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2015 Volkswagen TSI Road Test by Bob Plunkett

2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI Road Test Review

By Bob Plunkett

We're following the serpentine Skyline Boulevard that slithers along California's Coastal Range down to Santa Cruz on the Pacific Ocean to sample the sporty handling and turbo-charged torque power of Volkswagen's new zip-about 2015 Golf TDI 5-door.

This latest treatment for the world's best-selling automobile represents the seventh generation of Golf in a larger and lighter and more fuel-efficient package that's still sized for the compact class.

Volkswagen actually builds the 2015 Golf in two versions -- a limited-production 3-door launch edition and the primary-production 5-door model.

And for the 5-door there are two turbo-charged 4-in-line engine choices -- a 1.8-liter TSI gasoline burner and a 2.0-liter TDI that sips "clean" diesel fuel.

All 2015 Golf issues employ Volkswagen's MQB (meaning "Modularer Querbaukasten" in German or "Modular Transverse Matrix" in English) uniform platform. The rigid structure expands by 2.1 inches in length and half an inch in width over the predecessor Golf and the roof is lower by 1.1 inches. These expansions create more room in the 2+3-seat passenger compartment and add more stow space -- 16.5 cubic feet available with rear seatbacks raised or a vast 52.7 cubic feet with rear seatbacks folded.

The new structure is a strong unibody framework that's incredibly stiff to resist torsional twisting when set to motion and forms a bedrock foundation to carry suspension and powertrain components.

Romp across pavement tar bumps and the independent suspension dribbles the all-season tires (offered in sizes from 15-to-18 inches) in exacting up-down motions which mimic the taut ride quality of a sporty car.

In front, a strut-type arrangement with lower control arms and telescopic shock dampers manages to negate that annoying wheel-jerking torque steer effect prevalent in the usual front-wheel-drive (FWD) vehicle.

In back, a multi-link design also with telescopic dampers and 22-mm anti-roll bar checks excess body roll.

The rack and pinion steering system gets electric power assistance, which contributes to the efficiency of Golf's engines.

Brakes on the 2015 Golf models consist of large discs tied to smart electronic controls. The equipment includes an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake pressure distribution and VW's electronic stability control (ESC) device. Two top trim versions also list an optional Driver Assistance Package with Forward Collision Warning and front/rear Park Distance Control systems.

Golf TSI for 2015 scores a new gasoline-powered 4-in-line turbo-charged and inter-cooled engine, which displaces 1.8 liters with DOHC (double-overhead cam) and 16 valves. Power numbers tally to 170 hp at 4500 rpm with torque rising to 200 lb-ft at only 1600 rpm.

A 5-speed manual transmission or electronically controlled 6-speed automatic links to the TSI plant and EPA-estimated fuel economy figures climb to 26-mpg city and 37-mpg highway using the manual shifter or 26/36-mpg (city/highway) with the automatic.

Golf TDI totes a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that burns ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel and employs a common-rail direct injection (CDI) fuel system with electronically controlled turbo-charging to enhance engine power and torque. It feels vigorous and acts quickly, drawing on the full force of the engine's production of 150 hp peaking at 3500 rpm plus 236 lb-ft of torque at 1750 rpm.

The TDI engine offers a 6-speed manual or 6-speed auto shifter, and fuel economy numbers rise to 31/42 mpg (city/highway) for the manual.

Both Golf TSI and TDI versions list three levels of trim: Entry-issue S, well-equipped SE and top-drawer SEL. Base S models provide cloth seat upholstery with manual lumbar adjustment, power controls for windows and door locks, air conditioning, a touchscreen infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity, a media device interface (MDI) with iPod integration and Sirius XM Satellite Radio.

Golf S TSI rolls on 15-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with 195/65R15 all season tires. Golf S TDI scores larger 16-inch aluminum-alloy rims with 205/55R16 tires. The TSI SE and TDI SE models upgrade to 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with 225/45R17 tires, while TSI SEL and TDI SEL editions go to 18-inch alloy rollers with 225/40R18 all-season rubber.

VW MSRP figures for the 2015 Golf begin below $19,000.