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Volkswagen golf tsi engine
If we were to describe the 19 months and 40,000 miles we spent with Volkswagen’s seventh-generation Golf hatchback as a romantic story arc, it would be a crushingly normal courtship. As in, Ward-and-June-Cleaver normal—neither a hot ’n’ heavy tryst nor a glum arranged marriage. Our entanglement with the Golf instead felt like a relationship built on bedrock, a long-term commitment to rival Archie and Edith Bunker’s.
We initially professed our love by naming the latest version to our 2015 10Best Cars list (and, later, to our 2016 list ). We then popped the question and Volkswagen sent us a gas-powered, automatic-transmission-equipped Golf SEL four-door for a long-term test. Our honeymoon with the redesigned-for-2015 Golf was textbook, and praise rained down upon the VW for its comfortable front seats, its premium cabin materials and look, and its basic rightness. Nor could we find fault with the Golf’s packaging: You can carry four adults in relative comfort or fold down the back seats and tote an apartment’s worth of Ikea booty. The car’s under-the-radar look—handsomely understated, we’ll call it—came in handy, too, when exercising its planted chassis and accurate steering on back roads. It’s not as outright athletic as its sportier GTI sibling. but the Golf holds its own. It’s very well rounded, just the kind of catch you’d take home to mom.
Given how popular the Golf became as a road-tripper right off the bat, we didn’t so much marry the VW as elope. By the end of its stay, the Golf had traveled from our Ann Arbor, Michigan, headquarters to Chicago, Wisconsin, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia (twice), Ohio (many times), and even circled Lake Michigan once for giggles. Granted, most of our long-term cars are pressed into service on road trips in an effort to keep their mileage accumulation on pace; the difference with the Golf is that unlike many compact cars we test, people actually wanted to take it on long journeys. On the open road, it recorded as high as 36 mpg on a tankful, while we averaged a less spectacular but still good 29 mpg overall.
Road trippers appreciated the Golf’s comfortable suspension tuning, seemingly laser-guided steering, and quiet interior, which performed convincing impressions of a bigger car. The seats that everyone found so supportive certainly helped us pass the miles without fatigue, and the trunk easily swallowed enough luggage for weeklong vacations. Serving as one of many shuttles from Ann Arbor to Virginia International Raceway for last year’s Lightning Lap track test. the Golf schlepped executive online editor Erik Johnson and photographer Michael Simari—and squeezed in all of Simari’s photo gear—without the two murdering one another during the 11-hour journey, an excellent result.
As the miles piled on, we did find some chinks in the Golf’s armor. Like finding out your spouse snores or always leaves dishes in the sink, the VW’s most glaring issues weren’t deal-killers, merely annoyances. The automatic transmission became a sore point for its lazy moves and low-speed stumbles. At the dealer for its 10,000-mile service, the Volkswagen was given a computer update aimed at solving the issue. Some shifting harshness disappeared, but the transmission never quite played nice with the turbocharged four-cylinder engine’s laggy throttle. Almost every driver complained about the delay between stepping on the gas and the car actually responding. When the powertrain got the message, the car would sometimes leap forward with more gusto than desired. Noting the diesel-like behavior, and presumably not making a VW diesel-scandal joke. features editor Jeff Sabatini asked: “Did Volkswagen deliver a diesel with the wrong badge on the back?”
Only the Golf’s center display was as universally unloved. The passage of time is often unkind to in-car technology, but the 5.8-inch screen and its attendant driver-information display in the gauge cluster looked old the day the Golf showed up at our office in late 2014. Today, it might as well be a pixelated cave drawing—one that’s nearly as unresponsive to inputs. The head unit’s small size and Atari-level graphics and screen resolution also were derided, several staffers experienced glitches when running the navigation system, and on one occasion the volume knob packed it up for 10 minutes while the screen stopped responding to inputs entirely. (The problem never resurfaced.) Our long-term 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI ’s infotainment system suffered similar maladies, and it likewise lacked a USB port—a potential deal-breaker for the Golf in this day and age. (Volkswagen offers a goofy “media-in adapter cable” with a specific connector for an iPhone; different cables are available for other devices, but they aren’t cheap.) Those looking to buy a new Golf at least can rest assured, as 2016 models dropped the geriatric system for a larger 6.5-inch touchscreen with a USB input and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay phone integration.
