The worst part about my week-long trip with the 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SE? It was having to say goodbye to the blue silk on beige four-door front-wheel-drive hatchback. After all, VW had entrusted me with the big break-in miles as we drove from our Long Beach, CA home to Chandler, AZ for the second race of the 2015 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. When I picked up the VW, it had a full tank of ultra low-sulfur diesel fuel and just 640 miles on the odometer. Upon return, I’d racked up exactly 947 miles of extreme driving pleasure.
Because the car is so new, the 2-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine still needs some time to work optimally, but it sure does the job well at first launch. With 150 horsepower between 3500-4000 rpm (and a 5000-rpm redline) and 236 lb-ft of torque at a totally usable 1750-3000 rpm, this little, 3080-pound hatch scoots around town so very nicely, particularly as driven with the slick and delightful six-speed manual transmission with leather-wrapped shifter.
The chassis feels nice and tight and with strut-type and torsion beam suspension and anti-roll bars at both ends, making handling absolutely sublime. Vented front and solid rear disc brakes along with three-channel ABS and electronic brake pressure distribution allow right-now stopping and the the VW Golf TDI’s rack and pinion electric power-assisted steering is excellent, with just a tiny numb spot on-center. The turning circle is a svelte 35.8 feet. VW fits Continental’s sticky 225/45R17 tires on handsome twinned 7-spoke alloy rims as standard equipment on the 2015 Golf TDI SE.
Ultra low-sulfur diesel fuel is specified for this – and all Volkswagen diesel offerings – and it’s plentiful over the road and around both Phoenix and the Los Angeles area. While the 13.2-gallon tank might seem small, VW’s Golf TDI SE returns a bare minimum of 30/45/36 mpg. Our mileage wasn’t as high as it would be after another 4-5000 miles of driving, but was well into the mid-40s by the time we were heading home. Total cost for fuel (found diesel under $3/gal everywhere) was under $55 for the near-1000 miles total! And there was still more than half a tank when I returned the car.
It’s nearly seven hours door to door for this trip and, with a small woman and petite dog onboard, at least one rest stop is essential. Normally I’m hurting after this kind of drive, but not with the 2015 VW Golf TDI SE. The seats are a bit on the hard side and they definitely have great support. In this iteration, all controls except seat-back are manual and there’s a lumbar lever on the side of the driver’s seat, as well as a lever to raise and lower the entire seat for visibility. I felt just fine after these long drives and that’s an anomaly.
The cabin of the 2015 VW Golf TDI SE is certainly upscale. VW now has automatic headlights for nearly all of its cars and lovely brushed aluminum accents cascade down the central stack and about the cabin itself, adding the feel of luxury. The fabric is leatherette and it’s got plenty of venting to add comfort.
Large tachometer and speedometer gauges are directly in front of the driver with trip computer between them. There’s a real temp gauge and a fuel gauge as well. Information readily available include shifting suggestions, clock, compass, outside temp, odometer and trip odometer. The excellent trip computer gives the usual fuel usage and range information and can be ratcheted fore and aft.
The leather-wrapped steering wheel has cruise control and audio volume on the left while phone controls and trip computer occupy the right side of the wheel. There’s a small covered storage area between the seats with a 12-volt plug, plus another on the tunnel. An iPhone jack is in the covered storage area at the base of the central stack. The 8-speaker plus subwoofer Fender audio system is great and includes Sirius satellite radio. As this particular travel weekend marked the start of the NASCAR season, satellite radio was great to have with all the drama ongoing in Daytona Beach.
Rear passengers have their own air flow (thanks VW) and a pulldown armrest with two cup holders and a pass-through for skis. Of course there are cup/bottle holders in all four doors. The hatch has 13.7 cubic feet of volume that can grow exponentially when the rear seats are folded. Both the cabin and hatch area, which has a below-floor spare tire, are fitted beautifully. Even with everything I could possibly bring in the rear hatch area, there was added room available for impulse buys. I was able to keep nothing of value visible during the trip.
This car is so lithe it feels lighter than it is and, in this SE guise, is economical to buy, with a list price of $26,715 including transportation. There were no options on the VW Golf TDI; to get navigation, keyless entry and leather, one needs to opt for the SEL package. Still, there is remote entry (using the fob) and yeah, you’ve got to turn a key to start and stop the VW, but is that so bad? And there’s VW’s wonderful sunroof that can open to any degree one chooses and a nice cover for it. The large screen on the central stack shows your phone’s status, gives you four favorites to plug in and can be set for audio, as well.
The 2015 VW Golf TDI is such a refined package and one that’s recognizable around the world, as its looks have evolved over time but are still recognizable as those of a Volkswagen Golf. If motoring in a quiet and refined vehicle that suits your fancy, join me in loving this little turbodiesel hatch. I really wish I could keep it for a decade, not just a week.
Words and Photos by Anne Proffit