2010 Volkswagen Golf Review

Consumer Reviews
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The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
November 8, 2009

The 2010 Volkswagen Golf/TDI feels more upscale than its competitors, and the diesel's exceptional fuel economy is an unexpected bonus in the class.

The editors at TheCarConnection.com have driven the 2010 Volkswagen Golf to bring you this hands-on review of its styling, performance, features, safety and comfort. Along with the road test, editors researched opinions from other respected Web sites to bring you a comprehensive full review of the new Golf for 2010.

The 2010 Volkswagen Golf returns with some styling changes and a name change. For the last few years, Volkswagen experimented with the old Rabbit nameplate in the United States, but it's abandoned that badge with the new model, reverting to Golf for both the three-door and five-door hatchbacks. The compact Golf comes in either body style, and with a choice of four-cylinder gas and diesel engines. Manual and automatic gearboxes are offered, along with a dual-clutch transmission in the TDI diesel. The new Golf starts from $17,490 for the two-door, with the four-door starting at $19,190, and the TDI diesel beginning at $21,990. Its primary competition? The Honda Civic, Kia Forte and Kia Soul, Mazda3, and Ford Focus.Performance enthusiasts will instead want to check out the 2010 Volkswagen GTI, which pairs the Golf's hatchback body style with more satisfying hardware and extroverted cues. TheCarConnection.com reviews the 2010 VW GTI separately.

It's a bit difficult to tell the difference between this sixth-generation Golf and the car it replaces. There are plenty of small design variations, but the overall mechanical package and the general shape of the car remain unchanged. It is conservative and boxy-but not unappealing in its own German way. There's the traditional shape, a legacy of 30 years, but it's now crisper with some interesting creases on the hood, a new front end with a wider grille and halogen headlamps, and a small spoiler at the hatchback hinge. Diesel TDI Golf hatchbacks also get oval fog lamps and optional xenon headlamps. The overall look is a little wider, a little more balanced, and mostly evolutionary. The Golf's cabin bears more of a modern imprint, thanks to a new dash with even better textures and looks than the outgoing car.

The 2010 Volkswagen Golf can be had with either a gas or diesel engine-and it's the diesel that gets TheCarConnection.com's nod. The five-cylinder gas engine is powerful enough for moderate use; it delivers 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, but its response is flat and unexciting. The gas-powered two-door offers a vague-feeling five-speed manual or a fine six-speed automatic; the four-door gas-powered Golf is only available with the automatic. It will accelerate to 60 mph in about 8 seconds and hit a top speed of 120 mph, plenty fast for average drivers, and fuel economy improves to mid-pack at 23/30 mpg with an automatic transmission. The clear winner here is the 2010 Golf TDI and its clean-burning diesel engine. It offers less on paper, at 140 hp, but with its 236 lb-ft of torque, it performs only a touch slower than the gas-powered Golf, with quicker in-city feel. The TDI's very muted diesel clatter sounds a bit more engaging, even, and it delivers 30/42 mpg and a 0-60 mph time of 8.6 seconds. The TDI is offered with either a manual or dual-clutch gearbox, and the winner is the latter transmission. The paddle-shifted DSG box is a delight, with quick changes up or down the diesel's admittedly shorter powerband. Handling is a strong point of any Golf; electric power steering has a well-sorted feel, and the Golf's ride is taut, not jarring. The front strut and independent rear suspension absorb big bumps with nary a crash or bang, and braking on the cars tested feels strong and controllable.

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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.)

Comfortable seats and quality feel in the cabin make up for a little less interior room than the boxy shape implies. The Golf's front seats give great support, and the driver's seat helps you get comfortable with plenty of adjustability, but the controls are in three different locations: fore/aft at the right-front corner of the seat, a lever on the left side that raises and lowers the bottom cushion, and a big knob to change the backrest angle at the left rear of the seat. The rear seats have adjustable headrests and an armrest, and they fold down almost flat to give access to the cargo area. Rear-seat legroom can be an issue when tall drivers sit up front, and there's noticeably less knee room than in the Civic or the Kia Forte. Headroom is quite good, though. Throughout the cabin, the quality of the materials is high. The view out is good, but the base of the windshield is rather high, a result of European pedestrian collision standards.

Safety equipment is extensive in the 2010 Volkswagen Golf, but the new vehicle hasn't been officially crash-tested yet. However, it's very similar to the outgoing model, which earned four-star ratings for frontal impact and five-star ratings for side impact from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). Unusually, the previous Rabbit model earned the Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), with all "good" scores. Standard features include six airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, and brake assist. Rear side airbags are an option in the four-door Golf.

