo) is maximized by the Golf's square, upright design. VW's new 3-bar grille featuring horizontal black louvers looks sharp on the Golf, as do the TDI trim's oval fog lamps and available HID headlamps. Around back, a large wide hatch with a rear wiper swings open to reveal a low lift-over ledge leading to a spacious cargo hold. Golf 2.5 models roll on 15-inch wheels and tires, while the TDI has more aggressive 17-inchers.
Notable standard equipment on the 2011 Volkswagen Golf begins with a 5-speed manual gearbox on the 2.5 two-door; the 4-door 2.5 has a 6-speed automatic, while the TDI features a 6-speed manual. For comfort and convenience the Golf boasts heated side mirrors, cruise control, remote keyless entry, an 8-speaker CD stereo and 8-way manual seat adjusters up front, including lumbar support. And for cargo versatility, the rear seats allow a 60/40-split fold. The TDI comes with fog lights, a sport suspension, 17-inch wheels, Bluetooth, a touch-screen sound system featuring satellite radio and an in-dash 6-disc CD changer. Both offer MP3 readability. The Golf's safety is enhanced by six airbags, electronic stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and Brake Assist.
Top options on both Golf models - the 2.5 and the TDI - include a 6-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic (DSG on TDI), power sunroof, Bluetooth connectivity and a Cold Weather Package, which includes heated seats and heated windshield-washer nozzles. Options exclusive to the TDI are a touch-screen navigation system with 20-gigs of music storage, a 300-watt Dynaudio Lite premium sound system and high-intensity xenon headlamps. Rear side airbags for outboard passengers are available only on 4-door Golf models.
The 2011 Volkswagen Golf is powered by one of two capable engines: The 2.5-liter in-line 5-cylinder or the 2.0-liter in-line 4-cylinder turbodiesel (TDI). The 2.5 produces a healthy 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. Intended specifically for the U.S., the 2.5 makes good power and is a nice fit for the American style of driving. The efficient and powerful TDI engine, the same found in Volkswagen's acclaimed Jetta TDI, is surprisingly quiet and clean. Its specialty is its low-end grunt, measuring 236 pound-feet of torque. That's a lot of acceleration output for such a small car; then add to that performance an EPA fuel-economy rating of 30 mpg city/42 highway with an automatic and the TDI is a winner on both fronts.
2.5-liter in-line 5-cylinder
170 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
177 lb-ft of torque 4,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/33 (manual), 24/31 (automatic)
2.0-liter in-line 4-cylinder direct injection turbodiesel (TDI)
140 horsepower @ 4,000 rpm
236 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750-2,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 30/42 (manual), 30/42 (automatic)
By Alberto on Saturday, March 21, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 80,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fuel efficient, sporty suspension, a lot of torque"
Cons: "Road noise, expensive"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The car has been great since I got it new in October 2011 (2012 model) EGR valve went bad during the waranty period but no onther malfunction since then. I have got from 68 MPGs downhill (Ruidoso to Roswell NM) and 58 MPGs at constant 65 mph (Austin to Dallas TX) all the way down to 26 MPGs during an enthusiasts run (we were constantly going over 100 MPH and then back down to speed limits) The nav system had a feature of a stopover destination before your final destination but I used it once and when I turned the car back on the NAV didnt work properly. It insisted that I never reached the stopover destination, so it didnt want to tell me how to get to my final destination. I never used that feature again and I never had another problem with the nav. Other than that the nav was very good, and fast. I liked the speed limit information. While the car is moving, the nav has a very anoying warning saying that you should not operate the keyboard while in motion. You can just OK that and continue. The materials inside feel upscale. Buttons feel properly put toguether. I really like the cabin. This car feels well planted to the ground and speed becomes decieving. It is very stable at high speeds and confortable at low speeds. Well balanced stock suspension. Even by closing the door you can immediately tell how well built this car is. I love cars and I really wish I could afford to keep this car while buying something else at the same time. Almost forgot, road noise is so bad on some roads that you cant use the bluetooth for calls. That is my major complain with the car."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By Laina on Saturday, March 07, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 6,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "engineering, build, handling, fun to drive"
Cons: "slow derfroster, heater controls"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Reliable, fun to drive, excellent fit and finish. A bit tight inside, especially in winter attire. Radio and CD have fine sound. Good snow handling with winter tires. Downside: Diesel takes 10 minutes to warm up in winter, so slow defroster. Heat controls are tiny, hard to read and not intuitive. Diesel fuel costs can cancel out higher mileage ratings."
7 people out of 14 found this review helpful
By Blue Ranger on Thursday, January 29, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 31,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Base model has everything you need"
Cons: "2.5 I5 engine not so frugal with gas"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I found a dealer demo 2011 Golf with 6k miles on it in the spring of 2012. It was priced about $5,0000 below original sticker price of $21k. The base model lacks interior features like center armrest storage bins and the plastic wheel covers look cheap. It still had bluetooth, heated mirrors and power everything, however. I last owned a VW about 20 years ago and I missed the handling it had. Something about their combination of steering, braking, suspension and acceleration just wasn't there in the Ford, Dodge or Hondas I've owned more recently. This Golf has only left me stranded once. The factory battery died in the oppressive August heat of Texas, but it was 3 years old. Thanks to a short commute, I drive less than 10k miles per year and it is mostly city driving. My combined mileage is usually around 22 MPG which I wish was a higher number. The weird 5 cylinder 2.5 engine is no longer offered on new VW's and I think that is a good thing. If I had a long commute I would probably gotten something like a Honda Fit. The service/oil change intervals are 10k miles and the first three were free. When I hit 40k miles this fall, the dealer says to expect to pay around $500. There is an independent Audi-VW shop near me that charges about $325 for that service. My car is out of warranty (36 month/30k miles) so I may opt to take it there. Overall, I am still happy with the driving experience and the fact that I have paid zero for anything except a battery, a tire damaged by road debris, and new wipers. This car is roomy and practical enough for me and I expect with proper maintenance I could keep driving it without major problems at least until it is a decade old."
17 people out of 42 found this review helpful
By Alen on Friday, January 23, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 45,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I bought my golf in 2010 brand new. Never had any issues after 45000 miles. Low cost to maintain the car as well. I will try to keep it as long as i can. If you are looking for a low budget car with no headaches, this is the one!"
8 people out of 20 found this review helpful
By Oak on Saturday, January 03, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 27,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Driving the Golf TDI is so much fun"
Cons: "Navigation data requires $99 update every 2 years."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Fun to drive. Plenty of power. Solid feel grips twisty mountain roads in worst weather conditions. Love the touchscreen and hands off bluetooth. Plays well with iPhone. Exudes high quality and feel of much higher priced German road cars. Outstanding cabin materials and construction; fuel-efficient diesel engine; spacious hatchback body style; refined driving dynamics."
16 people out of 38 found this review helpful
By VWinGeorgia on Friday, October 31, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 30,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great price and fun to drive"
Cons: "Should buy arm rest"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The driving experience is a lot of fun. While it feels secure, you do get the dynamic of a small fast car. Great MPG too. I use the VW Golf as a daily commuter to work, and I haven't had any problems with it ever."
36 people out of 71 found this review helpful