I bought my automatic Gold TDI in tornado red in 2011. It was my first new car. It was difficult to find as I was living in Louisiana and had to get it in Texas. This car is so much fun to drive -- and this coming from someone who doesn't particularly enjoy driving! The car has peppy pickup but it's the diesel torque (256 feet pounds of it!) that will blow you -- and other car drivers! -- away. The cabin design is fairly upscale for a moderately priced sub-compact car . . . and once "Red" (yes that's her name) turned over 40k miles, her mileage got even better (averaging 47 mpg). The driving dynamics are solid -- she hugs the road and has no list on cornering. The seats are bolstered, include a lumbar support on the driver's side, and are very comfortable.
I wish leather seats and seat memory were offered. The diesels do have one quirky thing: they warm up slowly so they feel quite "hurky jerky" for about five minutes after startup. I understand this is by design and a fuel efficiency thing.
If you are looking for a smart car that can hold her own on the highway, has great driving dynamics and will same you money at the pump, it doesn't get any better than this in this class. If you're willing to spend more, the BMW Series 3 Diesel is a plusher ride but it has a much heftier price tag.
I am writing this at a time when the diesel scandal at VW has broken. I still love my car and emissions aside, I think it's a better environmental choice than gas guzzlers. Red truly is a smoking car...and my husband loves it even more than I do.
UPDATE -- Because my car was affected by the recalls for the emissions, I came to the hard decision to sell it back to VW last year. VW made the process fairly easy and actually paid us 70% of the new car cost for our vehicle which had nearly 100k miles on it. Mind you, the car was in cream-puff shape. We ended up getting a 2015 Mercedes GLK - Bluetech (their version of the diesel) to replace it. I love the Mercedes GLK and as a compact SUV it gives me enough height to scan the road that is now filled with large SUVs and trucks. But...it broke my heart to give up the VW. I actually wept when we had to turn it in and my husband was the one to clean it out. The main reason we let it go was because we were concerned that eventually, the state would force us to have the emission "updated" by VW and I had no idea what that would do to the performance of the car. Also, it was a sweet deal financially to sell a car back 5 years later (regardless of its shape) for 70% of what I paid. I know a lot of people are turned off from VW...but I would buy another VW in a heartbeat. They make great cars that are actually fun to drive!
Really amazed at how this car retains its new-car feel. Not a squeak or rattle. Everything works, all buttons/knobs. Have kept up with all scheduled maintenance. Recently made an unscheduled visit, due to a faulty oil filter housing flange breaking. Whether this was due to part failure, or an overzealous oil change-tech (at a local Euro shop), I’ll never really know. The repair was pricey, and I’m not sure if I should dock the reliability stars a bit, or attribute it to tech-error. I can say the car has been totally reliable, incident notwithstanding. All in all, as I approach 7 years of ownership, thus far, it’s been a solid, enjoyable performer.
I bought this car as a CPO with 20k miles. It was totaled around 70k miles. Fun to drive car, the 2.5 engine is torquey, but certainly not on par with the GTI. The interior is comfortable and holds up well, except for the headliner, which began to sag when the car was 4 years old; out of warranty & VW won't fix it. That aside I haven't had any other issues with the car, and I drove the car pretty hard. If you're driving it in the snow, I'd suggest getting snow tires. Sad to see the car get towed away. Besides the headliner issue I've been very happy with the car and would buy another one.
This car was underwhelming. Coming from a 200 HP Saab, I did not mind the weak engine except the manual transmission would fight any attempt to downshift quickly. The heater/AC moved so little air that you were either cold/hot or had to listen to the fan drone away on high. The steering feel was nonexistent. You could not feel the front end break loose on snow. The final straw was a fuel cut off that caused it to die in traffic if short shifted. It was fun to make fun of the driver who stalled in traffic until we were hit from behind because the car would just stop without brake lights. There was no warning. You would be driving in slowing traffic and it would stop.
Just the right size.
1. No steering feel.
Not uncommon in cars with electric power steering but this sets a new low bar.
2. Manual transmission refuses to shift quickly, especially the 6-3 down shift
3. The engine would stall hard if brought even slightly below idle speed.
Granted, this is a driver error but I have never driven a car that would just stall if you selected 4th gear instead of 3rd.
The car just stops like the driver slammed on the brakes except there are no brake lights.
This problem was so bad that we did not let our kids drive the car after my wife was involved in an accident.
She has logged over 250,000 miles with a manual transmission.