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2010 Golf 2.5 and Jetta TDI test drives

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Test Drive: 2010 Volkswagen Golf 2.5 and Jetta TDI

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Got out in the cold yesterday and took out a couple VW's. A 2010 3 door Golf 2.5 / manual and a 2010 Jetta TDI / manual. I wanted a Golf TDI but none was available.

I will add more to this tomorrow, since i forgot to get this up earlier Saturday evening.

You would be surprised to know that I think my preference of the two is the gas model. I have driven the TDI Jetta now with the manual and the DSG and neither time did I come away thinking I would enjoy the vehicle long term, when i began to consider the main benefit of the diesel is basically fuel mileage....a benefit that comes at a greatly increased cost and therefore opens up a lot of interesting comparison issues based upon the car's price.

Besides that, I found myself really preferring the revvability of the traditional gas mill and its power delivery more to my liking than the somewhat unwilling diesel.

Keep in mind the behavior of the diesel may have entirely been because of the weather conditions, it was below zero and the car hadn't sat idling for like an hour to get up to operating temp. Diesels take longer to get smooth. I get that. I can only comment on what I experienced today and I hope to follow this up with a Golf TDI test drive down the road in better weather.

The 2.5 is no refinement peach either, although its mid range grunt helped to keep it from having to be floored nearly as much as the TDI and therefore didn't feel like you had to beat on it like you did the TDI to get anything out of it.

The major annoyance of the 2.5 was the lack of the 6th gear for highway cruising. 3000 rpm at 65-70 mph is a bit much IMO for a car with 170/177. The 5 cylinder is a growler as well, its not a harsh growl, its just an odd sort of groan that nice four cylinders do not make. I would not really call it deal breaker although most competitors have four cylinder motors that are more pleasing (GM that includes your Cobalt engine). I did find the gearbox on the 5 speed and its clutch to be smoother than the TDI and 6 speed, but maybe again the TDI needed more time to get comfy. I found the engagement point on the TDI's clutch harder to get right away than the very easy feeling 5 cylinder. The 5 cylinder shifted very snick snick and not much (just a little) notchyness. The TDI's shifter seems a bit fussier in comparison although I would not call it out as bad. Both would likely satisfy an experienced stick driver in that regard....

I just have determined the TDI diesel is really not my cup of tea. I felt you had to lay into it far too much to wake it up at a stop light or on roll on. Of course with one extra gear you can hook the powerband better, but to get the diesel to scoot you really need to prod it more. The diesel I felt should have quieted down a bit more at the 65-70 mph pace, at least it had the 6th gear. In the 5 cylinder you can still pass aggressively in 4th. With the TDI the top two gears you are not gonna get much passing power out of....you totally need to drop it to 4th to weave in traffic and get bursts. I suppose the 6th gear is how the TDI scores its mileage rating. I felt that with the exception of no 6th to bring the rpm down on the 5, that in fact had more flexibility in all driving conditions. Keep in mind I believed the diesel had similar traits when i drove it with the DSG.

More tomorrow. What both cars needed IMO was one engine to share, a really good basic 2.2 litre 4 cylinder motor with about 155-170hp and a very nice well matched 6 speed. i.e. a very revvable behaved flexible four cylinder like the motor in the Cobalt, paired with a great 6 speed.

Between that and the steering I hesitate to call either car a must buy. I would rate them good to very good, but I left thinking that neither was 'compelling' enough to make me not consider the myriad of other choices in the segment. One thing about the cars that is very well done to exceptional is the interior....although a couple beefs i had about that as well.

Edited by regfootball
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Interested to hear the rest of what you think.

Agree on the 2.5, the only VW gasser to get is the GTI IMHO, with the 2.0T.

And then again, nothing in the segment is perfect.

Chris

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I'm very confused about the new VWs... the Golf is now Mk6, but the Jetta is still Mk5?

Ya. 6th gen Jetta coming for '11, supposedly not a 'Golf w/ a trunk' anymore..

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Ya. 6th gen Jetta coming for '11, supposedly not a 'Golf w/ a trunk' anymore..

it will become an 'Americanized' VW....i.e. decontented and diluted, no longer a true German car.

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Interested to hear the rest of what you think.

