2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI (aka The GDI)

America, you don’t know what you want…
“I want to get  great fuel economy, so I think I should buy a hybrid”, says your mother. “I want a car that is fun to drive, so I have to have a sports car”, says your father. Since this is the Hooniverse, we want something that most closely resembles a joint French-Italian-American sport wagon muscle car with all-wheel drive, a turbocharged and supercharged V10 engine, and a manual transmission – for that is the only way we will be happy. Mitch, well … he is Canadian so he just needs a snowmobile and a curling puck/disc/thing(?). Unfortunately, we can’t have everything we want in one package (until Audi brings over the RS6 Avant). However, there are vehicles available that provide a wonderful compromise.
One such car is the 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI: a compact, diesel-powered, manual transmission-equipped, hatchback that brings the fun while achieving great fuel economy numbers.
Volkswagen restyled the sixth generation Golf for 2010. The result is a good looking compact with an air of being more expensive than the actual sticker price. The black plastic bits and the excellent Shadow Blue Metallic exterior paint color tie the look together nicely. The Golf has a high belt-line that runs into the large tail lights. Overall, the car is clearly a VW Golf from the outside yet has new touches that provide a fresh feeling to this long-running German hatchback.
The interior of the Golf is a wonderful place to be, especially considering this is a sub $30,000 car, as equipped (with a base price close to $20K). The quality of the materials the overall level of front-seat comfort is surprising. It all looks and feels like a more expensive vehicle, which is a hard thing to do for most automakers yet Volkswagen has figured it out.
This particular Golf is fitted with an optional touchscreen navigation system that has one of the clearest pictures I have seen. Street names and directions are easily read with a quick glance. Another nice feature of this unit was the ability to not just search for gas stations, but to find ones that specifically sold diesel fuel.
That brings me to one of the best parts of this 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI. TDI doesn’t stand for something in German that we can’t understand. It stands for Turbo Direct Injection and is powered by diesel fuel. Under the hood is a 2.0L in-line four-cylinder engine which produces 140 hp. That doesn’t seem like a lot, however the 236 lb-ft of torque is plenty and it’s available at just 1,750 RPM. Sure this is no pocket rocket (0-60 times seem to range from high 7’s to mid 8’s), but provides fun in the form of the old “drive a slow car fast” school of thought. The Golf TDI is essentially an economical car that can provide some fun behind the wheel. Usually these two worlds don’t co-exist but the Golf easily clears well over 30 mpg around town and can handle a twisty canyon road with relative ease.
The steering felt great and the suspension was a nice mix between comfort and sporty. The one area where the Golf let me down was in the pedal feel and the gearbox. The feedback from the pedals is practically non-existent which makes pushing the car tricky until you get used to the car. You can get used to it, but I was surprised at the lack of information coming from the brake, clutch, and gas pedals. The transmission is actually typical of Volkswagen applications. I was extremely happy to drive the manual-equipped Golf TDI (as opposed to the optional 6-speed DSG) but it was far from crisp. It has a very user-friendly feel that I think could be far stiffer. Perhaps VW thinks you will teach first time manual tranmission drivers how to operate such a system, and this would be a good learning ground. The seasoned three-pedal jockey however will tire of the sloppiness quickly.
The 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI is proof that you can get good fuel economy yet you don’t have to be confined to a boring machine to do so. It is not a sports car by any stretch of the imagine, but it provides sporty fun. The Golf TDI is rated at 30 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway. I drove the car hard (including a few trips across Ortega Highway) and I nearly hit the 500 mile mark on one tank of gas. If you drove this car sensibly you should see numbers appearing on your gauge cluster you didn’t think possible. In a time when automakers are churning out hybrid versions of every model out there (yes, I know even Volkswagen has a hybrid on the way) it is nice to see one company realize the benefits of diesel. There are currently four Volkswagen diesels for sale, and each one is fuel-efficient AND fun to drive.

The Golf has a base MSRP of $21,990.00 and the vehicle you see tested here swells a bit to the tune of $27,090.00. The car is equipped with the aforementioned touchscreen system, Bi-Xenon headlamps, a great-sounding Dynaudio Advanced sound system, the cold weather package, and Bluetooth connectivity. I could live without the cold weather package and the headlights which would bring this Golf down near the $25,000 mark. That is a lot of car at that price point and one that ticks off a lot of boxes in the affordable, efficient and fun daily driver category.

