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Edmunds' Expert Review

  • Outstanding cabin materials and construction
  • fuel-efficient diesel engine
  • spacious hatchback body style
  • refined driving dynamics.
  • Unrefined and inefficient gasoline engine
  • higher price than many rivals.

It may cost more than comparatively equipped rivals, but the 2012 VW Golf sweats the details and provides a level of refinement that few can possibly match.

Vehicle overview

Pound for pound, feature for feature, the 2012 Volkswagen Golf costs more than other compact cars. It would be easy to leave things there, damning the Golf with a case consisting merely of dollar signs and a spreadsheet of standard features. Indeed, it's a case that stripped VW's recently redesigned Jetta of myriad niceties and details that used to make it a step above the rest. Well, the Golf retains those niceties and details, maintaining its position as a special car for those who recognize a higher-quality product when they see it, feel it and drive it. And who also don't mind paying a little extra for it.

Indeed, compared to other vehicles in its class, the 2012 VW Golf feels positively upscale. Its interior puts others to shame (including the Jetta) thanks to top-notch materials, meticulous construction and going-the-extra-mile niceties like rear seat air vents and a tilt-and-telescoping front armrest. With optional features like heated seats, a Dynaudio stereo and a navigation system, the Golf can actually begin to feel like a near luxury car. Really, only the new Ford Focus comes close in this regard.

Once underway, the Golf continues to set itself apart with the sort of refinement German cars are renowned for. Handling is secure and the ride is at once comfortable and composed. The Golf's Achilles' heel, however, is its five-cylinder base engine that returns fuel economy that's upwards of 10 mpg worse on the highway than some competitors. Sure, they're less powerful, but we're betting most buyers would be willing to sacrifice some acceleration to save money at the pump. Luckily, the turbodiesel TDI meets or beats those lofty rival fuel economy figures and is certainly the more appealing Golf. However, it's even more expensive.

Overall, though, we think very highly of the 2012 VW Golf and find that its added cost in TDI guise is justified by its impressive fuel mileage, added refinement and details that won't show up if you simply compare the features of one car to another. We would make the same argument about the Focus, however, and it doesn't require pricier diesel fuel. However, the reality is that both of those compact cars may be too expensive for your budget, so it's definitely worth considering the Mazda 3 as well as the Kia Forte hatchback. They'll offer you more stuff for your money, but the overall experience won't be quite as special.

2012 Volkswagen Golf models

The 2012 Volkswagen Golf is a five-passenger hatchback available in two- and four-door body styles. Each is broken into 2.5L and TDI trim levels, which correspond to engine choice. The high-performance GTI is discussed in a separate review.

Standard equipment on the base 2.5L Golf includes 15-inch steel wheels, foglights, full power accessories, keyless entry, heated mirrors, cruise control, air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, front seat adjustable lumbar, cloth upholstery, a compass, a trip computer and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The Convenience package adds heated front seats, a front center armrest and Bluetooth. The Convenience & Sunroof package adds those aforementioned items plus a sunroof, a six-CD changer, satellite radio, an iPod/USB audio interface and a touchscreen audio interface.

The Golf TDI includes all of the above equipment as standard, minus the sunroof. Also included are 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a lower ride height, heated windshield washer nozzles, floor mats and a multifunction leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Sunroof & Navigation package adds the sunroof and a navigation system, but subtracts the compass and auxiliary audio jack. The Tech package includes the Sunroof & Navigation items, plus bi-xenon headlights and a premium Dynaudio sound system.

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2012 Highlights

Beyond adjustments to its trim and options structure, the 2012 Volkswagen Golf is unchanged. Notably, however, one of those adjustments is the deletion of optional rear side airbags.

Performance & mpg

The 2012 Volkswagen Golf 2.5L is powered by a 2.5-liter five-cylinder (hence the trim name) that produces 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque. These Golf models are classified as partial-zero-emissions vehicles (PZEV) when sold in states with California emissions standards. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic is optional. With the automatic, the Golf 2.5L achieves an EPA-estimated 24 mpg city/31 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined. Sticking with the manual improves that to 23/31/26. But either way, that's worse fuel economy than the Golf's primary (though admittedly less powerful) competitors.