Agree on the 2.5, the only VW gasser to get is the GTI IMHO, with the 2.0T.

And then again, nothing in the segment is perfect.

Chris

I would tend to agree with both statements as I have driven a few vehicles in the compact and subcompact segment.

I will elaborate on your engine comment in a future post. I did not expect I would go 'frontpage' LOL.

If I had known that, I might have asked for a format outline to do a review in, instead of a 4 am hackjob! LMAO.

Edited by regfootball
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sometimes I just frontpage things that are both naturally good and that will get lots of hits when I post it on Twitter and Facebook.

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So, in general to repeat above, the VW products have good powertrains, although the five cylinder and diesel each have some things about them that would make one hesitate and want to consider other vehicles they compete against. On the five cylinder in addition to the comments above, that engine has also been slightly knocked for fuel economy that is a little less than to be expected in this segment. Perhaps it is a tradeoff of the higher horsepower, or less expensive, less exotic engine. In the diesel, the tradeoff is the running characteristics of a diesel to a nation that is not entirely familiar with the motor type or how it operates best, as well as its initial premium expense and relative obscurity. VW has obviously done the most with mainstream diesel in the US recently and I think personally in order for diesel to truly have a chance of proliferating again in other brands, VW has to do the dirty work and sell bunches of these TDI's. If the diesels take off again for VW, it may convince the buying public as a whole that diesel may again be headed mainstream. I am not certain the USA is really ready to follow through whole heartedly aside from all the hype people spout on car sites about 'Ford needs the diesel Fiesta' and so on. If the manufacturers really laid it all out there, I am curious just exactly how many consumers other than VW, and a few BMW's, Mercedes, and maybe Volvos would gain any traction in the market.

All right. Exterior and Interior.

Most of us are extremely familiar by now with the latest Jetta. Not quite yet refreshed as the Golf has been for 2010, yet the change is minimal for the Golf vs. the outgoing Rabbit. I found the new Golf front end updates to be extremely attractive and look forward to them making the Jetta sedan next year. The Golf I drove was quite the stripper in dull gray with wheel covers....it was not as sharp as the red Golf with alloys and sunroof in the showroom. In any case, the exterior presentation of the Jetta has been grade A for awhile now, and the Golf you can say is just as good. Both cars are a bit dull and conservative, but in a very precise and pleasing way...not a hodgepodge sort of blandness you'd find on say, any Toyota. Obviously style is an individual thing, but I would gladly drive either the Golf or the Jetta and be happy with its tidy conservative looks. The GTI of course is the more flamboyant Golf, and is available if you want. I can't say I found any particular exterior details that wowed me, although I really liked the Jetta's aluminum wheels, and the new grille and headlights of the Golf and the integration of small turn signal repeaters in the Golfs (small and oddly shaped) rearview mirrors. I always like the VW logo used as a hatch release on the back, very clever.

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Interior. Recent history has shown that despite what can occasionally be called a not exactly bulletproof reliability record for their vehicles, VW does indeed get lots of praise for its interiors, and to this I agree with very much. The weird thing is that for 2010, the Golf gets all new interior bits, while the Jetta gets the same new IP, radio, and climate controls, integrated into mostly the same dash it has had for the last few years. The Jetta I drove had the vinyl -cough- leatherette seats, the Golf had the new cloth. I found both to be nice....with one beef on the Golf's seats. The seats were in both cases very supportive even if I felt the seat bottoms were a bit insubstantial, the shape and bolstering were very good. What I didn't quite resolve was why the Golf's seats seemed so much narrower and really forced my legs together. It really was kind of uncomfortable. I did not notice that in the Jetta. You kind of need some room there, really! I appreciated the power recline function present in the Jetta's seat. The old German diehard rotary recline wheel was at the helm in the Golf, and it just really depends if you like it or are simply used to it from other German vehicles. What was important was I seemed to for the most part be able to adjust the seat to my liking, with the handy height ratchet and the sometimes clumsy forward and back grab handle at the front of the seat that is typical VW.

