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2013 volkswagen golf wagon 2.0 tdi comfortline

2013 Volkswagen Golf TDI Highline: for the love of driving

The Volkswagen Golf is by far the most significant vehicle in the German brand's lineup. It replaced the Beetle many years ago as the "people's car" and is one of the bestselling vehicles in Europe.

With three-door, five-door and wagon body styles, in addition to a performance model – the GTI – there's a Golf for just about everyone in the market for a compact car.

One advantage the 2013 Volkswagen Golf has had over its rivals is the availability of a diesel engine. That will change, as the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel is scheduled to hit dealerships this summer.

Diesel = torque
Volkswagen’s 2.0-litre TDI four-cylinder produces 140 horsepower; that may seem like a modest output, but turbo diesel fans know that these engines are all about low-rpm torque. The TDI’s 236 lb-ft peaks from 1,750 to 2,500 rpm.

That generous amount of torque makes the Golf TDI a quick car when accelerating from a standstill. The optional DSG automated transmission rows swiftly through its gears, which also helps performance.

During the test week, outside temperature dropped to -35 Celsius with the wind chill factor, and firing up the engine in the morning felt like someone poured marbles in the oil pan. However, once warmed up, the engine is actually quite smooth and clatter-free.

With the DSG gearbox, the Golf TDI is rated at a low 4.7 L/100 km. I averaged 7.2 L/100 km with a 50/50 mix of city and highway driving.

The 2013 Volkswagen Golf privileges spirited driving. It’s blessed with a playful character thanks to a taut chassis, precise and well-weighted steering as well as a suspension that’s well suited for mastering twisty country roads. It might not possess the willingness of a GTI, but it’s clearly one of the most fun compacts to drive.

Sweating the details
Every Golf comes well-equipped with A/C, cruise control, keyless entry and power windows; the Highline adds leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, a power sunroof and Bluetooth connectivity.

The seats are great, with plenty of side bolstering to keep you snugly in place, and a good driving position is easy to find. I do wish the handle to slide the seat fore and aft was closer to the door than the centre console, which is a hassle when people of different sizes alternate in the driver’s seat.

Outward visibility is very good all around, and occupants benefit from plenty of headroom and legroom front and back. As for as compact hatchbacks go, the 2013 Volkswagen Golf is accommodating with up to 1,310 litres when its rear seats are folded down. If you need even more space, get the Golf Wagon with its 1,890-litre cargo hold.

Fit and finish is quite good in the Golf, while the dash design is tasteful if a little unadventurous. In the Highline, chrome trim brightens up the mood. And having auto up/down functionality on all windows is well appreciated; some cars that cost twice as much still can’t get this right.

The dashboard switchgear is easy to twist and poke while driving, except for the multimedia system’s touchscreen; the tactile buttons are small and require more than just the tap of a finger to react.

There are several things in this car that remind you that VW sweated the details; small touches that you not always notice upon the first inspection, such as a strut to hold the hood open instead of a flimsy prop rod, the grocery bag hooks and power outlet in the cargo area, the heated washer fluid nozzles as well as the adjustable front centre armrest.

To TDI or not to TDI
So is the TDI engine a must-have? As much as I like it, I’m not quite sure I would choose it over the 170-hp, 2.5L inline-five. You see, the TDI engine costs more to build, so opting for one requires an extra $2,300 over the price of its gas-powered equivalent. During the week I tested the Golf, regular unleaded was priced at $1.31 a litre while diesel fuel was $1.41. It will take a few years before being able to recuperate the initial cost of the diesel engine.

Personally, I won’t put up with four years of having to fill up with smelly, dirty diesel fuel, at a service station where the diesel pumps and filthy and there are puddles on the ground from people overfilling their tanks.

If diesel is a must-have for you, the 2013 Volkswagen Golf TDI starts out at $25,425 in Comfortline trim, while this Highline tester costs $31,685. A Hyundai Elantra GT is a steal in comparison.

A totally redesigned 2015 Volkswagen Golf is scheduled to arrive in Canada in 2014. However, that doesn’t mean the current Golf isn’t good anymore; it remains a lovable little car that is fun to drive and spacious enough for the family. By sacrificing some features and opting for a Comfortline, you can get a nicely equipped five-door Golf with an automatic for about $25K.