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Stuck in traffic and focused on the surroundings, one tends to pick up small yet seemingly new details. Buildings you did not notice beforehand pop up, prompting you to ask your passenger, "Hey, when did they build that?" only to be given a quizzical look, followed by "Uhh, dude, it's been there forever."
The same could be said for fuel prices. Fluctuations between diesel and gasoline are nothing new, but recently, based on an unscientific and non-academic survey conducted while fighting gridlock nearly every day, I have noticed diesel fuel is actually slightly cheaper -- albeit by five or six cents-- than gasoline.
Does that mean this is the best time to head over to your local Volkswagen dealer and pick up a Golf TDI? Maybe. Maybe not.
Historically, diesel has been a touch more expensive than gasoline, but few feelings are better than having gobs of low-end torque at your disposal while at the same time having the trip computer post an agreeable fuel-consumption figure.
It would be difficult to come up with another automaker as devoted to oil-burners in North America as Volkswagen. Offering nearly every model with a diesel powertrain, the Golf is arguably VeeDub's magnum opus. With the upcoming generation on the horizon, the Mk7, VW is also in the process of rolling out its final Mk6 Golfs, the Wolfsburg editions.
Mechanically, the Wolfsburg edition is identical to the standard Golf TDI. It is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine good for 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. Don't let the numbers mislead you; the TDI feels much quicker than its numbers suggest, thanks to its maximum torque being available at just 1,750 r.p.m. Paired with the minimal turbo lag, the Golf TDI is a very spirited drive. Like other VW diesels, the idle is loud and somewhat gruff compared to gas engines, but it is far from a deal-breaker.
Of course, fuel economy is a paramount strength of the Golf TDI, and our tester didn't disappoint. Natural Resources Canada rates the Golf TDI at 6.7 L/100 km in the city and 4.7 on the highway. Over the course of a week, our tester returned a respectable real-world average of 7.8 L/100 km with a majority being city driving with a heavy foot. On a 40-kilometre highway run, the trip computer settled at 5.4 L/100 km with the cruise control set at 120 km/h. Not bad at all.
Power is sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual or dual-clutch automatic. Our tester was equipped with the latter, and it continues to offer commendably smooth operation paired with lightning-quick shifts. In Drive, it is quick to downshift and makes wonderful use of the low-end torque. Passing, merging or cross-intersection drag races are an absolute breeze.
Slot the knob a notch lower into Sport and the gears are held for longer and shifts are quicker, while manual mode lets you shift through the gears via the paddles on the wheel.
Where the Wolfsburg differs is with various cosmetic bits and pieces. Foglights are standard, as are a set of 17-inch alloy wheels exclusive to this trim. There are two badges on the fenders that denote the trim level, as well as a spoiler from the GTI mounted above the rear window. Inside, the small differences continue, with brushed silver trim pieces across the dash and doors. The well-bolstered seats from the GTI are standard, minus the tartan fabric, of course.
As with many Volkswagens, the cabin is solid and graced with high-quality materials everywhere. Yes, the layout is on the dated side, but everything is where it needs to be and just makes sense. Dual-zone climate control is standard, as is VW's Media Device Interface entertainment system. It boasts the usual Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio and auxiliary audio inputs, but the interface is a touch slow to react at times.
Although it is not as thick as the flat-bottomed one found in the GTI, the steering wheel is coated in leather, as is the shift knob.
It is a pity to see the lack of popularity of diesels in North America. Truth be told, the Golf TDI is a wonderful alternative to its gasoline counterparts. Despite the seemingly rough idle, the car is very smooth and power delivery is quite addictive, not to mention the impressive fuel-sipping ethos. And, true to its Teutonic genes, the ride and inherent made-in-Germany interior quality approaches the line of class-leading despite the dated layout.
The Golf TDI is also mechanically similar to the A3 TDI. Sharing the same front-wheel-drive platform, both cars output identical horsepower and torque numbers. The difference is the base A3 costs nearly $9,000 more than the Wolfsburg's $28,375 price tag. Whether or not the four rings, different styling inside and out, and equipment levels is worth it is purely subjective, but the Golf TDI Wolfsburg is a satisfyingly frugal, fuel-sipping sweetheart.
-- Postmedia Network Inc.