Words by Jeff Photos by Rob

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37 responses to “2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI (aka The GDI)”

  1. muthalovin Avatar

    "Since this is the Hooniverse, we want something that most closely resembles a joint French-Italian-American sport wagon muscle car with all-wheel drive, a turbocharged and supercharged V10 engine, and a manual transmission – for that is the only way we will be happy. "
    NOT TRUE! I would be happy with a V8.

    1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

      In a Golf.

  2. SSurfer321 Avatar

    Another excellent write up Jeff!
    I just can't justify paying almost $30k for a 3 door. For that kind of dough I could have a 265hp five door Impreza WRX. No I won't get nearly as much mileage per tank, but I would get to the next fuel stop much quicker! Also in my neck of the woods Diesel isn't available at every fuel stop. Finally, the cold weather package is a must for those of us who don't live in warm climates as the VW diesel doesn't warm enough in the winter to heat the car, they've added (I believe) an electric heater to solve that problem.

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      Thank you!
      You can get the Golf TDI in a five-door as well… and stay on the better side of $30K.

  3. Tripl3fast Avatar

    Yes Please. The Blue one will be fine. ____This fits the automotive fringe due to its awesomeness and low sales in the US. So I 'm here and I love it.

  4. diesel speedy Avatar
    diesel speedy

    nice writeup on the '10. the old adage, "Americans buy horsepower but drive torque" has always stuck with me. I had an '03 Golf TDI and the pull and road feel was great. The clutch was incredibly sensitive too–though they changed trannies in '04 and up. VW and MB both engineer their diesels extremely well, and there are nice luxo touches even on a baseline Golf. (Safety too– it's a sturdy car– both my Golf and a friend's Golf were totaled badly without any critical injuries.) Plus little stuff like if you brake abruptly and hard, the stereo automatically turns down, so you can focus on the road. They thought these cars out!

  5. Dr_Dangerously Avatar

    It looks like this car is getting good reviews all around. I really like the new design of the Golf, looks sporty and aggressive. I was trying to find a 4-door version of the Golf TDI when I was looking for a new car. It was a very difficult car to find, even the 2-door TDI was very scarce up here in New England. The other thing was, I was looking for a car for $20k and below. It was hard to justify spending more on the sticker just to save at the pump. But it is still good if you want a fun car that is efficient on fuel and don't mind paying extra.
    nice review!

    1. Jeff Glucker Avatar
      Jeff Glucker

      Thanks Doctor…
      Yeah, if you have the patience to wait this vehicle out it will be a good buy in a few years… but the TDI premium will keep it a little higher for a bit.

      1. Dr_Dangerously Avatar

        Exactly, if we were two years in, I wold have scooped one up.

  6. IntendedAcceleration Avatar

    Cars like this, the 335d, and Mercedes diesels show that you can have power, economy, and fun in a car. Hybrids only give you economy. Why doesn't Honda put their 2.2 liter diesel into a Civic and sell it here with a stick? It would probably have MPG on par with, or better, than the lackluster Insight, would probably cost the same as an Insight, and would be a hell of a lot more fun to drive. I'm sure Honda's powertrain wizards could get it 50-state legal without expensive emissions equipment.

    1. SSurfer321 Avatar

      Because American Honda drivers won't drive diesels. Due to the stigma the 80's diesels left everyone with.
      Diesel cars in America are bought by an educated niche group. (I am not saying Honda drivers are uneducated)

      1. IntendedAcceleration Avatar

        I know, and it's really a shame. Hybrids have caught on because they're image mobiles; driving a hybrid makes it seem like you give a shit about the planet. In Europe, they have small diesels that get 60+ MPG (granted, it's with imperial gallons, but still…).
        So, drop a diesel into something like a Fit, Yaris, or other subcompact, make sure it exceeds the MPG of a Prius, and market the hell out of that fact. I'm sure that it won't be quite that simple to get Americans hooked on diesel, but it might help.