To get similar to better fuel economy than those competitors, we recommend the Golf TDI. It has a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder that puts out a modest 140 hp, but a robust 236 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual is standard and a six-speed automated manual (DSG) is optional. In Edmunds performance testing, a Golf TDI with a manual went from zero to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds -- a quick time for this segment. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 30/41/34 with the manual, while the highway number ticks up to 42 with the DSG.


Every 2012 Volkswagen Golf comes standard with traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, front side airbags and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, a Golf TDI came to a stop from 60 mph in 121 feet -- a good distance for this segment.

In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Golf received the highest score of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side and roof strength tests.


The 2012 Volkswagen Golf's high level of interior refinement is echoed in its composed, solid feel on the road. At highway speeds, the Golf is significantly quieter than other hatchbacks. Alternately, you can take it out on a curvy road and the well-weighted steering will inspire confidence.

The Golf's gasoline engine provides strong power throughout the rev range, but it sounds unrefined and we're betting most buyers would sacrifice some of that muscle for better fuel economy. Opting for the turbodiesel will get you that higher fuel economy along with an abundance of low-end torque. The downsides are the extra noise and a higher price, but in general, the Golf TDI is the more appealing model.


Simply replacing the VW logo on the Golf's steering wheel with four rings just might be enough to convince you that you're in an Audi. That's how nice the Golf's interior is. Among other compact hatchbacks, the Volkswagen's blend of top-shelf materials, refined design and quality workmanship place it above all others. The Golf's cabin is actually much nicer than that of the recently redesigned VW Jetta sedan.

Whether you choose the two- or four-door, the Golf's passenger space remains the same. For those who plan on shuttling multiple passengers, the four-door is the obvious choice, offering a surprisingly large backseat that's notably more spacious than that of a Mazda 3. Access to the two-door Golf's rear seats is made relatively painless thanks to front seats that slide easily out of the way. Behind the rear seats, the cargo area can hold up to 12.4 cubic feet of stuff -- double the capacity of a Mini Cooper, but about average for other hatchbacks. Dropping the split-folding rear seats bumps that figure up to 46 cubes.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2012 Volkswagen Golf.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

4.75 out of 5 stars
happy so far
2.5L 2dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl 5M)
This is my first VW and the 2012 Golf is impressive. The car is very comfortable and handles well. On it's first long trip, I averaged 33 mpg of mostly highway miles.
4.88 out of 5 stars
I love this car
2.0L TDI 2dr Hatchback w/Tech Package (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6M)
I have owned and driven almost everything that moves. I am a car guy I love them all. My last VW was a 2004 1.8t GTI and i loved that one alot but this new Golf TDi is an absolute blast to drive, throw it into a corner and it just sticks very well for a stock car. the power of the lil Diesel is very nice pulls super hard in 1st and 2nd, nice even power throughout the entire shifting pattern. the looks of the MKVI are really agressive and i love my Tornado Red Golf's color a real classic VW color used for many years now. If you love having fun behind the wheel this is a great car to play in.
4 out of 5 stars
Above average car
2.0L TDI 4dr Hatchback w/Tech Package (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6AM)
I have had this car for about 6 months so far having put 5000 miles on it. I saw many reviews on here that reflected the car returned an average MPG rating of over 44 mpg. My average since i have owned the car is 35mpg. While not as high as other have claimed it is still very good and higher than the 34mpg EPA estimate. Car is fun to drive for a fwd economy car. Only issue I have encountered with the car is the steering. Ever since i had the car the steering wheel needs to be turned slightly left to drive straight. The dealer said it was due to a crown in the road; however, it still requires the wheel to be turned to the left even on flat roads without crowns.
4.88 out of 5 stars
Great value and it's like owning a "Mac" car
2.0L TDI 4dr Hatchback w/Tech Package (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6AM)
Bought this car at the beginning of July 2012 and have taken it from Vancouver, BC to SF, and back. Great gas economy: the longer I drove, the better mileage I got, at the end averaging 19 Km/liter (44.69MPG) with the AC on 70% of the time. The entire trip I filled up 4 tanks. That's with quite a bit city driving in the Bay area. Very comfortable even for this long haul trip. My kid was in a booster with the centre arm rest down, drink in the cup older, snacks near by. Her iPad linked to the stereo via Bluetooth and got sensational sound for her games. My wife sat next to her the whole trip & neither of them complained about lack of room or comfort. Driving it gives youa lot of confidence.

