KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 9/24/2012
2013 is the final year for this sixth-generation VW Golf; an all-new model should arrive in the U.S in 2014. But, considering its age, the current Golf/GTI/Golf R is holding up pretty well, this despite fierce competition from newer cars such as the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra. Available in either 2- or 4-door hatchback form, the Golf provides a versatile cabin composed of quality materials and some of the most comfortable and supportive seats in the business. The turbocharged GTI and R trims provide affordable performance in a practical package. But, it's the diesel-powered TDI models that really impress, with gobs of torque for fast starts and a highway fuel-economy rating of 42 mpg.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you're looking for small hatchback that is as fun to drive as it is versatile, Volkswagen's 2013 Golf deserves your attention. In GTI form, the Golf delivers go-kart-like performance without sacrificing comfort or economy, and the TDI offers the best fuel economy in the segment.
You May Not Like This Car If...
The Golf can be pricey, especially when compared to comparably equipped models from Hyundai, Kia, Ford and Mazda. Some may find that the big wheel/tire package on the GTI and Golf R renders a rather harsh ride.
What's New for 2013
For 2013, the manual transmission is dropped from the base Golf 4-door model, while all cars now have a standard front center armrest and front and rear floor mats. The GTI gets a new golf-ball-style shifter and new wheels.
Because it shares the same platform and major suspension components as the GTI, the 2013 VW Golf enjoys a level of solidity and stability rarely found in an entry-level model. The Golf's ride is smooth, its steering direct and responsive and its cabin luxury-car quiet. The 5-cylinder gasoline engine won't overwhelm you with either power or personality, but is more than up to the job. The 2.0-liter TDI diesel is our favorite choice, providing acceleration almost as rapid as the GTI's turbocharged engine with fuel economy that can't be beat. 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.
TDI DIESEL ENGINE
With all of the discussion surrounding hybrid and electric powertrains, diesel remains the well-proven leader in efficiency and longevity. The 2013 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.
The Golf's interior design may not be as cutting edge as is the Ford Focus or Hyundai Elantra, but its Audi-like materials, fit and finish leave everyone else running to catch up.
Volkswagen describes the 2013 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 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 GTI and Golf R take the interior one step further, with an ergonomic steering wheel, aggressive sport seats and more comprehensive instrumentation.
Visually the 2013 Golf/GTI doesn't veer far from the boxy formula that has been the car's trademark since its introduction nearly 40 years ago. The crisp, shark crease running the length of the Golf adds, we're told, "visual movement" to the car, while its sweptback headlights heighten the Golf's athletic look. On the Golf TDI Clean Diesel with the Tech Package are LED daytime running lights that sit along the sides and base of the headlights. The 2013 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 Standard Equipment
Standard equipment on the 2013 VW Golf includes a 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 the Convenience Group ups the ante with heated 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 GTI and Golf R receive unique fascias and badging, along with a stance – via more aggressive rubber – that conveys both higher ambition and capabilities.
Notable Optional Equipment
Most notable among 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 inline-5 (Golf)
170 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
177 lb-ft of torque 4,250 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/33 mpg (manual), 24/31 mpg (automatic)
2.0-liter turbodiesel inline-4 (TDI)
140 horsepower @ 4,000 rpm
236 lb-ft of torque @ 1,750-2,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 30/42 mpg
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (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 mpg (manual), 24/33 mpg (automatic)
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-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 mpg
The 2013 Volkswagen Golf 2.5L 2-door enjoys a base price of under $19,000, while the 4-door is $1,800 more. The GTI is priced between roughly $25,000 and $33,000, depending on the number of factory options. And the Golf R, available in both 2- and 4-door body styles, comes in at between $35,000 and $37,000. For an indicator of prices being paid in your market area, be sure to consult Kelley Blue Book's Fair Purchase Price. Resale of the Golf has historically fallen slightly short of Japanese competitors while proving better than those offerings from Korea. The TDI, however, has proven to be the gold standard in the compact category, especially when fuel prices are volatile.