Merry X-mas to me! I’m the happy owner of a brand new 2011 VW Golf TDI! I’ve been wanting to get a smaller car for some time as I’ve always liked the gas mileage, handling, and convenience (easier to park) of small cars. My first car was a little Honda Civic hatchback (Tahitian Green!) which I loved to drive. Even though my last two vehicles have been SUVs (Toyota 4-Runner presently and Chevy Blazer before that), I’ve always felt a bit guilty driving them. After all, 95+% of the driving I do is just to haul myself and perhaps one other person around. Burning large amounts of fossil fuels driving such a large and heavy hunk of steel around just seemed excessive. And let’s face it, big, top-heavy SUVs just aren’t very responsive and fun to drive. Of course, an SUV is really nice for many of the outdoor activities we do, but for the vast majority of driving that I regularly do, I yearned for a smaller, more environmentally friendly, and fun-to-drive car.
When the Honda CR-Z was introduced, I was really excited. It was the first small car in recent years that I found compelling. I really liked the styling of the CR-Z as well as the concept of a sport-hybrid – sporty performance coupled with hybrid efficiency. When I took it for a test drive, however, I found that there was quite a significant blind spot on the driver’s side. This is the kind of thing that I would have to deal with on a regular basis and would just grate on me over time. I also was disappointed with the mileage. Even though it’s a sport hybrid, I expected the highway mileage to at least be in the 40s considering the small size of the car (it’s a 2-seater). After all, the Prius’ mileage is in the 50s. Unfortunately, the CR-Z was only rated 31/37 mpg. Mainly for the blind spot issue, but also for the lackluster mileage, I decided to forgo the CR-Z.
The other vehicle I was considering was of course the Volkswagen Golf TDI. I really liked the styling (though not quite as much as the CR-Z) as well as the great mileage (30/42 mpg) and peppiness of the clean diesel engine. On the other hand, I had some doubts about getting a VW. My perception of the VW brand, particularly from a reliability standpoint, wasn’t the best, especially when compared to Honda and Toyota. After some digging, however, I found that while VW’s quality has been lacking in years past, things seem to have improved quite a bit in recent years.
I was also a bit leery about getting a diesel vehicle, particularly after reading about some TDI owners having serious issues with their high pressure fuel pumps. I went back and forth, and at one point was seriously considering the VW GTI which looks just like the Golf but has higher performance and cooler-looking wheels. The cost of the GTI and Golf TDI are about the same, and although the GTI gets appreciably worse mileage (24/33 mpg), it uses unleaded fuel which is currently cheaper than diesel. I was actually leaning towards the GTI until I found out that GTIs must use super unleaded gas. Super unleaded costs about as much as diesel, so the GTI’s relatively poor mileage tipped the scales back in favor of the TDI.
After some more thinking, I decided to go with the TDI. Most of the reported TDI problems were from a couple years ago so my thinking/hope is that VW has most likely already fixed this issue in the 2011 models. I also plan to take my car to a well regarded local VW mechanic (word on the net is that for TDIs, you really want it serviced by a mechanic highly experienced with VWs and TDIs) and will have him do an inspection of the HPFP prior to my warranty expiring. If there are any issues, I’ll just trade the car in for something else.
So I made the plunge and thus far, I’m loving this car! It has more power and handles waaaaay better than anything I’ve ever owned. The interior is very refined looking, one of the hallmarks of Volkswagens (and German cars in general). This is the first car I’ve owned with iPod integration and a Bluetooth phone connection, both of which are awesome! And it’s been a blast driving stick after many years of only driving automatics. The only problem thus far is that I find I’m often going much faster than I think – this car really wants to go! I definitely need to be better aware of that going forward.
Anyhow, here are some pics of my new ride.