More about the 2012 Volkswagen Golf
More About This Model

So, we're getting a 2012 Volkswagen Golf R with a pumped-up version of the VW GTI's turbocharged inline-4 engine with 266 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Fine. This almost makes up for the fact that we're not getting the 2010 Volkswagen Scirocco R, the super-sexed-up MkIII VW364 car, from Wolfsburg. On the other hand, we have to wait. While the rest of the planet gets its Golf R starting now, North America has to wait, because our Golf R won't arrive until the second quarter of 2011 as a 2012 model. Sigh.

Payoff being at least that the Golf MkVI VW360, known as the Golf R with the new fourth-generation version of Haldex 4Motion all-wheel drive, is a better all-round hottie than any like competitor on the planet and is therefore worth the wait.

It won't separate your retinas with its dynamics like a Ford Focus RS or Mugen-tuned Honda Civic Type R, neither of which will ever make it to North America (legally, anyway). However, the VW Golf R smothers the overrated old 247-hp VW R32 V6 in all ways but exhaust sound satisfaction, and we think it feels more a premium effort than the 263-hp Mazdaspeed 3 (it damned well should, of course, seeing as it'll probably cost about $8,500 more than the Mazda).

And so we've just driven the 2012 Volkswagen Golf R for two days, much of it on roads in the Austrian Alps that are thick with snow, and this trunkless marvel points, goes hard and soothes all at once.

R32 VR6-Withdrawal Group Hug
On American soil, the VW R32 with its VR6 engine and previous-generation Haldex all-wheel-drive setup became a bit of a legend, complete with breathless Internet bulletin boards all a-gush with how it kicked so much damned ass.

Which, it did, sort of. But not really. The 4Motion was the big draw for most R32 buyers — VW's survey says so, so we ain't just guessing here — and then there was that we-don't-need-no-stinkin'-turbo 3.2-liter VR6. Apparently it just didn't matter how underpowered and fuel-sucking that heavy, narrow-angle V6 has been, because it did the Pavlov thing for Americans, who could say, "at least it's a V6, dude." The engine was never really any good in the Audi TT either, and for the same reasons. But, boy, did VW Group make a lot of money on each one sold. Admittedly, too, the thing could sing real pretty through those pipes.

But, well, it's time to give it up, guys. (VW's R32 survey says you're almost all guys, as in males. Like roughly 100 percent.) The whole VR6 engine program has been scrapped already. It is time for the exceptionally better EA113 inline-4, in this case the turbocharged, direct-injected 2.0-liter TSI that we've recently driven with much delight in the VW Scirocco R.

One thing that should help us break this tortured sort of man-hug and move on to the better 2.0-liter turbo is the matter of 266 hp at 6,000 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque at 2,000-5,000 rpm. And you can't deny that 12.6 pounds of Golf R that each 2.0 TSI horse has to carry is much better than the 14.2 pounds that every VR6 pony had to pack. In fact, the brand-new MkVI GTI with the latest EA888 turbo-4 burdens each horse with 15.8 pounds.

A Man's Car
This VW Golf R with the 2.0 TSI is exactly what we need to stop the criticism leveled at small cars with turbocharged four-cylinder engines. There's so much premium-ness built into this car that it is not to be believed, and we mean that in the amazingly good way. A long list of upgrades in both manufacturing and anti-NVH development has made every member of the Golf MkVI family feel as substantial as an Audi A6.

And then there is the long list of features. Like the latest quick-acting all-wheel drive making snowy roads feel like dry roads, plus making serious acceleration numbers on dry roads and communicating in the corners through the flat-bottom R-type steering wheel. Like the sheer quality of the interior design that no longer seems as if it's compensating for shortcomings in another department.

