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Car reviews - Volkswagen - Golf - 2.0 TDI Comfortline 5-dr

Our Opinion

We like
Turbo-diesel performance, tractability, fuel consumption, DSG transmission, improved rear suspension system, ride quality, sharp handling, class leading interior space, seat comfort, refinement, quality of finish, equipment level, safety features, styling, price compared to A3
Room for improvement
Engine noise, slower steering than 2.0 FSI Sportline, 2.0 TDi not available in Sportline spec, occasional downshift reluctance, extra weight, no three-door

26 Nov 2004

GoAuto 26/11/2004

THE Volkswagen Golf must be seen as the most successful application yet of the space-saving, east-west engine concept created by British engineer Alex Issigonis in the late 1950s.

Since the first Golf was launched in 1974, more than 22 million have been sold around the world.

This exceeds the VW Beetle, and makes the Golf a more credible claimant of the biggest-selling model ever title than Toyota’s Corolla, because it has always retained the same basic design (the Corolla started as a rear-wheel drive and eventually became front-wheel drive).

Five iterations of the Golf have appeared since 1974, and each has built on the original theme in a way that gives not just an engineering connection with its predecessor, but also with the overall styling themes.

The latest version is recognisable as a Golf, although it’s quite a bit bigger than the original.

The new car also shares basic mechanical elements with its Audi A3 twin, including a new range of engines featuring the 2.0-litre, direct-injection turbo-diesel, the also direct-injection 2.0-litre FSI petrol engine and the DSG automated manual transmission.

A significant departure from previous Golfs is the adoption of a fully independent rear suspension in place of the traditional torsion beam design used from the beginning.

The fifth-generation Golf moves closer to the Audi than it has ever been - except that the VW comes as a five-door hatch where the latest A3 is only available as a three-door.

The new Golf looks pretty good too. VW’s "Lovely new Golf" advertising theme isn’t too far sort of the mark because the car picks up a flowing, sleek look in place of the boxy tendencies evident in previous models. To most, it looks a little more stylish than the tending-to-conservative Audi.

But most significantly, the VW is a lot cheaper. In 1.6-litre form, it kicks off at around $26,000 where the cheapest Audi (with the same 1.6-litre engine) is about $9000 above that.

The new turbo-diesel – and the DSG gearbox – are perhaps the most interesting elements of the new car. It’s safer, bigger, heavier and more spacious than before of course, but the driveline innovations make it by far the most technically advanced Golf yet.

Two turbo-diesels are offered, in fact the 1.9-litre, which is a single-cam, eight-valve design producing 75kW and 250Nm of torque, and the 2.0-litre which has a larger bore to up the capacity and picks up an all-new cylinder-head with twin camshafts and four-valve combustion chambers.

Like the 1.9-litre, it is decidedly long-stroke, which helps with torque production.

The 2.0-litre’s direct fuel-injection system is aided by four-valve cylinder head design and the management of the combustion process through shaping of the combustion chambers, the arrangement of the valves and the positioning and design of the six-hole injector nozzles.

Both engines also walk away from the need for cold-start pre-heating – the sheathed glow plugs and a special cold-start spray sequence help the turbo-diesels act pretty much the same as a petrol engine first thing in the morning. Turn the key and the Golf fires up straight away.

The figures show how advanced the new 2.0-litre diesel is over the more basic 1.9-litre. Maximum power is 103kW at 4000rpm, while the torque measures a thumping 320Nm at 1750rpm. The 1.9 isn’t too shabby either, with 250Nm at 1900rpm.

The extra punch shows clearly in acceleration times: the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel reaches 100km/h from standstill in 9.3 seconds and is capable of running out to a top speed of 206km/h. The 1.9-litre takes 11.1 seconds to reach 100km/h and has a maximum speed of 187km/h.

For all this, the 2.0-litre’s fuel consumption figure averages out to just 5.7 litres per 100km – only slightly less economical than the 1.9-litre and offering potential single-tank touring ranges close to 1000km.

Then there’s the transmission.

The DSG is basically a conventional six-speed manual transmission that shifts for itself via a clever twin-clutch system that keeps two gears engaged at the same time, meaning that when a shift occurs the transmission is simply engaging and disengaging clutches to activate the preselected gear.

