2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI Review

MPG-o-Matic 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI Review Summary: The return of the VW Golf TDI to America marks a milestone in the clean diesel revolution, as it hearkens back to times gone by. While the original diesel-powered Rabbit, ancestor of the Golf TDI, was a revered fuel-sipper during the energy crisis decades ago, the little old diesel Rabbit wasn’t praised for its abundance of power. The thoroughly modern 2010 Golf TDI, on the other hand, is both frugal at the pump and a pleasure to drive.

The front-wheel-drive 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI is offered in both three-door and five-door models. The Golf TDI’s 2.0-liter turbocharged clean diesel inline four-cylinder engine is shared with both the VW Jetta TDI and Audi A3 TDI. With common rail direct injection, an intercooler, and four valves per cylinder, the inline four produces 140 horsepower (HP) and 236 foot pounds of torque. The Golf TDI can be equipped with a six-speed DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) duel clutch automatic or six-speed manual transmission.

The EPA’s fuel economy estimates for the clean diesel VW Golf TDI are 30 city / 42 highway miles per gallon (MPG) when equipped with the automatic transmission and 30 / 41 with the manual.

We traveled more than 650 miles in our automatic-equipped United Gray Metallic review unit and easily surpassed the official mileage estimates, scoring an average of 47.3 MPG on the Interstate highway and 39.1 MPG combined in winter temperatures and mixed conditions.

Overall test period temperatures ranged from from the mid-twenties through the mid-forties. Interstate highway testing temperatures were in the mid forties. The test vehicle – equipped with the standard 17-inch alloy wheels, clad with 225/45/R17 all-season tires – was delivered with approximately 4400 miles on the odometer. (Diesel engines typically become more fuel-efficient after the break in period.)

Interstate Mileage Testing:
Cruise control set to 68 MPH, A/C off, heat on, driver seat heated, windows up: 45.4 MPG
Cruise control off, target speed 60-72 MPH, A/C off, heat on, driver seat heated, windows up: 49.2 MPG

The 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI requires ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel, and is rated to accept a B5 (5%) biodiesel blend. The Golf TDI does not require exhaust after-treatment (urea) fluid.

Given the Golf TDI’s efficiency on the highway, its 14.5 gallon fuel tank provides a remarkable amount of range. This little critter is well suited to covering long distances.

The Golf TDI’s clean diesel engine delivers a delightful whoosh of acceleration throughout the powerband.

The optional DSG automatic transmission is smooth and fast and well-suited to the turbocharged common rail inline four. The DSG’s Tiptronic mode allows full control over gear changes from both the slapstick and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

This little critter hustles from corner to corner with composure and is a driver’s delight, with plenty of power and cornering ability on tap. Saving fuel has never been this much fun.

The standard Multi Function trip-computer provides trip meters, range to empty, average fuel consumption, and real-time mile per gallon info, among other data. We always recommend driving with the real time MPG gauge active, to develop a light footed driving technique.

The Golf TDI’s three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel is a pleasure to grip, with excellent integrated controls for the data displays and audio system. Hands-free Bluetooth support is optional.

USB iPod support is standard (along with an auxiliary audio input). The USB interface is located in the center console. Artists, Albums, and Playlists are accessible from the audio system’s touchscreen interface. Our test unit was equipped with the Navigation system (with a 30GB hard drive) and 300W Dynaudio speaker system options. A eight-speaker system is standard.

There are two twelve-volt outlets: one at the base of the dash and one in the cargo area.

The eight-way-adjustible cloth seats are quite supportive. (A leather interior is not currently available in the TDI.) Manual lumbar support is standard. The optional Cold Weather package provides heated front seats and heated windshield washer nozzles. The seat heaters allow for two levels of adjustment.

The rear seat is comfortable for two, with adequate headroom.

The Golf’s cargo area provides 12.4 cubic feet of storage with the 60/40 rear seats up and sufficient space for larger items with the seats folded down. A rear seat center passthrough accommodates both skis and snowboards.

