With hybrid-like fuel economy, the Golf TDI is one of the stars of the compact class. Its five-cylinder companion is just average, though.
With the turbodiesel four-cylinder, the VW Golf actually does a better job than some hybrids. The EPA rates it at 30/42 mpg, no matter if it's equipped with a six-speed manual transmission or VW's excellent dual-clutch transmission.
In 2015, Volkswagen admitted diesel engines in this model illegally cheated federal tests and polluted beyond allowable limits. As part of unprecedented settlements with federal and state governments, Volkswagen agreed to buyback from owners diesel-equipped models of this vehicle. To determine eligibility for all affected Volkswagen, Porsche, and Audi models, Volkswagen set up VWDieselInfo.com for owners. (Owners of affected vehicles can enter their VIN numbers to see if their cars are eligible for buyback.)
The stock five-cylinder engine isn't a star, though. It's still capable of delivering up to 33 mpg on the highway, but with new compacts like the Focus and Elantra delivering up to 40 mpg highway, the Golf's fallen behind. The Golf is rated by the EPA at 24/31 mpg with this engine and an automatic transmission; opting for the manual cuts city mileage down to 23 mpg, but boosts highway numbers to 33 mpg.
The Golf lineup includes distinct R and GTI models with turbocharged engines. They're covered separately.