The Golf R is a fully copacetic package, gents. And particularly as a four-door hatch, the new Golf R looks normal-ish, certainly when compared to the blatant sport stance designed into the Scirocco. No boy racers need even apply.

And Then on Ice and Snow
You can probably see that the weather in the Austrian Alps for our drive of a 2012 Volkswagen Golf R ablaze in Tornado Red proved perfect for testing the majority of the reasons for buying one. Though there are engineering and dynamic reasons why we would prefer a mechanical Torsen center differential, no car built on the VW Group's PQ35 chassis has ever had anything but a Haldex. Some say it's due to cost issues in having to beef up the chassis to properly mesh with a Torsen's reactive properties, especially when the engine is transversely mounted.

No matter, this fourth-gen pro-active Haldex system is just right on this lighter Golf. Its most important innovation is the way that the hydraulically activated system (435 psi) is always prepared to manage the driving forces and weight transfer in far less time than the Haldex AWD system it replaces. The previous differential could also send 100 percent of traction to the front or rear axle, but this one reacts now like the proverbial lightning. While hammering around the local mountain roads and circling a local ice-racing circuit with studded tires, we learned that the 2012 Volkswagen Golf R is always under control, even while drifting the racing circuit's curves at 6,500 rpm.

On the slick stuff, at least, the stability control still has a safety net engaged even when you switch off the system, so it would still intervene while we were trying to be teenagers for life, kicking sideways and using the hand brake and so on. But this is not exactly a dumb move for a series-built car that is expected to spend some portion of its life in controlled sledding under similar conditions. It corrects things just enough to keep the less capable out of the snowbanks.

Das Fahren auf der Autobahn
There's a good chance that the 2012 Volkswagen Golf R for North America will be limited to 130 mph like the GTI and others, which might make police-chase television shows seem a little like restrictor-plate NASCAR weekends if the getaway car is a VW. We weren't in North America, though, were we? No.

At 155 mph on glorious portions of no-limit autobahn on the way back to Munich airport, there is that low hum from the turbo engine's twin-pipe exhaust that's very close to the note of the R32, only the greatly improved acoustic insulation of the cabin admits less of it than the R32 did. Meanwhile, the stability afforded by the suspension is very much as you'd expect in a premium car, a benefit from a sport setup for the suspension's Mubea springs (20 percent firmer than the GTI springs), which lower the car an inch. In Europe you have the option of Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC), electronic control of the Sachs dampers for Comfort, Normal or Sport modes. Our sources in North America say, "Chances are that our cars will come loaded, so DCC would be standard in the price." (It's Christmas every day of the year, isn't it?)

Our lipstick-red test car had the standard 18-inch wheels instead of the optional 19-inchers, but it did have the optional, broad-shouldered VW Motorsports seats that, simply put, must be available for this car in the United States or we shall storm the gates of VW HQ in Herndon, Virginia. As with the Scirocco R, these Talladega wheels slay us bad, almost as cool as the optional 18-inch Khartoum black units for the GTI.

The six-speed manual transmission is standard equipment for this car, but if we were expecting to drive the 2012 Volkswagen Golf R daily, we'd get the optional dual-clutch automated DSG manual. Then again, if we were slamming around a bit regularly and given to saying things to passengers like "Watch this!" then we'd go with the manual. Projections have two-thirds of Golf R buyers taking the DSG. Also, about 70 percent will choose the four-door version of this car over the two-door.

Accelerating to 60 mph with the DSG gearbox and launch control and 225/40R18 82V Continental ContiWinterContact tires under the fenders took about a second less than an R32.

Is It Coming? Really? Really?
No one in Wolfsburg or Herndon will go on the record as confirming or denying, but the definite majority told us that we would not be far off if we say that yes, the Volkswagen Golf R is coming to the U.S. Volkswagen of America is just a little nervous about bringing it in too hot on the heels of the new 200-hp 2010 Volkswagen GTI that just arrived.