      2. Tomsk Avatar

        Honda was actually planning to put the diesel in the Acura TSX and maybe the Accord, but rumor has it they couldn't get it to pass emissions when mated to an automatic tranny (it reportedly passed easily when mated with a stick), and either they didn't want to add urea injection, make it manual-only or both. They were also developing a V6 diesel for the large SUVs (MDX and Pilot), but as far as I know that was sh*tcanned altogether once they realized they couldn't get the four-pot to meet its goals.
        Sad, because they could have finally taken the blinders off the "hybrid good, diesel evil" crowd (thanks to Honda's glittering green record), and yet another example of how Honda is losing the plot.

        1. IntendedAcceleration Avatar

          If it's because of emissions reasons, that makes sense. It's pointless to try and sell a car in the US without an automatic. I know that, in past years, diesels were often not sold here, because they were not legal under California's emissions laws. Is the problem just particulates? Modern cars, and modern diesels are so much cleaner than even cars 10-15 years ago. If you're concerned about CO2 emissions, then diesel is the best way to go (or ride a bike); I think they should have slightly more relaxed emissions regulations for diesel cars.

          1. ptschett Avatar

            Particulates and NOx. The NOx is the tougher nut to crack. Either you deaden the air charge with cooled EGR (putting more burden on the cooling system and potentially decreasing performance) or you deal with the NOx via a catalyst. With the catalyst there are two ways to go; one is the "NOx trap" where the NOx is caught and then converted using the extra heat from DPF regenerations, or the SCR catalyst with urea injection. The NOx traps don't work well on applications where the engine is being run WFO all the time (i.e. heavy trucks, construction equipment, farm tractors, BMW's) so there the SCR/urea route makes more sense and also is generally cheaper.

  7. VeeArrrSix Avatar

    Great write up as I have been waiting to test drive one these. I had a '99 Jetta with a 90 HP TDI… painfully slow but returned 48 MPG. The GTDI looks like its right up most Hoon's alley.

  8. engineerd Avatar

    Perfect for those who like to drive a slow car fast.
    I actually had considered a Jetta TDI when my wife needed a new car, but she is set on her Escapes (she's on her 3rd one) and we get A-Plan from her father. So, it was hard to beat that deal. I am considering a VAG vehicle for my next purchase. Partly because the A4 Avant is one of the few (maybe only?) wagons Mrs. engineerd actually likes.

    1. IntendedAcceleration Avatar

      I don't know about the A4 Avant, at least not the new one. It starts at $35k, which is a lot, considering it's a small wagon, and available with only a 4-cylinder and an automatic. I'd take a 3-Series wagon before an A4; the 3 has a straight six, a 6-speed, and rear-drive. You could always get a GTI, which has the same engine and only a bit less cargo room than the Avant, not to mention it weighs less and handles better.

  9. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    In a world where the general-purpose Mom mobile is not also the highest performing car in the fleet, The_Missus may well find herself in a TDI Sportwagen.

    1. Tomsk Avatar

      I was going to buy one in the fall of '08 (I had first right of refusal on one with the color and options I wanted.), but I got laid off about two weeks before it was delivered. They're brilliant cars; maybe someday I'll have one…

  10. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

    -Enormous C-pillar
    -Potential hypothetical electrical woes
    -I can't afford one
    -Everything else
    …and as far as I'm concerned, eight seconds to sixty is pretty damn quick, since I drive a car that can barely climb a steep hill without a running start.

    1. homebuilding Avatar

      Thanks for bringing up the C pillar problem……that afflicts far too many cars, these days.
      I really enjoy getting 700 miles per tankful, though
      Now, if they could universally go to a timing chain, instead of the belt

  11. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    In my stint behind the wheel, my biggest complaint with this car was the feel of the clutch and shifter. The clutch was ridiculously light, with no feedback and the shifter was similarly light and somewhat floppy feeling.
    Both were right in line with every other VW product I've driven, including my dad's 2.7T 6MT A6.
    Both are the worst clutch and shifter I've ever dealt with.
    VW people: is this normal to you?
    Do you actually prefer this feeling?

    1. Alff Avatar

      I think it is. It is an apt description of every VW and Audi I've driven.