With the latest edition, the 2010 Volkswagen Golf's features list has grown more competitive with the tech-happy entries from American and Korean automakers. Standard features include power windows, locks, and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; power locks; and an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary jack. The Golf TDI diesel adds on an LCD-screen music interface, a six-disc CD changer, and Sirius Satellite Radio, along with a multifunction steering wheel. A sunroof is optional across the board, as are Bluetooth connectivity and heated seats. The TDI model can be equipped with a 300-watt Dynaudio Lite audio system that sounds crisp and clear, and worth the added premium over the base system. Lastly, Volkswagen offers a navigation system on the new Golf; it has a 30GB hard drive for music and maps, DVD playback, an SD card slot, and USB connectivity.

7

2010 Volkswagen Golf

Styling

The 2010 Volkswagen Golf irons a few more creases in its sheetmetal, but it's the standout interior that gets TheCarConnection.com's attention.

For the last few years, Volkswagen experimented with the old Rabbit nameplate in the United States, but it's abandoned that badge for 2010, reverting to the Golf name for both the three-door and five-door hatchbacks. The compact hatchbacks offer a choice of four-cylinder gas and diesel engines, manual and automatic gearboxes or in the TDI, a dual-clutch transmission. The three-door's base price of $17,490 rises to $19,190 for the five-door, with the TDI diesel beginning at $21,990. (TheCarConnection.com reviews the performance-minded 2010 VW GTI separately.)

To TheCarConnection.com's eyes, it's a bit difficult to tell the difference with this sixth-generation Golf and the car it replaces. It remains conservative and boxy-but not unappealing in its own German way-though it's a little crisper with some interesting creases on the hood, a new front end with a wider grille and halogen headlamps, and a small spoiler at the hatchback hinge. Diesel TDI Golf hatchbacks also get oval fog lamps and optional xenon headlamps. The overall look is a little wider, a little more balanced, and mostly evolutionary. Jalopnik reports VW updated the car to "address concerns with dull looks," which many reviewers just last year praised as "simple" and "uncluttered," as did Cars.com, or "refreshing," in the words of MyRide. The new Golf, says Road & Track,
"has much cleaner lines than the previous car," and "sits lower for a sportier look." Car and Driver has TheCarConnection.com's back when it observes the 2010 Golf's "smooth, bland styling" and deems it "nothing radical." Jalopnik gushes instead that the "amorphous" old shape "has been replaced with more sharp lines and soft curves, as well as more aggressive headlamps and Walter de'Silva's new corporate face." (We wonder how a designer adopts a corporate face.) Autoblog thinks the new Golf has "a more muscular look, yet it remains instantly recognizable as a Golf, just slightly evolved and more grown-up."

The 2010 Golf's cabin bears more of a modern imprint, thanks to a new dash with even better textures and looks than the outgoing car. The "three-spoke steering wheel" and "high-mounted center stack" from the prior edition remain in place, Cars.com says, and the interior shared with the 2010 VW GTI is certainly "a step ahead from the 2009 model." Motor Trend contends, "Trim materials, always nice, are more sumptuous" and "Ergonomics, always intuitive, are further honed." Road & Track finds "the instrument panel is integrated nicely with the center console for a higher quality feel," while Jalopnik thinks "the interior initially looks somewhat Spartan."

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8

2010 Volkswagen Golf

Performance

The 2010 VW Golf performs mildly; the Golf TDI is a cut above with its sport tuning, DSG paddle shifting, and awesome fuel economy.

Performance isn't the highest priority in the 2010 Volkswagen Golf, but the flat acceleration and pedestrian handling of the base car are significantly improved on the Golf TDI with the addition of a new diesel engine, a paddle-shifted dual-clutch transmission, and a sport suspension.

The 2010 Volkswagen Golf can be had with either a gas or diesel engine-and it's the diesel that gets TheCarConnection.com's nod. As MyRide reports, "the Golf's five-cylinder engine is unique in its class, as competitors use four-cylinder motors." The five-cylinder gas engine is powerful enough for moderate use; it delivers 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque, but its response is flat and unexciting to many. MyRide observes a "somewhat laggard" acceleration time of 9 seconds to 60 mph, but Car and Driver notes "torque pours forth from small motions of your right foot." The gas-powered two-door offers a vague-feeling five-speed manual or a fine six-speed automatic; the four-door gas-powered Golf is only available with the automatic. MyRide finds the VW manual gearbox "guides between gears with little effort," while Edmunds says the optional six-speed automatic with manual-shifting capability make "great use of the engine's power band." According to VW, the 2010 Golf will accelerate to 60 mph in about 8 seconds and hit a top speed of 120 mph, plenty fast for average drivers, and fuel economy has improved to mid-pack at 23/30 mpg with an automatic transmission (dropping 1 highway mile per gallon with the manual.) As Autoblog points out, "those who opt for the petrol five-pot and DSG will have to pop the shift lever over to the right, then tap forward and back in order to manually select ratios."