But it will come, however reluctantly VW's business people on both sides of the ocean might be about it. The 2012 Volkswagen Golf R will be a limited edition of between 1,500 and 3,000 cars, with prices starting at $32,500 or so for a manual-equipped two-door. We might even get four-doors for a slight premium. As one executive told us after a couple schnapps toss-backs, "I mean, hell, we build a lot of these. If the U.S. would want more Rs, then we would just make some more."

Love that attitude.

Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

Used 2012 Volkswagen Golf Overview

The Used 2012 Volkswagen Golf is offered in the following submodels: Golf Hatchback, Golf Diesel. Available styles include 2.5L PZEV 4dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl 6A), 2.0L TDI 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6M), 2.0L TDI 4dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6AM), 2.5L PZEV 2dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl 5M), 2.5L PZEV 4dr Hatchback w/Convenience, Sunroof (2.5L 5cyl 6A), 2.5L PZEV 2dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl 6A), 2.5L PZEV 4dr Hatchback w/Convenience (2.5L 5cyl 6A), 2.0L TDI 2dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6M), 2.5L PZEV 2dr Hatchback w/Convenience (2.5L 5cyl 5M), 2.5L PZEV 2dr Hatchback w/Convenience (2.5L 5cyl 6A), 2.0L TDI 4dr Hatchback w/Sunroof, Navigation (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6AM), 2.0L TDI 2dr Hatchback (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6AM), 2.0L TDI 4dr Hatchback w/Tech Package (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6AM), 2.0L TDI 4dr Hatchback w/Tech Package (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6M), 2.0L TDI 4dr Hatchback w/Sunroof, Navigation (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6M), 2.5L PZEV 2dr Hatchback w/Convenience, Sunroof (2.5L 5cyl 6A), 2.5L 4dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl 6A), 2.5L PZEV 2dr Hatchback w/Convenience, Sunroof (2.5L 5cyl 5M), 2.0L TDI 2dr Hatchback w/Sunroof, Navigation (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6M), 2.5L 2dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl 5M), 2.0L TDI 2dr Hatchback w/Sunroof, Navigation (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6AM), 2.5L 2dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl 6A), 2.5L 4dr Hatchback w/Convenience (2.5L 5cyl 6A), 2.5L 2dr Hatchback w/Convenience (2.5L 5cyl 5M), 2.0L TDI 2dr Hatchback w/Tech Package (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6M), 2.5L 2dr Hatchback w/Convenience, Sunroof (2.5L 5cyl 6A), 2.5L 4dr Hatchback w/Convenience, Sunroof (2.5L 5cyl 6A), 2.5L 2dr Hatchback w/Convenience (2.5L 5cyl 6A), 2.5L 2dr Hatchback w/Convenience, Sunroof (2.5L 5cyl 5M), and 2.0L TDI 2dr Hatchback w/Tech Package (2.0L 4cyl Turbodiesel 6AM). Pre-owned Volkswagen Golf models are available with a 2.5 L-liter gas engine or a 2.0 L-liter diesel engine, with output up to 170 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2012 Volkswagen Golf comes with front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 6-speed shiftable automatic, 6-speed manual, 6-speed automated manual. The Used 2012 Volkswagen Golf comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.

What's a good price on a Used 2012 Volkswagen Golf?

Price comparisons for Used 2012 Volkswagen Golf trim styles:

  • The Used 2012 Volkswagen Golf 2.0L TDI is priced between $8,000 and$9,495 with odometer readings between 182144 and187332 miles.

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 2012 Volkswagen Golfs are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2012 Volkswagen Golf for sale near. There are currently 2 used and CPO 2012 Golfs listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $8,000 and mileage as low as 182144 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2012 Volkswagen Golf.

Can't find a used 2012 Volkswagen Golfs you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Volkswagen Golf for sale - 5 great deals out of 20 listings starting at $15,516.

Find a used Volkswagen for sale - 1 great deals out of 22 listings starting at $15,023.

Find a used certified pre-owned Volkswagen Golf for sale - 4 great deals out of 9 listings starting at $21,201.

Find a used certified pre-owned Volkswagen for sale - 7 great deals out of 9 listings starting at $23,297.

Should I lease or buy a 2012 Volkswagen Golf?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Volkswagen lease specials
Check out Volkswagen Golf lease specials