By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.5
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.
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.
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.
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.
Driving Impressions 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.Exterior
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.
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.
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.
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.
By gtiman (VA) on Sunday, September 15, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,200overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive, great handling, comfortable"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Bought a new 2013 Wolfsburg Edition GTI. My first car was a new 1983 GTI, so it seemed logical to get one 30 years later! Only have 1200 miles, but it has been great. Fun to drive, very comfortable (I'm 6'2"), good looks. Love the feel of the turbo, handling is super. I almost got a TDI for the mileage, but I splurged and got the GTI, even though the fuel cost may be higher. The fun factor is definitely higher!"
3 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Tom (NY) on Tuesday, September 10, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 7,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I purchased my GTI in February 2013 and currently have 7500 miles on it. I am really enjoying it. It's less horsepower than my previous car (Saab) but very fun to drive. The turbo helps and it has really nice steering and handling. It hugs the road and feels very stable taking turns at higher speeds. The interior is also very nice - the red stitching and plaid seats give it some personality. Two features that I think should be standard on this car but are not include - radio controls mounted on the steering wheel and automatic climate control. I miss both, particularly the steering wheel mounted radio controls. That being said, I could not be happier with this car."
5 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By Dan (CO) on Monday, May 20, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, freeway performance, gas mileage"
Cons: "Wind noise, not very practical, on the small side"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 7
"It was between this GTI and a GLI. I went with the GTI because I figured I could fold the seats down and have all this space. Well, if you have more than 1 person, it becomes harder to fold the seats down and keep people comfortable. I previously had a Passat, and that had tons of room. My GTI is a blast to drive, its just like a go-kart, and I get great gas mileage. But ultimately it's missing practicality, bragging ability, and is a little small for me (I'm 6'2"). It was fun while it lasted, but I'm slowly looking for a replacement. But it is a ton of fun!!"
4 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By Zimian (TX) on Wednesday, May 01, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 3,800overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Incredible blend of features and performance"
Cons: "It's not a performance car"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"The GTI is a great value in a well-equipped FWD car. It's not a performance car. The few flaws it has are mostly forgiveable and easily dealt with. The oversized overweight 18" wheels with all-season tires absolutely have to go. I installed 16" wheels with same width tires but in a grippy summer compound. Makes a world of difference in all aspects of performance, as tires always will do but even more so because of the weight savings. Looks better and rides better too. For its class the car is a bit heavy and it feels so on the road. However this also gives it some stability at high speed over varied road surfaces so it's not too bad. You really feel the weight when changing direction. The suspension is relatively soft but firm enough for most people. The DSG gearbox is okay but not great when compared to sequential gearboxes on actual performance cars which is what I'm used to. Most drivers will be okay with it and not notice the problems. Some of the issues are inherent with twin clutch gearboxes. Single clutch sequentials don't have the same problems. Using DSG in manual mode helps, but most drivers won't bother and will be completely happy with it as it is. Some issues could be fixed by reprogramming how the gearbox works, for example to stop it from emulating a conventional automatic's 'creep' when releasing the brake and to make it stop downshifting and engine braking so aggressively. The brakes slow the car, not the engine. Again, manual mode generally prevents it from overdoing the downshifting. Wouldn't be so bad if all it did was downshift but it also engages the clutch, often at the worst possible moment. It just lacks some finesse. I have the base model GTI which comes with the standard audio system. It works well, but iPod control is rather awful. Fortunately it also has streaming Bluetooth so I just use my iPhone to control the music. You can use voice commands to change tracks if you want to operate handsfree once you select your playlist. The climate controls are a little light to the touch and feel flimsy. Takes some getting used to. I've found that feeling for the mark on the dial helps when adjusting while driving. The list of standard features is impressive. The build quality and design are first rate. For the price you won't find another car with the same blend of equipment, utility, versatility, and performance. Many standard features which are either optional or completely unavailable on competing models. I'm happy I tried the GTI but will be selling it probably when it's about a year old to someone better suited to it. The performance aspects, about which I had no expectations anyway, just don't quite cut it for me. I wanted to like it more than I do. Again, for most people this car will be all they'll ever need or want."
9 people out of 15 found this review helpful