The 2012 Volkswagen Golf is offered in 2- or 4-door hatchback models, both with a choice between two engines, one gasoline, the other diesel. The gasoline choice, which is lower-priced, is a 170-horsepower, 2.5L 5-cylinder, while clean-diesel fans will like the 2.0L turbo-diesel 'TDI' 4-cylinder. Two-door gasoline models come with a standard 5-speed manual, while a 6-speed automatic is optional on that and standard on the 4-door models. Meanwhile, Golf TDI models come with a 6-speed manual or 6-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic. Both automatics include Tiptronic manual mode, while the DSG shifts much quicker than a typical automatic. TDI models achieve much better gas mileage, with EPA ratings of up to 30 mpg city, 42 mpg highway.
With its excellent variable-assist electromechanical power rack-and-pinion steering, strut-type front suspension and fully-independent rear suspension, the Golf is tuned to feel responsive, which goes well with this compact hatchback's maneuverability and parking ease. Four-wheel disc brakes provide strong stopping power, and electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes are included across the model line. The Golf also rides quieter and with more refinement than other on-a-budget hatches.
The 2012 Golf's interior exceeds expectations for those seeking basic transportation, as it adds a little more pizzazz than other hatchbacks in its price range. The instrument panel and door trims are nicely detailed, and there are plenty of soft-touch surfaces. Front seats are adjustable for height and lumbar, and 4-door models get a power recline feature. Rear seats are just spacious enough for most adults, and seatbacks are split 60/40 and fold forward to expand cargo space up to 46 cubic feet; otherwise with them up, there's 15.2 cubic feet--about enough for a standard load of groceries.
With a simplified model lineup this year, the base Golf now includes power windows and locks, cruise control, air conditioning, a trip computer, a rear wiper and washer, steel wheels and an 8-speaker system with an auxiliary input. A Convenience Package adds heated front seats, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, and a front armrest, while a top level adds a sunroof, premium sound, SIRIUS satellite radio and iPod interface.
Golf TDI models come standard with more-- including 17-inch alloy wheels, heated washer nozzles, and footwell lighting--while a sunroof and navigation system come with a middle trim. Loaded TDI models include a Tech Package with bi-xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, a Dynaudio sound system and push-button start.