Our test unit was also equipped with the optional power sunroof and Xenon headlamps with adaptive front-lighting (AFS).

In real-world testing, we found the Golf TDI to be the most fuel-efficient and fun to drive of VW/Audi’s trio of 2.0-liter TDIs. There are a number of likely reasons as to why our testing showed the Golf TDI to be slightly more fuel-efficient than the Audi A3 TDI and Jetta Sportwagen TDI, despite identical engines and similar EPA ratings.

We’ll chalk it up to weight, aerodynamics, and gearing.

The automatic transmission-equipped 2010 Golf TDI weighs in at 3,041 pounds. The automatic Audi A3 is significantly heavier, at 3318 pounds. The Golf TDI is also a tiny bit more aerodynamic, with a drag coefficient of .32, compared to the A3 TDI’s drag coefficient of .33. We tested the heavier Jetta Sportwagen TDI under slightly warmer conditions and – despite it being slightly more slippery (with a drag coefficient of .31) – could not match the results of the Golf TDI.

All-in-all, the 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI delivers a shot across the bow of the hybrids by delivering excellent fuel economy in a versatile and fun-to-drive package. If you love to drive and hate to waste money at the pump, this little critter hits all the marks.

Parts Content Information
US/Canadian Parts Content: 1%
Major Sources of Foreign Parts Content: Germany – 75%
Final Assembly Point: Wolfsburg, Germany
Country of Origin:
Engine – Hungary
Transmission – Germany

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16 thoughts on “2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI Review”

  1. We just brought home our new Golf TDI, 5 door, manual 6 speed and we are thrilled with it. About 40 mpg so far, but it was delivered with only 10 miles on it, so it needs breaking in. It’s a solid car with many high-end features and really fun to drive. We had to bargain with two VW dealers, wait 5 weeks and be flexible on options in order to get our car. I’m curious how many of them are making it over to the states. They seem to get snapped up right away.

  2. Dee Goodrich:

    TDI’s are pretty much in short supply in general. Even dating back to buying my ’03 Golf TDI I was “lucky” to pay MSRP.

    I will say it seems as though Jetta Sportwagen TDI’s and Golf TDI’s are the most sought after and Jetta Sedan TDI’s are the easier to source.

    Have fun with your new TDI! I still miss my ’03 and regret trading it.

  3. Impressive fuel economy, even with the automatic. I’d go for a TDI VW or an Audi. For cars like the Golf and Jetta, a 2 litre engine would be more than perfect. I would think for bigger vehicles like the Passat and Van, I would think a 3 litre TDI would be better.

  4. Very nice review of a fantastic car. I assume you were driving with winterized diesel fuel which will decrease your overall fuel economy by a few mpg at least, as will the cold temperatures. It would be interesting to see what you get in the summer. I’m averaging 43 mpg per tank over one year in my ’09 Jetta TDI. I love the car.

  5. Also enjoy the Golf TDI, with the exception of front seats. The side bolsters are too firm & narrow. The seats in the Jetta are fine, and I wonder if they are interchangeable?

  6. AS FOR TDI products of anykind with VW, I say buyer beware. You can no longer say that a diesel is a more durable product or engine when it is in a VW. They market it, claim it, and live off the strong history of diesels worldwide. But the fact is my TDI broke an internal chain destroying the engine at 100k. A chain that would not break on any diesel made to perform long term anywhere. They new of the design problem but would not back up their product. I visually inspected the chain. You would be shocked at how cheaply things can be put together and now still be a diesel product. Just know you while you get decent performance these are not engines that run tractors for lifetimes, boats that run globally or trucks that run the interstates continuously for decades. And VW will not back them up when they die accordingly. I was one of the strongest supporters but I think people really need to know the facts. Performance is performance and should not be confused with longevity. They should market the car as performance and green based solely and stop pretending these engines share the same great history that run ships gloabaly, trucks on the interstates for decades, and farm equipment for generations. It is just a cheap diesel engine.

  7. @Michael – To be clear, your car was an earlier model (pre 2006)? There are reports of some older TDIs having this problem, but the part was redesigned years ago.