What really I found to be a knockout for the class on these VW products were the gauges and instrumentation and the new radio and climate controls. Just the quality and simplicity of them. The gauges in particular, with the blue lighting, chrome accents, and repeat digital display in the center (you will find you may not look at the speedometer at all with the digital display right there!). Just very well done and right in your eye's path....and framed by a dash made of impeccable plastics look and quality on the Golf and 98 percent the same on the Jetta. The radio is logically segmented and laid out, has very clear display and is just refreshing to look at. Similarly simple is the climate control. The knobs felt a bit flimsy and cheap, but that was not overly so for what I have seen in the segment elsewhere.

I did not play with the turn stalks enough to grasp all they could do or how they did the cruise and wipers and such. They were a tish hard to see and find but they felt nice. It seemed like it might take a bit to acclimate to what was needed to do with them. On the Golf i totally loved the location of the mirror controls and window switches. All together, on the Golf especially, the controls were all where you wanted, simply laid out, and nice to look at and use. Everything is up high and in the line of sight and makes driving easier. The touch points and eye candy for the driver and primary passenger is all very well done and I believe this is the main virtue of the VW cars. I could simply go on for how good the seat heaters are even. Really a big plus on a negative degree day! One downside, I was let down by the cheap feel of the new steering wheel in the Golf. Since it did not have the multifunction switches or leather wrap, it just seemed like it was missing so much. It was thinner and lacked the decorative accents and attractive features of the uplevel wheel that is standard in the GTI and Golf TDI and higher levels of the Jetta. It really seemed downmarket compared to the rest of the interior and did not feel good in the hand. You just want the nicer wheel so bad you notice what you are missing so much!

Passenger space is very good. Prior Jettas from early decade were majorly knocked for lack of passenger room. The future American Jetta will become larger still, but this Jetta and Golf seemed to me to provide good space and comfort for good sized people. Ingress and egress in the front is good for both cars. I think the door opening in the back of the Jetta is tighter than I like although a huge improvement over the early decade. Long legged folks might protest leg space if the front folks have the seat back too far, but overall I think the space in this car is alright in that regard. Caveat.......a little later. Another recent drive, the Kia Forte, to me I believe had a little bit more girth and space and legroom front and back. The Jetta / Golf is definitely larger than a Focus (of which I drove for 2 weeks back in 2008). It has a definite rear seat advantage over the Cobalt. Trunk space in the Jetta is exceptional. Large opening, great height, width, and depth, and it is trimmed out very nicely. The Golf's boot since its a hatch is smaller, but it is still very useful sized and of course you can expand the cargo hold by folding down the seats. GM fans may want to postulate about the size relation of the future Chevy Cruze. I believe the Cruze will have a trunk the size of the Jetta, and the interior room at least of the Forte. In that regard I think the Cruze may turn out to perceived as having possibly even more space than the Jetta overall. We will find out in a few months.

Next part will be ride and drive and handling and overall impression and comment on value and position with VW and sub and compact class.

Edited by regfootball
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Awaiting the rest of this reg. Agree about the base Golf steering wheel.

Chris

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Yeah I need to finish this up. In a bit. In the meantime, I got my Car and Driver today. Inside is a test of the Golf TDI. Handles mostly like the GTI but it lacks acceleration. In general. So I hope to test one myself some day. Perhaps the TDI will take care of the ride and handling issues I promise I will get to.

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I should probably bookend this, and try to be quick. In my test drive the Golf base and Jetta TDI had very similar feel in the suspension and steering. To reiterate also, it was COLD out, and maybe this contributed to what i found a rather stiff and harsh ride....as in no suspension compliance and lots of thunking over bumps. Almost like the old GM trick of stiff suspension to make it seem sporty, with the chassis taking all the shots. I think I will give it the benefit of the doubt and reserve final judgment till another drive. What I do recall from a previous Jetta test was sort of a choppy nervousness (not much just a little) in the ride, and I think this is simply a car with a short wheelbase that you just feel it more and it works the car more. Both cars felt undertired; the Golf had steel wheels and base tires, and the Jetta had alum wheels but i doubt they had performance tires. All in all I was sort of surprised as the steering felt a little lifeless, and lacked weight and feel. It felt kind of insubstantial, as if the whole steering assembly felt not quite built for the long haul. Of course, some other small cars feel this way also, most of them in fact. I was just surprised I perceived it on the VW's. I wished the steering had been quicker as well. There was more road and chassis noise than I thought should have been there as well. I will say the roadgoing probably at least in the upper tier of cars like this....and again I will need a warmer weather ride to wring them out. But I don't think one who is looking for a 'sporting car' ought to hastily pick one of these two VW's without a really long and honest test ride.

