Long-Term Test Update 2: 2015 Volkswagen Golf (TDI Clean Diesel)

The 2015 Golf TDI Clean Diesel – not only is it an efficiency upgrade, it is also a trim upgrade that gives it a slightly different dynamic character.

Odometer at pick-up (TDI): 4,072 km
Odometer current: 4,661 km (589 km by autoTRADER)
Observed Fuel Consumption: 6.3 L/100 km
Fuel costs (TDI): $40.67
Fuel costs (Total): $285.65

We’ve completed our first switch and have moved into our four weeks with Volkswagen’s efficiency champion, the 2015 Golf TDI Clean Diesel. Not only is it an efficiency upgrade, it is also a trim upgrade that gives it a slightly different dynamic character, though it is, perhaps, at odds with its mission.

No doubt, however, that our scrutiny will be on its efficiency first and foremost, the Golf TDI promising 7.5 L/100 km in city driving and 5.5 on the highway, as equipped in Highline trim with DSG. Frankly, someone serious about efficient performance could best those rather easily.

In almost two weeks of mostly city driving, needing only one tank that covered almost 600 km, primarily commuting from the burbs into the office in moderate pace slow-and-go traffic, we are sitting in the middle at 6.3 L/100 km (don’t forget winter tires, winter gas and cold temperatures). For superior highway efficiency, but a slight penalty in city driving, the manual-transmission-equipped TDI is rated at 7.7/5.2, and it features six speeds, one more than the 1.8T Comfortline manual that we just sampled. That combination is rated at 9.3/6.4, and we landed at 8.1 after 3,000+ km with a large chunk of that steady highway cruising.

As mentioned in our Introduction to the long-term test, the base Trendline TDI is a steep premium at  $3,100 over the base 1.8TSI gasoline powerplant, adding up to $23,095 with only fog lights and an extra gear in the manual transmission thrown in as added perks. Additionally, TDI models sacrifice the independent rear suspension for a torsion beam axle that compromises handling and agility, but is necessary for the diesel’s exhaust treatment to make it emissions compliant.

From the beginning: 2015 Volkswagen Golf Long-Term Test: Arrival | Update 1 | Update 2 | Update 3 | Wrap-Up

In automatic-equipped models (extra $1,400), some will appreciate the more modern dual-clutch DSG in concept, but our experience is that the traditional torque-converter automatic in 1.8T gasoline models is smoother, particularly at low speeds. Even my wife noted about the TDI, “The transmission is lurchy,” both at parking speeds and when crawling along at 20-60 km/h in rush-hour traffic.

In Comfortline trim, the TDI rings in at $25,395, only a $2,500 surcharge over the gasoline equivalent, with nothing but those same suspension and transmission differences over the 1.8T. Highline TDIs demand the same premium, costing $30,995 before tacking on the ubiquitous $1,395 Freight & PDI that applies to all trims and models. Our Highline TDI also had the box for the $2,195 Multimedia package ticked, so it was truly fully loaded with amenities such as navigation, 400-watt Fender audio system with subwoofer, adaptive bi-xenon lights with LED DRL signatures.

For detailed features at each trim level and various equipment packages with each trim, start with our Arrival entry or visit vw.ca, which has some cool model comparison tools and a swift and painless configure tool, which can’t be said of some other German brands’ configuration tools.

For that premium over gasoline models, the TDI delivers torque, and lots of it. The 2.0L turbocharged diesel is rated at 150 hp, peak power available above 4,300 rpm, and 236 lb-ft of torque from 1,750 to 3,500 rpm. It’s not the kind of gravity-warping torque we’ve experienced in Audi and BMW six-cylinder diesels, but it has reassuring strength to move the 1,393-kg Golf easily if not swiftly.

The highlights form our trim upgrade are the full navigation system, bigger wheels, brighter lights, power adjustable seats with greater support and the luxury of keeping the key in my pocket when opening doors and starting the car. The upgraded Fender stereo fails to impress, though whether that is because the standard eight-speaker system is entirely competent or the upgrade so minimal is up for debate.

The seats are a treat, noticeably more comfortable than the standard fare, with just a little more bolstering to hug you in place without being intrusive or interfering with entry or exit.

We’ll have another report on this Golf before moving to our GTI, but to circle round to one of the oddities of this model, I’ll note the slightly conflicting nature of its efficiency mission and sporty underpinnings. The engine pulls strong, if a little less refined than the 1.8T, and the transmission is quick to upshift, but hesitant to downshift. However, unlike something like a Prius, the steering is quick and the suspension composed, with those larger 17-inch wheels firming up the ride and giving the car a planted feel.

So you have a car that feels ready to drive with alacrity, but the engine winds up slowly and you have to plan well ahead to compensate for the transmission’s tendencies. Sport mode changes the shift patterns, but it still feels like it’s having an identity crisis when trying to push it. There’s a just-right combination of aggression and anticipation required by the driver to get that performance lurking in the chassis that the engine and transmission stifle. I will find it and report back next time. This is after all, the efficient choice that is still fun to drive, though a manual transmission would put that completely in the driver’s hands.

Pricing: 2015 Volkswagen Golf
Base Price (5-door Trendline TDI): $23,095
Base Price (5-door Highline TDI DSG): $32,395
Options: $2,195 (Multimedia Package: adaptive bi-xenon headlights, 5.8-inch touchscreen media system with satellite navigation, Fender 8-speaker premium audio, LED signature DRLs)
A/C Tax: $100
Freight and PDI: $1,395
Price as Tested: $36,085

Warranty:
4 years/80,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km Powertrain; 12 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/80,000 km 24-hour roadside assistance

Competitors:
Audi A3 TDI
Chevrolet Cruze Diesel

We’ve completed our first switch and have moved into our four weeks with Volkswagen’s efficiency champion, the 2015 Golf TDI Clean Diesel. 1/23/2015 11:30:24 AM