The result is the most seamless changes you’re ever likely to experience – although the DSG’s unconventional nature is evident when starting off, when actuation of the automatic clutch can be clearly felt, particularly when the Golf is being reversed.

On the road, the turbo-diesel is, as you’d imagine, very strong on torque. Left to its own devices (the DSG offers sequential changing too), the upshifts come quite early, leaving the engine to make best use of the massive torque which maintains its 320Nm from 1750 to 2500rpm.

Any requests for acceleration are met instantly, with no sign of turbo lag, or waiting for the engine to wind up to its best operating range. Revving the engine out doesn’t produce any advantages, typical of a diesel.

The only downside is that there are times when the downshifts seem to come a little reluctantly.

But a decided prod of the accelerator pedal will see the Golf surging forward and completing passing manoeuvres in a rapid, safe manner. Regular around-town performance is equally impressive.

Despite the advanced technology, which includes work put into reducing noise levels, the Golf TDi isn’t the quietest or smoothest of diesels though.

It’s something you get accustomed to, but there’s rarely any doubt of what sort of engine is driving the car – except at cruising speed, where the whole operation quietens down and is barely any different to a petrol engine.

As for the rest of the new Golf, there’s no doubt this is an impressive small car.

The package size takes it to the head of the class, with outstanding front and rear legroom, front seats that prove their worth on long trips by remaining unobtrusive and comfortable, excellent shoulder room and a boot that carries more than any competitors even before the split-fold rear seat arrangement is used.

And there’s the neat external boot handle that is concealed, BMW 1 series-style, in the VW badge.

The standard of finish is as high as ever, once again tending to show the way to European competitors - including the new BMW 1 series - and the on-road experience is one of easy power, excellent ride quality and sharp handling.

At this level the Golf doesn’t respond to the steering wheel quite as well as the Sportline 2.0-litre petrol, which picks up larger, 16-inch wheels with lower profile tyres as well as firmer, lower-riding suspension and sports seats up front.

The Golf is available in three levels: Trendline (the basic level and available in 1.6-litre petrol and 1.9-litre turbo-diesel only), Comfortline (all engines) and Sportline, which is available only with the 2.0-litre FSI engine.

Equipment levels are pretty good too, particularly in the Comfortline version driven here. All Golfs come with dual front and side airbags, as well as full-length curtain airbags, active front head restraints, height-adjustable driver’s seat, air-conditioning, traction control and ABS with EBD and brake assist.

Comfortline adds alloy wheels, a rear-seat armrest, auto rearview mirror, extra speakers in the sound system (10 in all), leather-rimmed steering wheel and cruise control.

Yes, the fifth iteration of the Golf theme is, indeed, as the advertisements say, lovely.

At this stage it’s probably the best car in its class – including those who would see themselves as a cut above. And with the new turbo-diesel it throws great fuel economy and performance into an already impressive mix.

And how about the 2.0 TDi manual?


YEARS ago I owned a Golf GLD MkI, powered by 1.5-litre diesel.

Now bangers like this perpetuated the diesel myth – epoch-spanning warm-ups followed by Saucepan Man-style clanging and an inability to traverse roads any steeper than a runway.

Which is what was needed to reach 0-60km/h with only 37kW of power and 82Nm of torque on tap, along with a sundial for measuring it.

Yet even so this old diesel ‘Dub’s smoothness (once warmed up), outstanding thriftiness and overall indestructibility infected me with a virulent diesel bug.

Now today’s 103kW, 320Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel Golf has finally doused these unholy desires I’ve kept deep inside for so long... but with hi-octane fuel!

Roaring up French Autoroutes effortlessly above the Aussie legal limit, the 2.0 TDi’s attitude and oomph response equalled that of a big-bore V6, allied with a weighty but direct six-speed manual gearbox.

At such speeds the same also applies to the rock-solid steering, which combined meant that this Golf tracks as true as a big old Benz, with no sacrifice to ride quality on the snaking smaller roads that ribbon across rural France.

Here the VW’s welcome verve and wieldiness brought only smiles and praise for a car so refined and proper – aided by a spacious, comfortable and cocooning cabin that makes up for in function what it has lost in elegance.

After all this, the Golf 2.0 TDI’s fuel consumption diet of 6.0L/100km was just the icing of a delicious Bavarian Black Forest cake.

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