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2010 Volkswagen Golf
The "new face" of the Volkswagen brand
By Malcolm Gunn
Volkswagen has seemingly pulled a Rabbit out of its hat and turned it into a Golf.
That bit of slight of hand has revealed an all new hatchback and at the same time restores the Golf (German for gulf) name as the company's cornerstone brand in North America.
The short-lived Rabbit revival - a name originally used only in North America beginning in the mid-1970s to 1984 - that began for the 2007 model year likely created some confusion in the minds of car shoppers despite the proliferation of cutesy TV commercials that showed the cars proliferating like, well, rabbits.
So it's back to the future for the Golf that, along with its sportier GTI alter-ego, have undergone significant styling and mechanical changes for 2010. As well, a wagon version of the Golf has been added for the Canadian market, replacing the Jetta wagon. Although all three are recognizable, VW's design team has crafted a cleaner, more attractive grille and also smoothed out the bumper and lower air intake. The automaker says that the refresh represents "the new face of the Volkswagen brand." And what an attractive face it is.
Other physical adjustments include a hatch-mounted spoiler and new taillights.
The GTI features two horizontal red bands that front a blacked-out egg-crate-style grille, making it easy to spot in a crowd or in your rear-view mirror.
Updates to the Golf have also been extended to the passenger area. A new dashboard and control panel greets the driver along with a revised centre console and trim accents. Additionally, both the standard cloth- and available leather-covered (on the GTI) seats have been upgraded.
Getting under way involves either the carryover 170-horsepower 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine, or the optional 140-horsepower 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel (TDI). The latter marks the return of diesel power engines that ended with the 100-horse unit that was last offered in the 2006 Golf. Compared to the gas engine, the TDI is claimed to emit 25-per-cent less greenhouse gas (such as carbon dioxide) while delivering 30-per-cent better fuel economy.
Meanwhile, the performance-driven GTI steps up with a 200-horsepower 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder matched to a six-speed manual transmission or an optional a six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) that delivers virtually instantaneous gear selection through steering-wheel paddle shifters without the need for a clutch pedal. Two-door gas-powered Golfs come with a five-speed manual transmission, while four-door versions use a six-speed automatic. The TDI, which features the same six-speed manual transmission as the GTI, can also be upgraded to the DSG, which demonstrates that this diesel has more than fuel economy on its mind, although it's around a full second slower to 100 km-h than the base five cylinder.
The TDI adds xenon headlamps, 17-inch wheels (15s are standard), premium touch-screen eight-speaker audio package with satellite radio and a sport suspension setup that slightly lowers the ride height.
Base Golfs arrive with air conditioning plus a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, keyless remote entry plus the usual power-operated accessories and an eight-speaker sound system.
GTI-specific content includes climate control, heated front sport seats, steering-wheel audio controls and unique 17-inch rims (18-inch optional).
Available on all trims is a power sunroof, DVD navigation system and rear-passenger side-impact airbags on four-door body styles, as well as a 300-watt Dynaudio sound system for the GTI.
Pricing begins at $21,500 (including destination) and grows to $26,500 for the TDI. Opting for the GTI takes the starting price to $30,200.
Whether you select the practical 2.5, fuel-saving TDI or spirited GTI, you'll have yourself a nicely turned-out car that can be easily converted to a useful storage box when the need arises.
It might not be magic, but Volkswagen's efforts in updating and rebadging the Golf proves that it still has a few tricks left up its sleeves.
What you should know: 2010 Volkswagen Golf/GTI
Type: Two-/four-door, front-wheel-drive hatchback; four-door wagon
Engines (hp): 2.5-litre DOHC I5 (170); 2.0-litre DOHC I4, turbo-diesel (140); 2.0-litre SOHC I4, turbocharged (200)
Transmissions: Five-speed manual, six-speed automatic; six-speed DSG (opt. on TDI, GTI)
Market position: The Volkswagen Golf was one of the first hatchback passenger cars. More than 35 years later, it's still considered to be one of the best.
Points: Reshaped styling for 2010 does wonders for looks; Fuel-efficient TDI welcomed back with open arms; GTI could use VW's 4Motion AWD option; TDI plus its extra equipment worth the additional $4,500; VW's DSG transmission faster, more fuel-efficient than manual gearboxes; Sport suspensions on TDI, GTI make these must-have models.
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; rear-side-impact airbags (opt.) anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
L/100 km (city/hwy): 10.4/7.0 (2.5, MT); 6.7/4.7 (TDI, MT)
Base price: $21,500
Base price: $18,400
Spacious and sporty 2010 update adds more power, features.
Hyundai Elantra Touring
Base price: $16,500
Top notch in looks and cargo space. Five-year basic warranty.
Base price: $17,800
Roomy, fuel-efficient Corolla-based model. AWD optional.
Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!
Posted January 28, 2010. © CarTest.ca TM