The 2013 Volkswagen Golf is offered in 2- or 4-door hatchback models, both with a choice between two engines, one gasoline, the other diesel. The gasoline choice, which is lower-priced, is a 170-horsepower, 2.5L 5-cylinder, while clean-diesel fans will like the 2.0L turbo-diesel 'TDI' 4-cylinder. Two-door gasoline models come with a 5-speed manual. A 6-speed automatic is optional, but is standard equipment on the 4-door models. Meanwhile, Golf TDI models come with a 6-speed manual or 6-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic. Both automatics include Tiptronic manual mode, while the DSG shifts much quicker than a typical automatic. TDI models achieve much better gas mileage, with EPA ratings of up to 30 mpg city, 42 mpg highway.
With its excellent variable-assist electromechanical power rack-and-pinion steering, strut-type front suspension and fully-independent rear suspension, the Golf is tuned to feel responsive, which goes well with this compact hatchback's maneuverability and parking ease. Four-wheel disc brakes provide strong stopping power, and electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes are included across the model line. The Golf also rides quieter and with more refinement than other on-a-budget hatches.
The 2013 Golf's interior exceeds expectations for those seeking basic transportation, as it adds a little more pizzazz than other hatchbacks in its price range. The instrument panel and door trims are nicely detailed, and there are plenty of soft-touch surfaces. Front seats are adjustable for height and lumbar and 4-door models get a power recline feature. Rear seats are just spacious enough for most adults and seatbacks are split 60/40 and fold forward to expand cargo space up to 46 cubic feet; otherwise with them up, there's 15.2 cubic feet--about enough for a standard load of groceries.
With a simplified model lineup this year, the base Golf now includes power windows and locks, cruise control, air conditioning, a trip computer, a rear wiper and washer, steel wheels and an 8-speaker system with an auxiliary input. A Convenience Package adds heated front seats, Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and a front armrest, while a top level adds a sunroof, premium sound, SIRIUS satellite radio and iPod interface.
Golf TDI models come standard with more-- including 17-inch alloy wheels, heated washer nozzles, and footwell lighting--while a sunroof and navigation system come with a middle trim. Loaded TDI models include a Tech Package with bi-xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, a Dynaudio sound system and push-button start.
It's not going to win any accolades for groundbreaking design, and nobody will confuse it with some souped-up sports car, but what the Volkswagen Golf lacks in emotional appeal, it more than makes up for in other areas. This machine is simple and honest, a real salt-of-the-earth hatchback that's not only versatile but unexpectedly satisfying.
The Golf has been around since the mid-1970s, which means VW has had decades to perfect its build. Hatchback versions of the Elantra GT., , and are strong competition for this VW, but the folks in Wolfsburg have done their homework. The Golf has more backseat legroom and passenger volume than either the Mazda3 or Corolla, its exterior design is almost certain to age better than the Civic's, and it's got significantly more torque than that
Making things easy, the 2020 Golf is available in just one trim level. Standard equipment is fairly generous and includes driver aids like blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Rain-sensing windshield wipers, keyless entry with pushbutton start and a sunroof are also included at no extra charge, as are one-touch down and up power windows. That last item is a real convenience that should be standard on every vehicle these days.
The Good ~ Slick-shifting manual transmission ~ Incredible real-world efficiency ~ Potent midrange torque ~ Versatile cargo hold
The Bad ~ Odd rev-hang at higher rpm ~ Engine can feel flatfooted ~ Lacks some driver aids
The Bottom Line The 2020 Volkswagen Golf is a real back-to-basics car, a versatile hauler that isn't necessarily fun, though it is still satisfying.
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