  8. I drove tested the 2011 TDI this past weekend. The driver seat was terrible. My back was uncomfortable in about 5 minutes. The DSG seemed to hunt a bunch.

    Positives on the car is fit and finish was really good. The upgraded radio (touch screen one) is pretty strong. After racing around, bit on a hwy, and in the city sitting at traffic lights, I still got 30mpg.

    I am taking a pass. My commute is 30+ min, the seats are a no go for that.

  9. Thank you for your insightful, real world reviews. I am so tired of ‘drop-clutch’ 0-60 reviews (who the heck drives like that and doesn’t blow a clutch?) VW Golfs / GTI’s have long been a favorite only to be pushed away due to horrible reliability. It seems VW has turned the corner and peaks my interest again.


  10. I just bought a 2011 2-door Golf TDI with the manual 6-speed transmission the other night. Called up the dealer and said that I will pay invoice and nothing more. They actually wrote it up for a few bucks under invoice. Called him at about 5pm, got at the dealership at about 6:30pm, and had the new vehicle by 8:15pm. They didn’t have to do much detailing of it since it was a showroom floor model. Once I got them to agree to the sale price, I made it a condition of the sale that they take an old Jeep Cherokee that I have not driven on the roads in a few years and remove the 12,500 lb hydraulic winch off of it so that I can put it on a 4×4 truck of mine that I *do* drive regularly. Driving the Jeep up there was a bit unsettling — the brakes were pulling to the right very noticeably, the acceleration was a lot less than it should have been, plus various other things that really needed fixing before it would have been a reliable vehicle. I just wanted to get it out of my driveway and the winch was worth more to me than the vehicle was worth to sell retail. The gas mileage on the Jeep was never that great — maybe 15-20 at the most. When I tested the Golf TDI that night, I managed 47 mpg on a combined local subdivision and highway drive. Quite a change… From the specs, the Golf is about the same length and width as the Cherokee — I was a bit surprised at this. So it’s not like I’m going to be parking it in any smaller parking spots and in fact, parking will be a bit more limited since with the Cherokee, curbs were just minor obstacles to climb over or just speed bumps. The acceleration of the Golf seemed a lot better than the Cherokee was even brand new. I really like having a manual transmission again on a vehicle. I’ve owned vehicles with the Tiptronic automatic transmission before and even though they are better than just a standard automatic transmission, I still prefer a manual. One advantage of a manual transmission is that you can push in the clutch and just coast to the next stop sign instead of letting off on the accelerator and having the engine drag slow you down like it does with an automatic. Personally, I think this should help in your in-town gas mileage figures. The only complaint that I have about the car is that it is too quiet and I can’t hear the engine. I’m used to going by the sound of the engine to tell me when to shift (instead of looking at the tach). As such, I can’t hear when the engine becomes too labored when I first start off and I have stalled the engine a couple of times while starting off from a light or stop sign. Maybe it is that or maybe it is just that the clutch is disengaging at a different point in the clutch pedal travel than I am used to. It’s embarrassing to do that when someone is behind you, but I figure that I’ll get the feel for it soon enough. I just realized that it’s been 20 years since I last had a car with a manual transmission… Maybe I’m a bit rusty… I don’t have a problem on my motorcycles though… Oh well, enough with the rambling, I guess… I have other cars for those social occasions where image is important, but this one is just *fun*…

  11. One thing that I wish that it came with though is an area under the radio that was big enough to place a handgun so that it would be readily accessible. Putting it in the glove box or the arm rest box is not really all that acceptable. Something large enough to hold a full frame M1911 would be *great*.

  12. The seat bolsters seem bit more aggressive than the ones in my Jeep Cherokee, so it makes the seats seem a bit smaller. I figure that they’ll feel a bit better once they get worn in though.

  13. I got my 2011 Jetta TDI so far all the door seal leak hear nothing air leaking is hard to listen to the radio no lumbar seats sucks, no Nav suck I got to use tom tom. need maybe to turn in for a 2012. pay out the door 25k

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