  12. Social comments and analytics for this post…
    This post was mentioned on Twitter by joelfeder: Good write up! RT @TheHooniverse: From Hooniverse: 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI (aka The GDI) http://bit.ly/9aHUjG

  13. Jeff Glucker Avatar
    Jeff Glucker

    Actually, the VW 2.0L TDI does not require Urea injections…

  14. K5ING Avatar

    Nice writeup, and I agree totally. I bought a new 2001 Golf TDI and still own it. It has over 400,000 miles and still gets 47mpg mixed city/highway driving, and a solid 50+ on trips. Original engine, trans, clutch, turbo, etc. It's still fun to drive and has cost me very little in the way of repairs.
    Whenever I drive it, I wonder why everyone doesn't own one. Imagine how much oil we would have saved. Don't believe me? In the video, compare the fuel gauge with the trip odometer (which I reset every time I fill up).
    [youtube ztMzdk2KI6A http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztMzdk2KI6A youtube]

    1. CptSevere Avatar

      Now, that's pretty impressive. I've always liked VW's, have always liked the idea of their diesels (I had a buddy with a Rabbit diesel years ago, and I liked the car), I've assumed that they would endure, but if you've had this kind of results with one, I'm convinced. Diesels of course are notable for longevity, and I guess you have proved that this is a correct assumption. Even if it is starting to nickel-and -dime you, my guess is that this car has served you well, and has already paid for itself. Nothing wrong with that.

  15. Jim-Bob Avatar

    This would be a great car if the base diesel model were priced around $16k. Sadly at this price, it is just too expensive for a car of this type. It is also a bit on the large side, and makes me wish that the Polo diesel (or even better the Fox!) 3 door would be sold in the US market. I would also settle for a gas engine if it was, say a 1.3 liter 4 or even a small 3 cylinder. That way, I could get a hatch in a tiny size that would be just right for my needs.

  16. Torque Multiplier Avatar

    I saw your blog bookmarked on Furl. I love your blog and articles. Keep up the good work.

  17. Jason Avatar

    I found you lot by accident. Very interesting read -thanks. Just thought I would add the fact that I drive a VAG Touran, 2.0 TDi in Europe, and it averages out at 47.3mpg.
    Yep, and I'm impressed too, but the wife has the march on me with that aspect, as her Susuki Swift DDiS, does over 72mpg!!!

  18. Clive R Avatar
    Clive R

    Nice blog. Also looking for a new car, and the TDI Golf is at the top of the list. As with past experience with VW, the problem is not the car, it's the dealers. The local VW dealer has none and says VW told them it would be four to five months for an ordered TDI. A visit to a dealer 40 mi. away resulted in a depressing encounter with the stereotype sales ordeal and total lack of veracity. The two TDI's they''d advertised were 'sold' (and were loaded with every option.) 'Want to order?'…"It's in big demand….can't get…price no negotiaiton'"

  19. Frontspoiler VW Golf Avatar

    Thanks for this exciting piece of writing. I am going to look for your web site regularly at this point. I am thinking about this subject given that years and you have very good informations. Greeting from Germany

  20. evo forum Avatar

    Another month, another round of 2011 BMW M5 spy shots. It never fails. But this latest smattering of pics shows off even more of the Bavarian luxo-bomber’s exterior, including its shapely, M3-inspired fascia, bulging hood and camo-covered (and trademarked) fender vents aft of the front wheels.

  21. MostlySnowBound Avatar

    Thanks for the great write up and photos – I'm seriously considering a TDI but only drive 15 miles one way to work and longer fun drives on weekends. My dad thinks this isn't long enough to actually warm up the diesel engine so could be a problem. Also, I live in the upper MidWest where it usually goes below freezing for many weeks a year…can you comment on running a diesel under those conditions? Will I still see fuel economy? Thanks in advance for any insight or comments.

    1. homebuilding Avatar

      Your dad is probably right. My 2005 TDI takes a loooong time to get the coolant up to heater usable temps….and I've had the thermostat checked by the dealer. It is staying closed properly. Any ICE cold start will deteriorate mileage–but my logbook shows many tanks over 45 mpg in the winter (I'm in the central MidWest). I wouldn't buy one if your 'road trip' work is rare.

  22. Dsl Lover Avatar
    Dsl Lover

    Bought a used 2002 Golf TDI 5 spd, nicely optioned. Paid too much for it, but wouldn't part with it. Reliable, fun, will outcorner a Vette on the west coast highway, and delivers 60+ MPG Canadian mile after mile! We are considering a new Golf Wgn TDI, but can't justify getting rid of a perfectly loveable, like-new car with only 150,000 miles on it.