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2012 Volkswagen Golf

Overview
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2012 Volkswagen Golf Review

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KBB Expert Rating: 7.6

Now entering its fifth decade, the global automotive community and, by extension, consumers are fully embracing the 2-box, compact layout first popularized by Volkswagen's Golf. And although U.S. consumers have been slower to embrace the Golf in the same way they enjoy the more conventional Jetta, new 5-door entries from Scion, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, Ford and Chevy have done a great deal to move U.S. consumers closer to this global center. Now in its sixth generation, the 2012 VW Golf continues to evolve, providing (typically) more comfort and composure than similarly priced offerings from Japan, Korea or the U.S.

You'll Like This Car If...

If you enjoy intelligent design, efficient operation, careful build quality and artful execution, the 2012 Volkswagen Golf should fit a wide range of transportation needs. Although not as entertaining as the turbocharged GTI derivative, both the 2.5-liter in-line five and 2.0-liter TDI have prodigious torque along with competitive efficiency. The GTI provides expressive performance within a practical footprint, while the new Golf R is almost explosive in its capability. The Golf design has proven timeless, boding well for long-term enjoyment and a reasonable return on investment.

You May Not Like This Car If...

At one point those shopping for a 3-door or 5-door hatch had little beyond Volkswagen from which to choose. Lately, there's been an entire catalog of new entries, from manufacturers as diverse as Ford (Focus) and Hyundai (Elantra). With an abundance of choices you may find something elsewhere closer to your needs and/or budget.

What's New for 2012

No significant changes to the base car, but option packages have been simplified. Those Golfs equipped with the 2.5-liter 5-cylinder gasoline powertrain are available in Golf, Golf with Convenience, and Golf with Convenience and Sunroof guises. Those consumers opting for the 2.0-liter Clean Diesel can spec their Golfs as Golf TDI, Golf TDI with Sunroof and Navigation, and Golf TDI with Tech Package. Making any of these choices continues to provide you with a high level – for the segment – of standard equipment. Celebrating 35 years as the world's best "hot hatch," VW's GTI receives a new variant - GTI with Convenience and Sunroof - which groups together some of the most popular stand-alone options. And for those with a penchant for spending more to get more, the Golf R, with 256 horsepower, 4Motion all-wheel drive and a $35,000 MSRP should more than satisfy.

Driving the Golf

Driving Impressions Sharing its overall architecture with VW's GTI, the Golf enjoys a level of solidity and composure relatively rare in its size or price category. The all-independent suspension delivers a composed...

ride, rack-and-pinion steering provides a direct communication with the front wheels, and the rigid body structure contributes to both handling and safety. In short, there's none of the tin-box feel often associated with cars in the compact category – the Golf feels more like a mid-size sport sedan. The 5-cylinder gasoline powerplant with 170 horsepower won't overwhelm you with either power or personality, but proves oh-so-competent in the daily commute. The diesel has power and personality in spades, but requires a financial commitment up front while providing 40-plus highway mpg in return. Opt for the 200-horsepower GTI and you have a confluence of both more capability and an almost serene driving environment – this isn't the hot hatch for a youngster, it's the responsive hatch for a youthful psychology. If you're lucky enough to secure the all-wheel-drive Golf R, plan for high-speed driving at any appropriate venue in any appropriate season. We'd recommend Montana between January and December.

TDI Powertrain
With all of the discussion surrounding hybrid and electric powertrains, diesel remains the well-proven leader in efficiency and longevity. The Golf's 2.0-liter TDI is efficient, versatile and responsive. That combination should please both the enthusiast behind the wheel and the accountant keeping track of monthly costs.

5-Door Versatility
Having popularized – after a fashion – the 3- and 5-door hatch, Volkswagen continues to move the needle with some 46 cubic feet of cargo space. It isn't, to be sure, a minivan, nor does it hold the commercial possibilities of Ford's Transit Connect. But with those wanting something fun to drive, but still needing some vestige of practicality, the Golf's hatch configuration is tough to beat.

