By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 10/7/2011
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.
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)
The 2011 Volkswagen Golf 2.5L two-door has a base Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just under $18,800, while the 4-door model starts closer to $20,500. For stronger performance and better mileage the TDI model is the right choice, but be prepared to pay. The two-door Golf TDI has a base MSRP starting just over $24,000, and a fully-optioned 4-door TDI tops out close to $34,000. Overall, the 2.5 model is priced a good bit higher than most compacts but, compared to its closest hatchback rivals – the MAZDA3 and the MINI Cooper – it's pretty much right on par. To get the best deal on your Golf be sure to check out our Fair Purchase Price, which indicates what others in your area are paying. In terms of what the Golf will be worth a few years down the road, we see it as being on par with the MAZDA3 and just slightly below the MINI Cooper.