I have now lived with the Golf TDI for a full year. Just to recap, when I purchased the TDI it was my first Volkswagen as well as my first Diesel and while I really liked the car I did have concerns. Would it be hard to find diesel? Will the car get smelly? How will it hold up? Will I have mechanical issues?
After 12 months and about 19,000 miles I can tell you with confidence that I have not had any trouble finding diesel fuel. Apps like “GasBuddy” make it easier than ever to find (inexpensive) fuel close by. The car doesn’t have that old diesel smell, and it has been mechanically sound. There was a recall (that is detailed in one of my earlier posts) that was handled free of charge by VW in about an hour.
In many ways it’s been a very uneventful year which is good news. After spending quite a bit of time with the Golf TDI though, here is what I can tell you. Fuel economy is outstanding. Overall for the 12 month period, the TDI has returned 36.733MPG. Over the past three months fuel economy averaged 37.385MPG. That means that on average, the 14.5 gallon fuel tank will deliver about 536 miles per fill up. I have found that I usually start looking for fuel at about the 450 mile mark but have definitely gone over the 500 mile mark on a few occasions.
This car absolutely loves the open road. My driving is mixed, probably 50/50 between city and highway but on long highway trips, it’s no problem to average over 40MPG. This car also feels bigger than it really is, on the highway. It is amazingly quiet, very stable and accelerates with ease in passing or merging situations. This is where the diesel motor and it’s never ending torque really shines.
Over the past few weeks I have been out with my son looking at cars. He’s looking for an economy car and we’ve driven most of the Golf’s competitors. We’ve been behind the wheel of the Toyota Corolla, the Honda Civic, the Mazda 3 and the Mitsubishi Lancer. It’s been a great opportunity to compare and contrast the TDI to the best Japan has to offer. In fairness, most of the cars that we have looked at are entry level, and cost at least a few thousand dollars less than the TDI so price has to be a consideration. Putting price aside though, here is what I have noticed:
- · The Golf is much roomier than any of these competitors. Both my son and I are about 6’5” tall so finding a car with plenty of leg and headroom for the driver can be a challenge. The Corolla is by far the smallest car we’ve tested. It takes some acrobatics to get into and once you’re in, you’ve got to give some thought to how to get out. The others provided ample room but once we would get back into the Golf to leave the dealer lot, each time we would say, “Wow, it’s amazing how much bigger the Golf feels.”
- · The Golf feels and behaves like a sports car; the others tend to feel like economy cars. Both the Civic and the Mazda 3 fall into the fun to drive category. The biggest difference though is that when you put your foot on the gas in one of these cars and try to really go, they downshift and scream as they accelerate and move towards the redline. It feels like hard work to make these cars go. The TDI in contrast as I mentioned before is amazingly quiet. The tremendous torque lets it accelerate in many cases without downshifting; it picks up speed with tremendous ease and goes about its business very quietly. You’ve got to pay attention in this car or you can find yourself going way over the speed limit without knowing it. My best advise it to get up to speed and then engage the cruise control. It will help your fuel economy and maybe more importantly, keep you out of trouble with law enforcement.
So if I were you at this point I would be thinking, “If the Golf is so much better why are you looking at Civics and Corollas?” Excellent question! I still feel like I took a chance on buying Volkswagen. One year and 19,000 miles in, the chance has paid off but I’m not convinced quite yet. I feel safer steering my 21 year old son towards Honda because I firmly believe the car will run for 200,000 miles with no problem and will cost little to maintain along the way. It’s unfortunate but at this point I don’t have the same faith in VW. I’m a little further along in life and I’m in a position to take a chance. If I have problems with a vehicle, I can afford to deal with it, this is a mistake a youngster just starting out needs to avoid.
I hope that my ownership experience with the Golf TDI changes my perception and I come to see VW in the same light as Honda and Toyota. Only time and a solid ownership experience will make that happen. Volkswagen is working hard to sell more cars, and has a pretty affordable line up with the Jetta and Passat, but in order to truly compete with Honda and Toyota they have to make cars that have the same “bulletproof” reputation as its Japanese competitors. If the German’s (or anyone for that matter) can ever figure out how to deliver “driver’s cars” that last like Japanese cars, an automotive super power will certainly be born!
Thanks for reading, your questions and comments are always welcome.