2012 Volkswagen Golf vs. Its Competition

2012 Volkswagen Golf 4-door HB Auto Angular Front Exterior View
Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director

Fuel economy and VW's reputation for driving feel keep bringing buyers back to the Golf, but the latest crop of compact cars could give those shoppers pause.

The Mazda3 now gets 40-mpg highway gas mileage ratings, and it's kept its pert, friendly handling even through its weight-cutting crash diet.

The Kia Forte and Soul share underpinnings, and whether it's the five-door hatchback or tall wagon, either have as much interior space as the Golf, with marked improvement in quality from last-gen Kias.

The Ford Focus is TCC's Best Car To Buy for 2012; its crisp handling treads on VW territory, and its MyFord Touch controls set the pace for the class, though they're complex to use.

Last up, the Subaru Impreza gets good gas mileage even though all-wheel drive is standard equipment.

2012 Volkswagen Golf 4-door HB Auto Angular Front Exterior View2012 Volkswagen Golf
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2012 Ford Focus2012 Ford Focus
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2012 Kia Soul2012 Kia Soul
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2012 Kia Forte 5-Door 5dr HB EX Angular Front Exterior View2012 Kia Forte
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2012 Mazda MAZDA3 with SkyActiv2012 Mazda MAZDA3
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2012 Subaru Impreza2012 Subaru Impreza
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Quick Specs
The 2012 Volkswagen Golf feels like a premium vehicle, and it's priced like one too, especially its fuel-efficient TDI edition.
With the 2012 Focus, Ford shows that small cars don't have to feel so banal, with charismatic compacts that are more satisfying to drive, more luxurious, and better-equipped.
The name rings true: this Kia has a Soul, with fun road manners and tall-wagon practicality baked into its kicky shape.
The 2012 Kia Forte family of vehicles manages to feel more eager, comfortable, and sophisticated than its sticker price might suggest.
With its new Skyactive powertrains, the 2012 Mazda3 is the eco-conscious choice that sure doesn't drive like one.
Crisply restyled, with higher gas mileage, more space inside, a nicer interior, and all-wheel drive standard, the 2012 Subaru Impreza is a newly compelling compact alternative.
MSRP From     
Gas Mileage     
19 MPG City / 42 MPG Hwy26 MPG City / 38 MPG Hwy23 MPG City / 30 MPG Hwy22 MPG City / 36 MPG Hwy18 MPG City / 40 MPG Hwy25 MPG City / 36 MPG Hwy
Gas I5Gas I4Gas I4Gas I4Gas I4Gas Flat 4
EPA Class     
CompactCompactSmall Station WagonCompact CarsCompactCompact Cars
Style Name     
2-Door HB Manual PZEV4-Door Sedan S5-Door Wagon Manual Base4-Door Sedan Manual LX4-Door Sedan Manual i SV4-Door Manual 2.0i
Front Wheel DriveFront Wheel DriveFront Wheel DriveFront Wheel DriveFront Wheel DriveAll Wheel Drive
Passenger Capacity     
Passenger Doors     
Body Style     
2 Door HB4 Door Sedan5 Door Wagon4 Door Sedan4 Door SedanSedan
Detailed Spec Comparison
 2012 Volkswagen Golf vs. 2012 Ford Focus2012 Volkswagen Golf vs. 2012 Kia Soul2012 Volkswagen Golf vs. 2012 Kia Forte2012 Volkswagen Golf vs. 2012 Mazda MAZDA32012 Volkswagen Golf vs. 2012 Subaru Impreza