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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.
Favorite Features

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
9.3
Out of 10

Based on 66 Ratings for the 2010 - 2014 models.

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

Great Value

By on Monday, March 31, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 3,400

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
9/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "German engineered, fun, practical"

Cons: "Can't think of any"

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

"I bought this car new in 11/13 and have 3400 miles. So far the car, despite it's size, has proven to be very capable. We use it as a daily driver, mostly in town (2 mile commute) and it is getting about 23-24 city. We have had the occasion to take a couple of extended trips and can get 30-31 highway with the cruise and "speed limit" (V1 radar detector is always on). Went to Palm Springs loaded with 2 sets of golf clubs w/pull carts intact, luggage, cooler and had plenty of room with the rear seats folded down. The tiptronic transmission is flawless and is actually the mode of choice in our driving patterns. No, the 2.5L isn't the most powerful engine, but has proven itself to be more than adequate. Body integrity, driving comfort, handling, reliability are all consistent with German engineering expectations. There is a reason it's the #1 selling car in Europe. The Golf offers heated seats and a sunroof which were MUST HAVEs for my wife. All in all one of the best cars I have owned."

2 people out of 4 found this review helpful

Best vehicle ever!

By on Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 10,500

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
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Great price, fun to drive."

Cons: "small"

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

"It was my very first car I bought myself and also learned to drive standard. I couldn't ask for a better and more reliable car myself. It is great that the dealership does all maintenance for me and its free!"

14 people out of 19 found this review helpful

This is a Golf I'm proud of!

By on Saturday, February 08, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Torgue, MPG, FUN to drive, Styling."

Cons: "Price, GPS-screen elec NO realtime traffic/Pandora"

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

"I've had many VW's in my life, including 4 Jetta's, 3 bugs, an old school van and a 4Motion Passat, yet this is my 3rd Golf. I had a 1999 Golf TDI, and a 2005 GTI. Both were fun and nice to drive. Yet the new 2012 style, look, and overall quality is awesome! I'm not so much of fan of the GPS, as it is missing real time traffic and voice commands. To only have Sirius XM radio offered and NO Pandora or other FREE streams is SAD. Overall, this car RULES for MPG, torgue, looks, and styling it's a winner. Pricey overall, yet well worth the investment IF the longevity lasts as most diesels do. I'm shooting for the 1 million mile mark, after all I did get 500,000 miles out of my 1999 Golf diesel before selling it. Just get a Mark 6 instead of a 7 cause they're made in Germany."

best car for the money

By on Saturday, January 18, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 8,500

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
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "fun to drive, sporty, practical, best MPG"

Cons: "more expensive, warranty could be better"

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

"While the TDI version of the Golf is more expensive it is SO worth it! I get 39 MPG on average and can reach MPGs of 45-50 on the highway! I can drive a round trip from Seattle to Spokane on one tank of diesel easily. The interior is flawless and beautiful, super well done. I can play my iphone through the bluetooth option, no plug in required, yet still have the option of USB if needed. Touch screen is so fun. The seats are comfortable and sporty. It drives so well, and with a six speed really has some get up and go! My seats fold down for maximum storage and are easy to operate. Safety is in the top of its class with multiple airbags. Having the four door option is great for my passengers and my future children/getting car seats in and out. I just wouldn't choose any other car! I love my Golf! Its practical and hold its value unlike any other hatchback"

1 person out of 1 found this review helpful

I have never loved a car like this before;

By on Friday, January 10, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 78,000

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
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "a fun car to drive; still love it with 80,000 mile"

Cons: "DRL can be a problem when asked to turn off"

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

"Its my everything; very reliable; 43-50 miles to the gallon, Hugs the road; can move; I just love it!!!!"

Great Car!

By on Friday, December 06, 2013

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 65,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Performance, Gas Mileage, Fun to Drive"

Cons: "Don't love the electronics (stereo, bluetooth,etc)"

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

"I have been wanting some form of TDI since 2009 but was always apprehensive to buy a diesel due to the thought process of old school loud, smelly, slow diesel cars of the past. I started doing some research and what convinced me was a couple of road test reviews on Youtube. The build quality of this car is just like a typical German high end product. Solid as a tank. As for the drive this car moves! The torque is amazing I can pass cars with ease even high performance sports cars! Oh and by the way I do this and I still average close to 40 mpg in mixed mostly city driving. Yes diesel gas cost more per gallon than regular gas but think of the extra mpg and fun you get to have with this car! I have owned dozens of cars in my lifetime and this is one of my favorites! I highly recommend any VW/Audi TDI."

4 people out of 10 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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