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2012 Volkswagen Golf

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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 101 Ratings for the 2010 - 2014 models.

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

More fun than my sport bike

By on Friday, May 6, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 55,000

10 7.0
overall rating 7 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
7/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Great driving, nearly 45mpg"

Cons: "only 45mpg, 4.9l TDi gets 50mpg. diesel gate"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5

"The highlight of this car is the handling. Power is good, but California is going to force me to sell or de-tune the TDi. First gear is too high, driving on hills can be tough with the clutch. I've driven clutch all my life, previous VW was TDi 4.9 liter and had gearing better suited for the engine"

Fits my need to the tee.

By on Tuesday, February 16, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 52,000

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: "Rides and drives much better then the competition."

Cons: "NOX"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4

"This is my 6th Volkswagen and my first TDI. Bought it new and has not given me any problems what so ever. I am averaging 46 MPG for the 53K miles I have owned it and has only needed regular maintenance which I perform myself. Getting 600 miles plus per tank is great for long trips but my bladder needs to be emptied sooner than the tank needing filled. I chose this car because it has the fuel mileage and the quality I was after. Its a bonus that I am able to tow my 4x8' (<2000lbs) trailer and still get better than 30 MPG. The torque of the TDI is a joy to drive and surprisingly quick. I put a low "Not Likely to recommend" because most people won't like the cost of dealer maintenance and that you can't treat it like a "throw-away appliance" like so many cars offered. Too bad about the emissions because I really like this car!!!"

3 people out of 4 found this review helpful

I love this car.

By on Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 120,000

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
9/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Handling, acceleration, fit & finish, engineering."

Cons: "Small car ride, although better than most."

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

"I drive the two door, 2.5 liter gasoline Golf with a five speed manual transmission. It drives and handles very well in all sorts of conditions. After 120000 miles, it's still a bunch of fun every day."

12 people out of 18 found this review helpful

Phenomenal car.

By on Thursday, October 15, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 33,450

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Driving, engine, transmission, comfort, mileage."

Cons: "DSG quirkiness"

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

"without addressing VW's current diesel debacle, this is a fantastic car. Recent trip over 250 miles, averaged 52 MPG out and 55 MPG back. EPA Highway rating is 43. 640 miles on tank. And the car is very quiet, well insulated, drives solidly, responsively, calmly. Accelerates well at any reasonable speed, seamless shifting w/DSG. Dynaudio sound system is wonderful. Always makes me smile when I'm driving it. I would rate it better than past Acuras and Hondas. Quality is on par as I've had no issues with the car that I haven't caused. Only concern for non-VW, non-DSG drivers is that the DSG and its behavior does take some getting used to. Nothing wrong with it, behaves as it's designed, but you need to learn its peculiarities if you've never driven one before."

8 people out of 20 found this review helpful

Great Genes

By on Sunday, September 27, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,800

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

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

"We bought the TSI model with sunroof, leatherette, fender stereo,17 inch wheels and lighting package. has the paddle shifters but rarely use. turbo lag very apparent in first gear, you have to learn to put your foot into it a bit otherwise very sluggish starting from stop, but after that it's a little autobahn rocket. Had a 83 GTI and reminds me a lot of that when driving. Not perfect though. poor rearward visibility, the rear back up lights do not illuminate very well at night, the backup camera does not have the turning guides that other cars like Mazda has and VW cheaped out by not also installing back up sensors that beep as you are nearing an obstacle behind you. I have that system on my ford pickup and can get within an inch of whatever is behind me without hitting. As you can probably guess, my wife was backing out at night and hit my truck. Light damage to both but could have been avoided with the sensors that beep. Otherwise, love driving this car."

5 people out of 9 found this review helpful

CRAZY GOOD

By on Thursday, September 3, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 80,000

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: "see review"

Cons: "nasty driver's side blind spot,add extra mirror."

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

"Best overall car I've ever owned. Even after a few years it's still a joy to get in, crank that turbo, and zip on down the road. Handles like a sports car. Diesel gets an easy 38mpg around town, high forties on the interstate. So far only changed the oil and filter (every 15K), and new tires at about 70,000 miles; and replaced battery last year."

14 people out of 21 found this review helpful

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