Road Test: 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SE

Road Test: 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SE

A Not-So-Small Compact

So you’re car shopping and your “Must Have” list includes a not-so-small car that is comfortable to drive, handles great, can haul a respectable amount of your stuff, comfortably carry a couple of adults in the back seat and gets excellent fuel economy. Oh, and it all has to cost under $30,000.

Stop shopping—the 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI just might be what you are looking for.

Driving Experience: On the Road

2015, VW,Volkswagen,TDI,clean diesel,mpg,fuel economy

A Go-machine

The 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI is the sibling to the recently reviewed 2015 Golf SportsWagen TDI and is part of the robust line of clean diesel cars offered by Volkswagen, which includes the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, Beetle, Passat and Toureg. TDI is the Volkswagen Group (which includes Audi among other brands) designation for its turbocharged diesel vehicles. TDI stands for turbocharged direct injection.

The 2015 Golf TDI shares Volkswagen’s all-new 2.0-Liter turbocharged and intercooled clean diesel engine, known internally at VW as the EA288, putting out 150 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. The torque kicks-in at a low 1,750 rpm and pulls strongly in all gears at all speeds. Our test car was mated to a slick-shifting six-speed manual transmission with fuel economy for the low sulfur diesel rated at 30 city/45 highway/36 combined. The city rating is one mpg more and the highway rating is two mpg less for the six-speed DSG automatic transmission. In 296 miles of driving throughout Southern California I averaged 43.3 mpg with a ratio of 80-percent highway/20-percent city driving. With a lighter right foot I could have easily surpassed 45 mpg for the combined fuel economy.

The six-speed manual has short throws, a light and smooth clutch and the gears are easy to find without any grinding or hunting. For the hyper milers, there is an Upshift indicator in the speedometer cluster; if you follow it, the fun of driving this car is reduced significantly, but, of course, you will maximize the fuel economy, especially when the light wants you to be in 6th gear at 45 mph. The true economy comes at freeway speeds in 6th gear, which at 70 mph has the tachometer is reading about 2,000 rpm.

2015 Volkswagen,Golf TDI,clean diesel,fuel economy, manual,mpg

The source of fun

So what kind of fun can you have in the TDI with a manual? When asked this car delivers instant, fast, push-you-back-in-your-seat torque that brings a big smile to your face. The torque is smooth at any speed and delivers exactly as expected when in the lower gears. Where you will really appreciate the pull of the TDI engine is at highway speeds, for example, when traveling at 65 mph and needing to briefly get to 75 mph+ for passing. With the six-speed manual you leave it in 6th, tromp the accelerator, and the car without any effort gets you where you want to be. It is such a wonderful feeling that you will find yourself on open stretches of road doing it just for the fun of it.

Volkswagen’s new-for-2015 EA288 TDI engine is a pleasure to drive. In my reviews of the 2013 Jetta TDI and 2014 Jetta TDI, I was impressed with those car’s earlier version of VW’s 2.0L TDI engine that “only” produced 140 hp. With their new engine, Volkswagen has raised the bar in clean diesel engine design and technology, which will only challenge competitors to up their game, too.

The Driving Experience

The 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI is quiet and smooth, with a sure-footed driving experience. The SE model I was driving had 17-inch alloy wheels and Continental ProContact All-season tires, which

2015 Volkswagen, VW Golf, TDI SE,fuel economy,mpg,clean diesel

Not a passing fad

gripped well. Precise handling, with only the slightest push if I powered through a corner, came via the strut-type front suspension with coil springs and the multi-link, coil springs and anti-roll bar on the rear. Volkswagen makes a very sporty version of the Golf, the GTI, that is an absolute rocketship and handles like a slot car. The Golf TDI Clean Fleet Report was driving handled flat and nimble, so one can only imagine how the GTI performs.

Road feel was excellent with speed-variable, electric-mechanical power-assist steering that thankfully was not programmed to take away the fun of driving. Body roll was almost non-existent, even when pushed above recommended corner speed limits, and highway 70+ mph cruising was solid and confident. We can only imagine how the 18-inch wheels on the SEL model would make the driving experience even better.

Of course, a good handling car is nothing without good brakes. The Golf TDI comes standard with ABS (Anti-lock Braking System), power-assisted vented front and solid rear discs. A good test for brakes is downhill mountain roads, with constant turning, where the brake load is applied on straight, right and left-hand corners. I experienced no fade with instant response when braking through such corners. On the flats, the stops were straight, true and consistent.

Driving Experience: Interior

2015, VW Golf, Volkswagen TDI, clean diesel, mpg, fuel economy

German style–finished in Mexico

Assembled in Pueblo, Mexico, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI comes in three trim levels: S, SE and SEL. Clean Fleet Report was driving the SE model, which has an updated interior for 2015 featuring a clean fit and finish that was German tight with a good mix of soft and hard plastics. The simple layout of all gauges was uncomplicated by fake woods, plastic chrome pieces or other design gimmicks — which often can be found on other cars. Volkswagen says their “driver centric design focus” begins with the new center stack for 2015, which is angled towards the driver. Up until recently this has been a design feature only appearing on premium, luxury or performance vehicles, but it is now making its way into many interiors. The white backlighting for the dash gauges also added a premium element.

