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Volkswagen Golf TDI

by Joel Niedfeldt in Tech on 20 October 2009

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As "green" lifestyles become the norm, conspicuous environmentalism will hopefully give way to unpretentious examples like the new 2010 Volkswagen Golf TDI, which subtly makes an eco-conscious statement by making their high-tech, cleaner-burning engine available in a compact car.

Car enthusiasts or climate crisis know-it-alls will already be familiar with the TDI concept, but for the rest of you, it's Volkswagen's branding for their new clean-burning diesel engine technology. Coupling TDI with the 2010 Golf results in the perfect synergy of power and fuel efficiency that will give those ugly hybrids some stiff competition.

For starters, it gets a whopping 30mpg in the city and 41mpg on the highway. (And those are just estimates. You may have heard of how the Taylors broke the Guinness record for fuel-efficiency driving a Jetta TDI.) But the Golf TDI performance and design really shine. I experienced both first-hand on a recent trip to Wolfsburg, Germany to visit the Volkswagen headquarters.

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On the performance front, no better place than the autobahn exists for experiencing Fahrvergnügen (to cite an earlier bit of clever Volkswagen marketing). The drive from Wolfsburg to the Volkswagen Test Track in the Golf TDI impressed me with its responsive steering and suspension, which both felt stable and sporty, somewhat similar to the Mini Cooper or a BMW 3-series. The car also boasts great acceleration, with an advertised 0-60mph in 8.6 seconds.

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But, most important for a car that doesn't make "high-performance" claims, the feel of the Golf TDI when traveling at high speeds might be its biggest sell. To wit, I was utterly amazed when the speedometer read 120mph and was sure it was in kilometers. Most compact cars can feel a little scary at high speeds, but the Golf was surprisingly quiet and stable even when I got it up to 130mph. It also felt incredibly safe, due to several features like ESP (Electronic Stabilization Program) and variable-assisted steering that come standard on the Golf TDI.

At first glance, the Golf TDI might look pretty similar to previous generations, a choice that Walter de Silva, Head of Design, explained was deliberate thanks to their design philosophy. Integrating simplicity into design leads Volkswagen's approach. Clean lines and shape dominate the discussion and process, updating each car to fit with the time but to also somehow remain timeless. For the 2010 model, they gave the car a wider look that helps it look less geeky than previous Golfs and more stable. The absence of side moldings and black window trim lend to an overall unfussy look.

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On the inside, the TDI version sports a leather steering wheel and shift knob, touch-screen sound system with CD-changer, satellite radio (with a six month free Sirius subscription) and, last but not least, an included iPod cable so you can play all your favorite Kraftwerk and Hüsker Dü without taking your hands off the wheel. And of course, you can add options (also upping the affordable base price of $23,000), like heated seats, bluetooth, and navigation, making the Golf TDI a formidable contender in the green vehicles market.

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