These two cars are built for urban comfort. Not super handling (like a GTI apparently?).

Which kind of brings me to the next step, is it a must buy and do you get what you want and is it worth what you pay?

Edited by regfootball
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Well, with the Jetta, its VW's staple product, so since it sells a lot, it also has a full lineup and covers a very wide price swath. The Golf does as well, but it doesn't appeal to as many buyers due to its hatchback configuration, and the hatch stigma (which many in the US still equate to 'should be low priced'.

I think its important if someone is shopping the Jetta or Golf line that they should determine what is most important to them when shopping and try to narrow down which of the VW's they are evaluating rather quickly. I would guess most Jettas sold the last couple years have been at lower price points and have gone out the door in leasing specials. A Jetta S or SE five cylinder is pretty well equipped for what you pay (or lease for) and has decent performance to correspond with it. But there is a tipping point where you can move up to say, a Ford Fusion for equal or little more cash....heck, several of the mid sizers....Mazda6, Altima, Camry, Malibu...KIZASHI. And that is a personal preference. But I don't think the Jetta's handling and acceleration and ride are good enough to offset the benefit of at least surverying what that little bit more will get you. The Jetta can even be had as a turbo (wolfsburg) which actually is a good value, but a really loaded Jetta encroaches even on the Passat and CC sport. I know the CC is drop dead I want to have that car, while the Jetta is merely just a Jetta.

Of course if diesel and mpg are important to you then that decision is a lot easier to reason. Same if you want a nice tidy wagon. But you really pay through the arse for that incremental mpg increase, or the larger cargo hold (which is prevalent on many crossovers or larger wagons and sedans in the market currently for the same, to less, or just a little more money). For example, if cargo is your thing, you really could reason that a Subaru Outback or even a Pontiac Vibe (RIP) is a better value purchase. Or if saving fuel money is your thing, a cobalt is faster and saves a lot of up front money as well. A focus will get you almost the same actual mpg.

Of course if you are merely a sucker for the nicer interior of either of these cars, perhaps that is a justification enough.

With regards to the Golf, I have similar feelings and at least with the base five cylinder, I only see a value equation with the absolute base car and even then I don't think the engine or handling elevates the car enough to make it a no brainer, not when there are so many other good cars and the Mazda3 out there.

Really all the base Golf and Jetta SE do is make you want the turbo........kaching. there goes the price. Especially the Golf, you'll either want the TDI (apparently has the GTI's handling) so you can have at least the handling with your diesel. Or you pay for the GTI and you get power with your handling.

Which begs me to ask, why can't I get one VW with handling, mpg, and power all in one package that is not north of 25k? TO me that is where any value equation to many VW's break down.

There's a lot of good cars around 20k that the Golf and Jetta have a harder time competing with...they hold their own, and a Jetta S and SE are what I would term good values. But the assets VW promotes primarily apply to the higher priced Jettas and Golfs and its a tougher sell.

I would say the uniqueness of the VW product, at least I think these are cars that have enough appeal that as long as they are not in the shop you will be proud to own and drive after the first year in the payment book. And for most cars these days that is enough to say they have value and to endorse them. You'll like to look at it, and if you don't judge it harshly or by exceptionally tough criteria, then you should be satisfied and feel like your money is well spent. The carefree maintenance and high resale should help your feelings in that regard.

I would just say drive at least 5 other cars in comparison first.

Edited by regfootball
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I would say the GTI and the TDI sportwagen are the standouts here reg, along with as you've said the CC.

Enough people are willing to spend 25K for a small car that they can build the GTI.

To me, compared with te ugly 3, dated Focus, Numb sebring, Lackluster Hyundai, et al...

I'll drop the coin.

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One thing I noticed with the new Golf as well... There is a strange, faux-chrome lined hole at the very bottom 6-o-clock position on the steering wheel. It is the perfect size to get a finger stuck in, which would hurt like hell if the wheel was returning to center when that happened.

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I would say the GTI and the TDI sportwagen are the standouts here reg, along with as you've said the CC.

