2012 Volkswagen Golf Review
2012 Volkswagen Golf Review
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Edmunds' Expert Review
by the Edmunds Experts
- 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.
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.
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.
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Cost to DriveCost to drive estimates for the 2012 Volkswagen Golf 2.5L PZEV 2dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl 5M) and comparison vehicles are based on 15,000 miles per year (with a mix of 55% city and 45% highway driving) and energy estimates of $3.12 per gallon for regular unleaded in Virginia.
Monthly estimates based on costs in Virginia
$142/mo for Golf 2.5L PZEV
Golf 2.5L PZEV
Avg. Compact Car
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.
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.
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.
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful consumer reviews
4.75 out of 5 stars
happy so far
2012 Volkswagen Golf 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
2012 Volkswagen Golf 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
2012 Volkswagen Golf 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.
5 out of 5 stars
Great Car...but it's like an iPhone
2012 Volkswagen Golf 2.5L 2dr Hatchback (2.5L 5cyl 6A)
I was torn between a Golf and the Ford Focus. Ultimately, the interior detail and materials sold me on the Golf. It looks like an Audi on the inside (especially at night!). My cloth seats are comfortable and ergonomically correct. I can fit 4 adults in the car without it feeling cramped. Currently getting approx 315 miles per tank. It's really a quality vehicle. The only downside is that … my service light has come twice in the past year that I've owned it. The computer on the vehicle needed an update. Although the updates are free at VW, its time consuming and annoying. Service guy told me its like owning an iphone and there's no warning when you might get the light.
2012 Golf Highlights
|Combined MPG||26 MPG|
|Cost to Drive||$142/month|
|Cargo Capacity |
All Seats In Place
|Drivetrain||front wheel drive|
|Warranty||3 years / 36,000 miles|