We’ve driven several versions of the current Volkswagen Golf now, and have been thoroughly impressed. The entry-level 1.6 diesel we're testing here should be a popular choice, given its impressive claimed fuel economy and low CO2 emissions.
In the previous Golf, however, this engine was something of a weak point. A shortage of low-down pull and disappointing refinement meant that it was far from our favourite.
What’s the 2013 Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI like to drive?
Like before, the engine delivers its peak pull at just 1500rpm. However, where the older car was desperately sluggish when you fell below that threshold, the new one has a good bit more oomph at low revs. This is good news because you’re less likely to get caught short when trundling along at low speeds.
The power delivery is consistent as the revs climb, too, and even when the engine is working hard, it stays fairly hushed. The five-speed manual 'box doesn't affect overall refinement at motorway speeds too much either. However, there’s still too much vibration to be felt through the steering wheel, pedals and gearlever. It’s a shame, because otherwise the Golf is an extremely refined car.
Perhaps the biggest sticking point with this 1.6 TDI version, though, is that along with the 1.2 petrol engines, it rides on a less sophisticated rear suspension set-up than the rest of the Golf range.
This affects the ride quality slightly; you feel a fraction more patter on broken surfaces and there’s more of a crash over potholes. That said, we are talking fractions. This is still a very comfortable car.
With decent body control, strong grip and consistently weighted steering, the Golf is great to drive in every other respect, though.
What’s the 2013 Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI like inside?
The interior doesn’t have the outright wow-factor of an Audi A3's, but the quality of the materials and assembly is good enough to eclipse pretty much any other rival.
The dashboard is as easy to use as it is on the eye, thanks to a clear layout and an excellent touch-screen infotainment system that features logical menus, large icons and handy shortcut buttons.
The cabin is practical, too. There’s enough space for four adults to travel in comfort and the 380-litre boot is one of the biggest in the class.
The adjustable boot floor also allows you to reduce the load lip, and provides a flat load bay when the seats are folded.
There's a choice of four trim levels: S, SE, Bluemotion, and GT. The mid-level SE trim has recently been replaced with a new Match trim, which is what our test car came specced with. Match models now get more standard kit but prices stay the same as those of the SE, starting at £20,535 for the three-door, five-speed manual 1.6 TDI, rising to £21,190 for the five-door, and £22,605 for the five-door, seven-speed auto DSG version.
Match trim now brings front and rear parking sensors, front foglights, new 16-inch Dover alloy wheels and a mirror pack, which comprises automatically folding door mirrors with puddle lights and reverse-activated dipping for the nearside.
Should I buy one?
We can understand why you’d want to. Not only is the Golf 1.6 TDI enjoyable to drive, but it's reasonably economical, too. Our True MPG tests recorded a real-world fuel economy figure of 54.5mpg compared with its official 74.3mpg on paper.
All manual versions have official emissions of 99g/km, meaning super-low tax bills and free entry to the London Congestion Charge zone. If you go for the DSG semi-auto gearbox, this hikes CO2 output to 102g/km, so it sits one band higher for company car tax.
These numbers alone make this Golf a good choice for many company car drivers, but that doesn’t make it our pick of the range. The 148bhp 2.0 diesel has only slightly higher CO2 emissions and fuel consumption (106g/km and 68.9mpg), and is also significantly stronger, quieter and smoother than the 1.6.
Meanwhile, low-mileage private buyers will be better off with the 121bhp 1.4 petrol, because it’s cheaper and more refined than either diesel engine.
What Car? says…
Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI