$7,200 - $18,771

2013 Volkswagen Golf Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2013 Volkswagen Golf was new.


Performance: 8.0

The 2013 Volkswagen Golf offers a base gasoline engine and an optional turbocharged diesel engine. Of the two, car reviewers prefer the diesel engine for its high fuel economy ratings. The base model’s fuel economy ratings are low for the class, and though test drivers say it has plenty of power for daily driving, it isn’t as fun to drive as they’d like. Test drivers add that all models are characterized by smooth manual and automatic transmissions and strong brakes.

  • "Out on the open road, the 2013 Volkswagen Golf further proves its worth with confident handling and a comfortable, secure ride quality." -- Edmunds
  • "The Golf's 2.0-liter TDI is efficient, versatile and responsive. That combination should please both the enthusiast behind the wheel and the accountant keeping track of monthly costs." -- Kelley Blue Book (2012)
  • "The 2.5 has enough pep for any situation, despite the non-linear nature of its throttle response." -- Consumer Guide (2012)
  • "Big fuel economy, sportier suspension tuning than gas-engined Golfs will have you thinking you’re driving a GTI." -- Car and Driver (2011)

Acceleration and Power

The base Volkswagen Golf has a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine that makes 170 horsepower or an optional turbodiesel 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 140 horsepower. The base engine comes with a five-speed manual transmission, and a six-speed automatic is optional. The diesel engine comes standard with a six-speed manual, and a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission is optional. According to the EPA, the Golf averages up to 24/31 mpg city/highway with the automatic transmission. Golf models with the diesel engine average 30/42 mpg, regardless of transmission.

Reviewers are happiest with the diesel engine because of its high fuel economy and torque ratings compared with the base model, which makes it more fun to drive, according to some reviewers. Though its horsepower rating is high for the class, some test drivers think that the base Golf feels underpowered and unrefined. They’re also disappointed with its fuel economy ratings, which are worse than the fuel economy estimates of classmates, some of which average 40 mpg on the highway. Of its transmissions, auto critics like the smooth manual and the automatic available on the base model, but one test driver says the TDI’s dual-clutch automated manual is finicky.

  • "The Golf's gasoline engine provides strong power throughout the rev range, but it sounds unrefined and we're betting most buyers would sacrifice some of that muscle for better fuel economy. Opting for the turbodiesel will achieve that, along with an abundance of low-end torque." -- Edmunds
  • "The 5-cylinder gasoline powerplant with 170 horsepower won't overwhelm you with either power or personality, but proves oh-so-competent in the daily commute. The diesel has power and personality in spades, but requires a financial commitment up front while providing 40-plus highway mpg in return." -- Kelley Blue Book (2012)
  • "Still, the Golf we'd choose would have to be the 2.0 TDI. You simply don't miss those 30 horses, especially when they've been replaced with an extra 59 lb-ft of torque. The car's a blast to drive, and the great fuel economy means you're as close to guilt-free as you can get behind the wheel." -- Popular Mechanics (2010)
  • "The manual transmission has short throws and an easy-to-modulate clutch. The conventional 6-speed automatic delvers prompt shifts. TDI's 6-speed automated manual can be finicky around town, but it smooths out at higher speeds." -- Consumer Guide (2012)
  • "The Golf is kind of porky for its class, but you’ll never notice. It feels like a GTI, just a bit slower. Either transmission is a delight." -- Car and Driver (2011)

Handling and Braking

According to reviewers, the 2013 Volkswagen Golf’s on-road composure is impressive. There’s little body lean, the brakes are strong and the steering is responsive. The TDI diesel models have a sport suspension, and reviewers say it improves the Golf’s handling.

  • "At highway speeds, the Golf is significantly quieter than other hatchbacks. Alternately, you can take it out on a curvy road and the well-weighted steering will inspire confidence." -- Edmunds
  • "All are sporty and agile with little body lean; TDI's sport suspension means even more nimble cornering ability. Braking is smooth and strong in general, though one test car suffered from touchy pedal action in wet conditions." -- Consumer Guide (2012)
  • "The steering provided adequate feedback when we had the chance to dive-bomb a few corners, a when the occasional delivery van became a rolling roadblock in the left lane, the Golf's brakes - while lacking in feel - were up to the task, easily reigning in the party from 115 to 60 MPH." -- Autoblog (2010)

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