Enough people are willing to spend 25K for a small car that they can build the GTI.

To me, compared with te ugly 3, dated Focus, Numb sebring, Lackluster Hyundai, et al...

I'll drop the coin.

The Mazdaspeed 3 has a price advantage but its really ugly.

I'll still wait till I drive a real GTI but honestly the two compacts I have enjoyed driving the most were the Cobalt SS and Astra. I didn't like the Cobalt's stiff clutch or lack of sixth but the engine and suspension are so sweet it makes up for the cheap interior. People just don't get how nice it is to drive.

I still need to try a WRX, although those got pricey in the last couple years again...they were cheap for awhile when the most recent body came out. The basic Imprezza is rather dull and unengaging but at least it doesn't suck like the Forester. A base Legacy is only a pittance more than a similarly equipped Impreza.

I need to get in a Kia Forte sport whatever. My Forte test drive a few months ago, to be honest as a commuter car and for comfort is on par with the Jetta. Plus its a bit more accomodating but its loses out in interior and exterior quality. The ELantras I've ridden in is pretty nice actually.

TO be truthful, for someone who is interested in driving the SX4 and Fit are more fun than the Jetta SE and base GOlf (caveat, i need to test the golf again when its warm).

Lancer hatchback is on my test drive list soon i think as is the Kizashi. In truth if I was thinking about spending the money on a GOlf base or an HHR LS base, the HHR wins for me. THe VW's interior is nice and stuff but the HHR is a few grand less and is quicker and such. And the SS is out there used too.

The CIvic and Corolla don't even register. The Mazda3 is ugly. The FOcus is what I call the cheap fallback if I found a good one used. I drove a Focus for 2 weeks back in 08, that's a pleasing commuter but Golf is more desirable, the Astra is even a way more fun car than the Focus. I even like the non turbo Cobalt a lot. I would be pleased to have one of those too.

For anyone considering an uplevel Jetta sedan or wagon with the turbo, i would tell them to make sure to drop by a Saab dealer and see if they can find a deeply discounted 9-3 or CPO. The 9-3 is a similar wheelbase and actually has a bit less rear leg room, but it is a much more solid car...I even prefer all the 9-3's to the Passat. I am DYING to try a CC though. The only VW that is HOT.

Some Jettas price out near or at CC sport prices. LEasing even the GTI and high end Jettas are the same as the CC sport. Are you kidding me? The CC is the VW to get.

Pocket rocket addicts should wait for the GOlf R that might be hitting our shores. It will have a 240hp turbo and will be a Mazda3 slayer.

I just wish FOrd would get off its ass and tell me when the four cylinder ecoboost fusion gets here. I need to know if I have to wait for it, especially when the Regal is coming with a stick and my GM card dollars are crying out to me. The CC sport would be one furrin car that might get me instead of the Regal, if I am shopping in that price class. If I can't swing those then the compacts or really cheap mid sizers are what I have to shop for. If I ever decide to get smart and move from this cold hell than its not even an issue, I think the Camaro V6 FTW, although I would prefer they put a new interior in it.

Edited by regfootball
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One thing I noticed with the new Golf as well... There is a strange, faux-chrome lined hole at the very bottom 6-o-clock position on the steering wheel. It is the perfect size to get a finger stuck in, which would hurt like hell if the wheel was returning to center when that happened.

I thought that as well! thing is on the base wheel it doesn't have the chrome, and it just feels weird. The base wheel is a letdown once you sample the uplevel wheel.

I might be crazy, but the ubiquitous GM three spoke wrapped in leather on everything from the CObaltand HHR SS to the Malibu, G6, etc to the Corvette has always felt nice to me, even if the plastic is not even a step above a milk bottle.

Edited by regfootball
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tdi performance in winter

no tdi for me.....although i wish they would translate those numbers to amurchan....

coincidentally, i also just noticed (hadn't crossed my attention until yesterday). hyundai's elantra touring wagon, they dropped the base price to 15995 for 2010. that is one car i will take for a spin soon. base 16g, loaded19g. definitely less expensive than a jetta sportwagen.

also a couple saturdays ago i took a mits lancer out for a test drive. just haven't wrote it up yet. it will be my first use of voice to text app on the iphone. should be interesting.

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