• ROAD TEST by Mary Lowry
  • Monday, December 28, 2009 1:24pm
  • Vehicles

Volkswagen’s irresistible Golf compact is now in its sixth generation — better looking and more refined than ever.

The biggest news for 2010 is the Golf TDI model, powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder TDI (turbocharged direct injection) 50-state-compliant clean diesel engine. It generates 140 horsepower, along with torque of death: 236 lb-ft between 1,750 and 2,500 rpm. What it doesn’t generate is any of the noise or stink of yesterday’s diesels. And the fuel economy rating is a heartwarming 30 mpg city, 41 highway.

This powerhouse can be paired with a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed DSG (direct shift gearbox) automatic with Tiptronic manual shift capability.

The front-engine, front-wheel-drive Golf TDI is available in two-door or four-door versions, with a rear hatch.

My tester was a four-door, wickedly dressed in black with a Titan Black interior. It had the manual transmission and three optional features: touchscreen navigation system, $1,750; Cold Weather Package (heated front seats and washer nozzles), $225; and Bluetooth connectivity, $199.

Electronic stability program, anti-slip regulation, anti-lock brakes, fog lamps, and side curtain front and rear airbags are standard.

All my must-haves are included on the list of standard comfort and convenience features: power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, air conditioning, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, outside temperature display, and an audio system with CD changer and steering-wheel-mounted controls. An iPod adapter and Sirius satellite radio are also standard.

The only thing I wished for on the tester, other than that the car were mine, was a sunroof. VW offers one on the Golf TDI as a stand-alone option.

The four-door hatchback has seating for five with a rear cargo area that looks uselessly small from the outside but is actually quite large. It’s completely hidden from view by a cover that’s attached to the rear door and lifts when the door is lifted.

To open that rear door, by the way, you push on the big VW logo, which then acts like a handle. If someone, hypothetically me, didn’t know that, they would spend a lot of time figuring out how to get the hatch open. Once discovered, the logo handle is really fun — and so VW.

Golf’s new interior is snazzy and sophisticated, with an updated three-spoke steering wheel, and brushed metallic-look trim on the dash, door panels, gauges and center console. The cloth upholstery is of such high quality it feels bulletproof. The sport front seats have German-style solid comfort and plenty of side bolstering — essential for keeping occupants in place as the car confidently whips around tight curves. Also German-style is the liberal amount of head room and leg room.

I just realized I never tried the navigation system. Sorry. Must have been too preoccupied with the TDI’s wonderful manual gearbox and superlative performance and handling — to the point of not caring where I was going — to think about navigation.

The TDI tester averaged 35 mpg during the test week. After 348 miles, its 14.5-gallon fuel tank was registering a little below half full.