I purchased my '11 Golf 3 door Manual transmission straight out of college.
Prior to making this decision, I tested many similarly priced compact cars like the Dodge Caliber, Various Hondas, and even some subarus.
While I really liked the Subaru's and had a hard time deciding between the two, the VW Golf was simply in another league.
This is probably the best compact car on the us market for the price.
The interior and exterior build quality and craftsmanship are excellent and there are no rattling noises.
I have put 17,000 miles since I purchased the car in June of 2011.
Thats right, 17000 already.
This car handles/performs exceptionally well.
At all speeds it feels secure/ planted.
I average 26mpg in the city and 34-37 on the highway.
With my cruise set on 80mph, I can get a consistent 33mpg!!
The manual transmission is the best I've ever used.
The clutch is smooth and the shifter feels mechanical, there is never any question whether it is in gear or not, you can feel it.
My favorite "feature" is the performance.
I mix about 50/50 city and highway.
In town(New Orleans) it is a dream.
It fits anywhere I put it, drives well in stop/go traffic, parks easily, absorbs bumps surprisingly well for a compact car and, most importantly, feels solid and enjoyable to drive.
Acceleration is quick, esp. with the manual, and performance is surprising.
I wish the 4 door came with a manual transmission.
I wanted a 4 door, but I REALLY wanted the MT.
So I settled for the 2 door.
The functionality is great regardless.
The hatch opens taller than my 6'2" height.
Also, the driver and passenger doors open to 90 degrees.
While this feature may not seem like much, it helps when loading cargo and vacuuming interior.
Unfortunately the doors are longer since there are only two and they cannot be opened fully when in a parking space.
In fact you must be careful bc there are essentially three open rest positions for the door and the outer two may hit parked cars. My only complaint is that my miles rack up too quickly, it begs to be driven.