2012 Volkswagen Golf Details
Interior

Volkswagen describes the Golf interior as one that continues to "set the quality benchmark in its class." And we wouldn't disagree; the Golf employs a mixture of design and execution rarely found at window stickers fully twice that of the 2012 Golf. Throughout the Golf interior, from seat choices to the dash and center stack, you'll not be disappointed by the Golf's visual and tactile performance. And its functional acumen is underscored by an info-centric dash, form-fitting bucket seats and high-lift tailgate. The 2012 GTI and Golf R take the interior one step further, with an ergonomic steering wheel, aggressive sport seats and more comprehensive instrumentation.

Exterior

Visually the Golf was tightened for 2011, and those more athletic contours have been carried over in 2012. The crisp, shark crease running the length of the Golf add, we're told, "visual movement" to the car, while its swept-back headlights heighten the Golf's athletic look. New for 2012 on the Golf TDI Clean Diesel with Tech are LED daytime running lights that sit along the sides and base of the headlights. The 2012 Golf is an evolution of a design that worked from the git-go, and continues to work because its design team refuses to dramatically alter its innate goodness.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

At a base price of under $19,000, the 2.5-liter Golf is modestly equipped, with tilt-and-telescopic steering column; power windows with auto up/down; air conditioning, split-folding rear seat with armrest and pass-through; radio with single CD; and dual polished exhaust tips. Adding Convenience ups the ante with front center armrest, heatable front seats and Bluetooth technology. Convenience and Sunroof goes beyond the addition of the sunroof with Premium VIII touch-screen radio, Sirius satellite radio and an MDI with an iPod cable. The diesel lineup – TDI Clean Diesel, Sunroof and Navigation and Tech Package – takes a similar stair-step route, but starts at a base of just under $25,000. The GTI and Golf R receive unique fascias and badging, along with a stance - via more aggressive rubber - that conveys both higher ambition and capabilities.

Optional Equipment

Most notable among your list of choices in the VW showroom is the 2.0-liter TDI diesel. Car companies with operations in the U.S. have been uniformly slow in adapting diesel's benefits – abundant torque and high efficiency – to U.S.-based (or bound) platforms. VW and Mercedes continue to show the way, and the benefits of the diesel in a Golf-sized package are many. Beyond the diesel, we'd cite the Golf's available DSG gearbox (optional on diesel-equipped Golfs), whose efficiency and immediacy are a perfect complement to the diesel's 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque.

Under the Hood

Although the Golf's base 5-cylinder powerplant doesn't receive a huge amount of love from VW's enthusiast base, it's proven to be eminently sensible for the cut-and-thrust of daily driving, offering reasonable horsepower, smoothness and efficiency; its most damning descriptive is that it's simply not much fun. That can't be said for the 2.0 TDI, offering abundant torque, awesome efficiency and a driving experience as visceral as VW. Given the diesel's $5K premium, however, you should weigh your driving needs, and costs, carefully. You'll need to drive a significant amount in a diesel to recover its higher initial purchase price. Performance enthusiasts can enjoy the GTI's warmed-up 2.0 liter turbo-4 offering 200 horsepower, or its more boosted variation – with 256 horsepower – available in the Golf R.

2.5-liter in-line 5
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 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

2.0 liter in-line 4 turbocharged (GTI)
200 horsepower @ 5,100-6,000 rpm
207 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/31 (manual), 24/33 (DSG)

2.0 liter turbocharged in-line 4 (Golf R)
256 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
243 lb-ft of torque @ 2,400-5,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/27

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2012 Volkswagen Golf Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
9.2
Out of 10

Based on 75 Ratings for the 2010 - 2015 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    9.3/10
    Quality
    9.5/10
  • Reliability
    9.2/10
    Performance
    9.6/10
  • Comfort
    9.4/10
    Styling
    9.3/10

best car ever

By on Monday, July 28, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 53,500

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "all good"

Cons: "maintenance is costly"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"An excellent car. Besides the miles per gallon. Handles so well, like a really expensive german car. Top notch quality inside, seat material a little on the economical side. Also somethings over engineered but for me that's great. Have put almost 50,000 miles on the car and it sti;; drives like a 50,000 car. All i do is the maintenance which is expensive at VW. LOve the car!"

12 people out of 24 found this review helpful

The Golf TDi is a fantastic car

By on Sunday, July 20, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 31,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
8/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Great Highway MPG, torque, fun!"

Cons: "Not for Toyota Camry drivers"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"I have loved VW Golfs for quite a while now and I have had the privilege to own two of them, a MkIV (2002 gas) and my current MkVI (2011 TDi). The MkVI is a very comfortable and agile car that makes driving fun while sipping diesel. This car excels on the highway, returning 44-45 MPG on long trips. Tons of torque is available at low RPMs, so if you encounter a steep hill, just drop it into 3rd or 4th and it powers up the incline like it's not even there. If you are a city driver, this might not be the car for you if you're mainly looking for high MPGs. It's probably better to go with a Prius or other hybrid or even an electric Leaf since those cars excel in town, but you will have more fun with the Golf. The Golf is also one of the best looking cars on the road under $30k, classic with well defined lines and curves. No crazy bubbles, swoopes or oversized grilles. Plus, at 31k miles, I have had zero problems with this vehicle, which is to be expected. Ultimately, the Golf is a drivers car; so if you enjoy driving and think of it as more than just getting from point A to point B, you will really appreciate this car."

9 people out of 19 found this review helpful

I loved this car!!

By on Monday, July 14, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 58,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Great value, super fun to drive"

Cons: "Would have preferred 8 way adjustable seat."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"Great car. Never once stuck in the worst winter of my life even when 4WD cars couldnt make it up the hilly roads. Super comfortable and totally 100% reliable all of the time."

6 people out of 7 found this review helpful

Dull, dull and brilliantly dull

By on Saturday, May 31, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,500

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Dull, but brilliantly so"

Cons: "Dull, but that's the biggest con I can think of."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"The Golf 2.5 Base is my wife's car. It replaced her 12 year old Miata. Everything about this car is sensible or reasonable or both. Dependable, predictable, solid, reasonably economical, sensible price, sensible size, reasonably comfortable, reasonable stereo, reasonable servicing costs, reasonable looks, better than reasonable built quality. Reasonable performance if you can be bothered to go and find it. Just does everything it says in the brochure without any fuss or excitement. She hates buttons and it has the minimum. For example, Lights: on or off. That's it, 2 positions. She hates complexity, and there isn't any. Absolute wysiwyg,(the car and her) and she loves it. Dull but brilliantly so (only the car this time - not her). Probably everything she looked for in her spouse, and at least the car came through."

12 people out of 26 found this review helpful

I love driving this car.

By on Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 118,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
7/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Torque! MPG! Handling!"

Cons: "Cup holders suck."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"Kickass torque! Terrific mileage: average 40 mpg doing 70-75 on highways and often pushing it in town. Handling is fantastic: takes curves on the Taconic like a champ. Only quibble: mechanics. Several early problems, including a cylinder issue were covered by VW even well after warrantee expired. But no issues for over a year now.... In sum: I put on a lot of miles and I love that diesel!"

4 people out of 6 found this review helpful

Great Diesel Sipper

By on Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,300

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Fun to Drive, Fuel up less often, lots of power."

Cons: "Price too high, Blue motion not available in USA"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"Compared to other cars I have driven among a fleet of cars, the handling of the 2011 VW Golf TDi is sporty and loads of fun to drive. As a daily driver in-town the MPG is not as high as hybrid but you will be passing those hybrids on the road. Out on the highway is where the fuel economy kicks in. It lost only one point for reliability because it required road-side assistance to jump the car 3 times, which was covered under warranty for the first 3yrs/36K miles which was all due to a faulty battery. Related to quality after service was conducted to replace a faulty cruise control switch the horn was put back in improperly. It is really embarrassing having your car involuntarily honk. The dealer rapidly repaired the issue and provided a loaner during the process. The interior surfaces are firm but the seats are a bit rough to the touch and could be softened up a bit. The road noise was a bit more than I'd like for a VW. Only thing related to convenience is the service location is rather far away and requires taking off during the work week for anything more than an oil change. More dealerships would be nice. The interior finishes are great but the seats are rough to the touch. I would have rather had leatherette as an option in this car. I do love this car!"

5 people out of 7 found this review helpful

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Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

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