The clear winner here is the 2010 Golf TDI and its clean-burning diesel engine. It offers less on paper, at 140 hp, but with its 236 lb-ft of torque, it performs only a touch slower than the gas-powered Golf, with quicker in-city feel. The TDI's very muted diesel clatter sounds a bit more engaging, even, and it delivers 30/42 mpg and a 0-60 mph time of 8.6 seconds. In comparison, the slower, "smaller 2010 Honda Insight hybrid does 40/43 [mpg]," Jalopnik says. The TDI is offered with either a manual or dual-clutch gearbox, and the winner is the latter transmission. The paddle-shifted DSG box is a delight, with quick changes up or down the diesel's admittedly shorter powerband. Autoblog agrees: "Despite our preference for three-pedal cars, the sub-5,000 RPM red-line of the diesel actually makes the self-shifting box the perfect traveling companion." And while Jalopnik prefers the manual and Motor Trend thinks the manual "has sweetly progressive lever and pedal actions," the Motor Trend crew lines up with the majority and picks the DSG; having it as their tester "meant we were always in exactly the right ratio when negotiating a dizzying mountain pass."

Handling is a strong point of any Golf; electric power steering has well-sorted feel, and the Golf's ride is taut, not jarring. Edmunds feels the 2010 Golf's "stiff body structure and multilink rear suspension combine to help deliver comfortably compliant ride and handling," but thinks real VW lovers will "lament the loss of some steering feel due to the adoption of electric-assisted power steering." The Golf's front strut and independent rear suspension absorb big bumps with nary a crash or bang, and braking on the cars tested feels strong and controllable. Car and Driver appreciates the VW Golf's handling, commenting, "The Golf rewards high corner-entry speed with a chassis able not only to help you survive the experience but also to facilitate tire-squealing fun." Steering is "Germanic," feeling "hefty and communicative." As Autoblog observes, "the Golf always tracked straight, even at speeds over 100 mph, aided by precise steering that made positioning a simple point and shoot affair."

Golf TDI diesels are tuned a little more tautly, with a bit more handling finesse, and Road & Track reports that the "sport-tuned MacPherson strut front suspension" in the TDI "lowers the ride height by as much as 2 inches," while "the rear gets a four-link suspension with an anti-roll bar, as in the front." Autoblog believes the tuning gives the Golf TDI "a slightly crisper feel than the base model," but Motor Trend sees some slush in the way; the TDI's "feel and balance are really rather excellent," but doesn't like having to "push through a layer of sog to get there."

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8

2010 Volkswagen Golf

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Volkswagen Golf seats four adults in a comfortable, high-quality cabin-but three-door models have somewhat skimpy backseat space.

The 2010 Volkswagen Golf and Golf TDI's comfortable seats and quality feel in the cabin make up for a little less interior room than the boxy shape implies.

The new Golf is "more or less the same size and weight" as the last version, Car and Driver observes, and with its "roomy and upscale cabin" and "comfortable ride," Edmunds says, the 2010 Volkswagen Golf makes for a pleasant ride.

Up front, the new VW Golf is quite roomy. The front seats give great support, and the driver's seat helps you get comfortable with plenty of adjustability, but the controls are in three different locations: fore/aft at the right-front corner of the seat, a lever on the left side that raises and lowers the bottom cushion, and a big knob to change the backrest angle at the left rear of the seat. MyRide calls the setup "outdated." On other versions, "the driver enjoys a power adjuster for the seat back angle," Autoblog notes, "while the passenger is relegated to the loved (by Germans, at least) rotary knob at the hinge." Nevertheless, they add, "both front seats have surprisingly ample side bolsters," and "all seats are swathed in cloth regardless of the powertrain choice." Jalopnik likes VW's "new seats covered in a checked white cloth," and says they're "firm, supportive and immensely comfortable."

Rear-seat legroom can be an issue when tall drivers sit up front, and there's noticeably less knee room than in the Civic or the Kia Forte. Headroom is quite good, though. The rear seats have adjustable headrests and an armrest, and fold down almost flat to give access to the cargo area. As Jalopnik discovers, "We also prefer the two-door model for its sharp looks, but rear seat accommodation is noticeably tighter than the four-door, which can seat 6-foot adults comfortable in both rows." Edmunds says the same, more or less: "A roomy rear seat offers decent room for a pair of adults."

Cargo capacity is respectable, "thanks to a 60/40-split folding rear seat," allowing the 2010 Golf to carry long items like skis with the front seat folded flat, states Cars.com. With the seats raised, there's 15 cubic feet of space. "When flipped down, [it] opens up a massive 43 cubic feet of cargo space," Edmunds reports. Though the Golf sports a large glove box, MyRide would like to see "more creative stowage in the center console."

