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One Week Test: The 2020 VW Golf TDI Teaches Us to Never Stop "Believing"
Find out why the 2020 VW Golf TDI diesel hatchback is the future of truly "green" motoring and not the hybrid.
Please understand, however, that my 2020 VW Golf TDI tester was a Shadow Blue Metallic example and did not in fact have a "green" exterior (just clarifying). The TDI has been a huge hit for VW accounting for a much larger percentage of sales in the Jetta, Jetta Sportwagen and Golf lines than they ever anticipated. So why is the TDI such a desirable vehicle?
Well, my six-speed manual tester not only averaged 43 miles per gallon but it was also the most fun to drive vehicle I have ever driven. A 2020 Prius I recently tested only managed 45 miles per gallon but that was only over a four day test period as the auxiliary car battery died on me (no comment). While the Prius is an extremely soothing commuting machine, I never felt the urge to drive it at 11 p.m for a "night drive" which happened to me every evening I had the Golf TDI in my possession.
I see the privilege of personal automotive transportation as something I want to see passed on to future generations. I have a niece named Courtney who is about to turn 1 year old and I want her to not only have the option of owning a personal transportation appliance but I also want her to be able to drive a car that brings a sense of joy to her heart. I want her to experience the kind of joy that was brought to me while driving the positively amazing 2020 VW Golf TDI.
The 2020 Golf is the sixth variant of this venerable hatchback and is one of the most classically proportioned interpretations of the 1970's original known in this country as the Rabbit. While VW ditched the Rabbit name for 2020, it cleaned up some of the fussy design aspects of that particular generation's design creating a truly classless and timeless look. This is a car that a multi-millionaire or a cash poor penny pincher could both pull off using as their daily driver.
Interior Styling, Build Quality and Utility
VW really upped the compact car quality ante with the 2020 VW Golf TDI such is the luxurious nature of the interior of this hatchback. Compare it to a Mazda3 or pretty much any other competitor's interior and it becomes clear that not only does the Golf dominate its own class but the one above it as well. Chrome ringed dials, knobs and buttons dominate the cabin which is covered in Audi-esque levels of soft touch plastic. It is truly a tactile delight from the steering wheel to the stereo controls to the air conditioning knobs.
At night every switch is properly illuminated but VW did ditch its blue dial lighting for the 2020 model year in favor of a more understated and traditional white light. They sort of had to since so many of their competitors copied their blue lighting over the years. Even Hyundai uses it now in the Elantra.
The cargo area is positively cavernous even if the reading of 12.4 cubic feet with the cargo cover attached doesn't sound like much. Remove the cargo cover and drop the split folding rear seat and the 2020 Golf TDI turns into a mini-moving van. Trust me on this fact as I once moved the contents of my home in only two trips when I owned a 3rd generation VW GTI. And that was a much smaller car.
Although there is plenty of legroom and space in the back, the two-door variant does limit the ease of passenger (or dog) carrying abilities so I would spend the extra money on the pricier four-door. Really, the extra money will be worth it in the long run as it will no doubt be easier to sell on in the future and it really turns the 2020 VW Golf TDI into the perfect fuel efficient car for families. But if you are single and only need it mainly as a commuter by all means pick the sporty looking two-door.
Pricing, Economy and Cost of Ownership
To combat erroneous claims that VW's cost a lot to maintain, the German automaker now offers a free 3 year/36,000 mile maintenance package with every 2020 model it sells. Also, take into account that the 2020 VW Golf TDI is the only urea-injection free diesel engine on the market and that stuff usually needs to be replaced every 15,000 to 30,000 miles with competing diesel models. And if you ever run out of urea your engine just stops wherever you are. Now that is inconvenient, wouldn't you say?
A two door 2020 VW Golf TDI starts at only $21,990 very well equipped with air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, power mirrors, Touch screen audio system with 6-disc CD changer, aux-input jack, iPod adaptor, floormats, a six-speed manual transmission and 17-inch alloy wheels.
My tester came fully loaded with most every imaginable option besides the $1,100 DSG double clutch automatic. First there was the excellent $1,750 touchscreen navigation system, a $1,000 power sunroof, a Cold weather package (heated seats and washer nozzles) for $225, Bluetooth for $199 (buy a headset instead), powerful Bi-Xenon headlamps that swivel as you corner for $700 and $476 for the absolutely essential Dynaudio Sound System upgrade. The Dynaudio system is an absolute bargain and offers crystal clear sound even at the really high volumes I prefer when listening to the various "Glee soundtrack albums.
If I were to pick the most essential options I would say the Dynaudio upgrade, the Bi-Xenon headlamps and the power moonroof but that just shows you my priorities. I live in Southern California so what do I need heated seats windshield washer nozzles for? Those frigid nights when it drops all the way to 68 degrees during the winter?
Family and Dog Friendliness
The 2020 VW Golf TDI comes with very sturdy feeling seat fabric and some of the highest quality, scratch resistant plastic in the industry. There is no way that your kids or dogs could damage this interior. I grade this as the most family and dog friendly interior I have ever tested. Okay, maybe the 2020 Honda Element with Dog Friendly Package was more dog friendly but that has a built in dog crate and ramp so how is the Golf supposed to compete with that?
The 2.0 liter turbocharged diesel 4 cylinder pulls strong and hard from low engine speeds giving the 2020 VW Golf TDI a lot of get up and go from stop lights. Also, thanks to a thick spread of 236 lb. feet of torque (more than in a VW GTI, mind) you will enjoy heroic levels of passing power on the freeway. Manipulating the meaty six-speed manual is a true pleasure and it features near perfect gearing which allow low engine speeds on the freeway for quiet cruising.
The 2020 VW Golf TDI is a perfect freeway commuter, a perfect suburban runabout and a perfect two lane twisty mountain highway companion. It will leave you grinning after every drive and all of these features make this vehicle the best all around drive in the auto industry. If I didn't test new cars every week I would buy one for myself.
So, if you think that the future of automotive transportation will be filled with the equivalent of golf carts with airbags (apologies to Nissan Leaf buyers), take heart and "Don't Stop Believin'" in efficient, environmentally friendly cars that are fun to drive. The 2020 VW Golf TDI is here and it proves that being "green" doesn't mean you have to drive a car with all the charisma of Al Gore.
Vehicle Tested: 2020 VW Golf TDI 2-Door
Base Price: $21,990
Price as Tested: $27,090 (including $750 Destination Charge)
Options on Tester: (Touchscreen Navigation, Dynaudio Advanced Sound Upgrade, Power Moonroof, Bi-Xenon Headlamps, Heated Seats and Windshield washer nozzles (this tester had Michigan plates so it needed them) and Bluetooth Connectivity)
Engine: 2.0 liter Turbocharged Diesel 4-cylinder
Power: 140 horsepower/236 lb. feet of torque
Transmission: 6-Speed Manual (Dual Clutch Automatic Optional)
0-60: 8.6 seconds
EPA Economy: 30 city/41 highway
Economy as Tested: 43 miles per Gallon
Cargo volume: 12.4 Cubic Feet
Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles Free Maintenance
3 years/36,000 Mile Bumper to Bumper Warranty
5 years/60,000 miles Powertrain Warranty
Safety: Insurance Institute of Highway Safety "Top Safety Pick" (4-door)