Mechanically, the Golf proved largely trouble-free through 40,000 miles, although service costs for scheduled maintenance were high. Between the 20,000-mile, 30,000-mile, and 40,000-mile services, we spent $998, getting in return only oil changes, rotated tires, inspections, and engine and cabin air filters. (The first service, at 10,000 miles, was free.) For comparison’s sake, we spent $625 to service our 2013 Dodge Dart and just $346 to service our 2014 Ford Focus ST over the same number of miles. Outside of scheduled maintenance, our Golf received a new fuel rail under a recall order at 10,434 miles, mysteriously lost a quarter quart of coolant (topped off for $20.78—we bought a gallon of coolant—at 29,714 miles), and had a check valve in its evaporative emissions system replaced at 36,591 miles (also free when the dealer extended courtesy coverage since the car’s 36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty had barely expired).
We also spent $521.12 to repair the rear bumper after a parking-lot snafu and $405 to fix three bent wheels. In fact, bent wheels plagued the Golf throughout its stay; perhaps the suspension’s compliance tricked staffers into forgetting that the car wore fairly low-profile tires, and the wheels suffered from the careless traversing of potholes and speed bumps. In any case, we were able to balance the wheels and tires through most of our test to erase wheel vibration at speed. At 36,450 miles, we were finally forced to fix the three aforementioned wheels when they became too out-of-round to counterbalance. At the same time, we replaced the right-front tire, which had developed a sidewall bulge from its abuse, for $180.47.
When the odometer rolled past the 40,000-mile mark, however, the old-school touchscreen display, frustrating low-speed powertrain refinement, and service costs weren’t enough to dispel this publication’s opinion that the Golf is one of the best cars for sale—let alone for less than $30,000. The whole car seems engineered to a standard, not a price, a perception reinforced every time you open or close one of its solid-feeling doors, or wrap your fingers around the steering-wheel contours shaped to perfectly accept human digits.
Numerous staffers shared the sentiment that, were they allowed to own only one car, the Golf would be on their short list. Require a manual transmission or more sportiness? Grab a lower-spec Golf with the five-speed or the equally wonderful, 210-hp GTI model (read about our long-term 2015 GTI here ). Either way, you had better be ready to commit, because you’ll be getting an excellent life partner that’s rock-steady and equipped to handle nearly any automotive task. Those who follow this space may notice that we entered our long-term Golf into a comparison test against another segment favorite, the Mazda 3 hatchback, earlier this year and the Volkswagen lost. It’s true that the Mazda is sportier and its automatic transmission is more buttoned-down, but the Volkswagen was extolled even in defeat: “We love living with it, perhaps even more than we enjoy driving it.” As an automobile, it’s pure marriage material.
Months in Fleet: 19 months Final Mileage: 40,407 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 29 mpg Fuel Tank Size: 13.2 gal Fuel Range: 380 miles Service: $1018 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0 Damage and Destruction: $1107
VEHICLE TYPE: front-engine, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
ENGINE TYPE: turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, iron block and aluminum head, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 110 cu in, 1798 cc
Power: 170 hp @ 4500 rpm
Torque: 199 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 103.8 in
Length: 167.5 in
Width: 70.8 in Height: 57.2 in
Passenger volume: 93.5 cu ft
Cargo volume: 22.8 cu ft
Curb weight: 3122 lb
Zero to 60 mph: 7.5 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 21.2 sec
Zero to 120 mph: 41.9 sec
Rolling start, 5-60 mph: 8.0 sec
Top gear, 30-50 mph: 3.8 sec
Top gear, 50-70 mph: 5.2 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 15.7 sec @ 89 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 126 mph
Braking, 70-0 mph: 173 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad*: 0.88 g
PERFORMANCE: 40,000 Miles
Zero to 60 mph: 7.7 sec
Zero to 100 mph: 21.0 sec
Zero to 120 mph: 38.0 sec
Rolling start, 5-60 mph: 8.3 sec
Top gear, 30-50 mph: 3.9 sec
Top gear, 50-70 mph: 5.3 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 15.8 sec @ 88 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 126 mph
Braking, 70-0 mph: 174 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad*: 0.85 g
EPA city/highway driving: 25/36 mpg
C/D observed: 29 mpg
Unscheduled oil additions: 0 qt
3 years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper;
5 years/60,000 miles powertrain;
12 years/unlimited miles corrosion protection;
3 years/36,000 miles roadside assistance;
1 years/10,000 miles free routine maintenance