Throughout the cabin, the quality of the materials is high. Fit and finish are impressive for a $15,000 vehicle, and of particular note are the Audi-quality gauges and controls. Edmunds admires the "impressive build quality," while MyRide adds the Golf's "cleanly styled interior takes advantage of Volkswagen's long touted cabin-building competence." Jalopnik elaborates: "all that black plastic is very high quality and bolted down so tightly it feels like you could rampage with a baseball bat without so much as marking any surfaces." Autoblog says "even the cheapest entry-level Golf is equipped with quality of materials, with fit and finish easily a cut above its class," while Car and Driver finds "there is nothing cheap about the Golf" in the Golf's details; in "the tight, consistent shut-lines of body panels, the precision fit and finish of the dashboard components, plastic trim pieces that are polished rather than painted, cloth linings for the storage bins."

Though it's built well, there are minor quibbles over the Golf's road noise. Motor Trend reports "wind noise is low, and the diesel engine is well muffled for urban work," while Jalopnik says in the TDI, "you never detect in aural sign that you're driving a diesel." Car and Driver observes that the "tires read road textures loudly into the interior," though Edmunds calls the interior "refined" and "noise-free."

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8

2010 Volkswagen Golf

Safety

The 2010 Volkswagen Golf hasn't been crash-tested, but it's expected to be a strong performer.

Safety equipment is complete in the 2010 Volkswagen Golf, but the new vehicle hasn't been officially crash-tested yet. However, it's very similar to the outgoing model, which earned four-star ratings for frontal impact and five-star ratings for side impact from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). The previous Rabbit model also earned the Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety), with all "good" scores.

Standard 2010 Golf features include six airbags, anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, and brake assist. MyRide says the "active front seat head restraints help to properly position passengers during an impact" and the "tilt/telescopic steering wheel maintains the proper distance between the driver and the steering wheel's airbag."

Cars.com notes Volkswagen offers optional "rear seat side-impact airbags on four-doors."

The view out is good, but the base of the Golf's windshield is rather high, a result of European pedestrian collision standards. Still, the newest Golf provides "good visibility throughout and decent outside mirrors," says MyRide.

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8

2010 Volkswagen Golf

Features

It's on par with other compact hatchbacks in terms of features, though the 2010 VW Golf's base prices are a steep step up from the likes of Forte, Soul, and Focus.

With the latest edition, the 2010 Volkswagen Golf's features list has grown more competitive with the tech-happy entries from American and Korean automakers.

Standard features on the new Golf include power windows, locks, and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; power locks; and an AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary jack. The Golf TDI diesel adds on an LCD-screen music interface, a six-disc CD changer and Sirius Satellite Radio, along with a multifunction steering wheel.

A sunroof is optional across the board, as are Bluetooth connectivity and heated seats. The TDI model can be equipped with a 300-watt Dynaudio Lite audio system that sounds crisp and clear to TheCarConnection.com's editors, and worth the minimal premium over the base system.

Volkswagen also offers a navigation system on the new Golf; it has a 30GB hard drive for music and maps, DVD playback, an SD card slot, and USB connectivity. Autoblog points out that "Bluetooth and a media device interface" are bundled with only the TDI, "and for the directionally challenged looking for an integrated factory navigation system, the TDI is your only choice."

It's certainly a price premium over the wide range of Japanese and Korean compacts, but the Volkswagen Golf doesn't see a big price increase for 2010. The new Golf starts from $17,490 for the two-door, with the four-door starting at $19,190 and the TDI diesel beginning at $21,990. Its primary competition can be significantly cheaper-a Ford Focus or a Kia Soul starts under $15,000, for example. But none offers the stout build quality or lush interior of the Golf-or a diesel engine. As Autoblog puts it, "if you don't choke on the price, the new Golf has plenty to offer, especially when it comes to vehicle dynamics and utility."

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January 21, 2016
2010 Volkswagen Golf 2-Door HB Manual TDI

Love my Golf TDI

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Driving my Golf TDI with manual transmission is always enjoyable. It performs well, handles beautifully and gets very good fuel (diesel) economy. I am very annoyed at VW for my car's cheating ways on... + More »
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Love my Golf!

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I had no idea the gem I had when I bought my car used certified 3 years ago. It's been great in all weather, and has one of the smoothest engines for less than 6 cylinders I've experienced. But open it up, and... + More »
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April 20, 2015
For 2010 Volkswagen Golf

I love my Golf TDI

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My 2010 Golf TDI (diesel) has been great! I gets great gas mileage, it's fun to drive, and it's been great to own. It still looks good and I love owning it. The only feature I wish it had is automatic... + More »
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