The light beige, heated, V-tex leatherette front seats have better-than-average bolstering and include a manual height-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar adjustment. There was a good choice of seat settings so that, combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, a comfortable position could be found, making long drives a breeze. The front seats are separated by a center console that has a height-adjustable armrest and storage area. Head, leg, elbow and shoulder room was accommodating, even for 6’+ drivers and passengers. The trunk space is more than can be found on the largest midsize sedan. If only the driver and front seat passenger are on a long weekender, the rear seat, with a ski pass-through opening, has a very handy system for lowering the 60/40 split seatback, providing 52.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity — large enough for a full-size bicycle. When visiting your VW dealer, take the time to configure the seats to see the options and spaciousness of the interior for sitting or storage.

Taking center stage of the dash is the capacitive and proximity sensor 5.8-inch color touchscreen that handles the rear view camera and navigation. Capacitive technology is similar to what is

2015 VW, Volkswagen Golf TDI,clean diesel,mpg, fuel economy

Comfort in psuedo-leather

found on smartphones and tablets and allows for functions such as swiping and pinch-zooming. While all this modern touchscreen technology is nice, Clean Fleet Report is a big fan of knobs and switches for the radio and climate controls. VW does a nice job of making it easy to operate the radio and single zone HVAC system with the turn of a few knobs. The dash design is two-toned beige and black, with accents of chrome, aluminum and piano-black finishes, accompanied by a leather-wrapped gearshift knob and hand brake handle.

The centerpiece of the infotainment system is the eight-speaker, with subwoofer, Fender premium sound system. This well-balanced system delivers deep, full crisp tones for the AM/FM radio/CD/MP3 player. Also part of the infotainment system is SiriusXM (a must for those long, fuel-efficient road trips), Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music and VW’s Media Device Interface, or MDI, which includes a SD card slot. Volkswagen still does not offer USB technology, but Clean Fleet Report was promised it is coming soon.

Other conveniences are a power tilting and sliding panoramic sunroof, power windows with one touch operation and pinch protection, keyless access, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, power adjustable and manual folding heated exterior mirrors, automatic rain-sensing variable intermittent front windshield wipers with heated washer nozzles, multi-function car analytics and trip computer display, multiple power ports, front and rear reading lights and front and rear carpeted floor mats. Standard on all Golf trim levels is Volkswagen’s VW CarNet connected car technology that provides a seamless link between the car and an iPhone, Android smartphone or computer, or as Volkswagen says it “keeps you connected with your car even when you’re apart.” It comes as a full feature introductory trial, with subscription available.

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Golf TDI exterior has been refreshed for 2015, beginning with the recognizable steeply sloped hood. The overall length and width for 2015 have been increased while the height has been

2015 Golf, VW, Volkswagen, TDI, clean diesel, mpg,fuel economy

An adult space in the rear

reduced slightly. The front end leads off with a narrow grill and sleek headlights on the outer edges that begin the character line leading to the horizontal tail lamps. The roof is dominated visually (when opened), by the sunroof, the shark fin antenna and the integrated spoiler. This overall design is built on the MQB (Modular Transverse Matrix) architecture and has a “cab backward” look that gives it a lower visual center of gravity.  All this has reduced aerodynamic drag to .029, the same as the 2015 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta. The rear window is large, providing excellent sightlines.

Safety and Convenience

All 2015 Volkswagen Golfs come with six airbags, Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) and Intelligent Crash Response System (ICRS). Our Golf TDI SE also had Automatic Headlights and Daytime Running Lights, front fog lights, and Rear Parking Distance Control sensors.  Additional safety features, available on the SE and SEL trim levels, include driver assistance systems and the lighting package.

Pricing and Warranties

2015 Volkswagen, VW Golf TDI,clean diesel,mpg, fuel economy

A secret passage

2015 Golf TDI Pricing, NOT including the $820 Destination Charge.

S with Manual                                    $22,345

S with Automatic                               $23,445

SE with Manual                                 $25,895

SE with Automatic                            $26,995

SEL with Manual                              $28,395

SEL with Automatic                         $29,495

All 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI models come with these warranties:

  • Basic: Three-year/36,000-mile
  • Powertrain: Five-year/60,000-mile
  • Free scheduled maintenance: One-year/12,000-mile
  • Roadside assistance: Three-year/36,000-mile
  • Corrosion perforation: 12-year/Unlimited


Volkswagen has 75-percent of the diesel passenger vehicle sales in the USA and is #1 in sales versus diesel competitors, with little on the horizon to knock VW off that perch. Therefore, you can purchase a VW TDI-powered car (Beetle, Golf, Jetta, Passat and Touareg) with confidence of its many years and millions of real-world miles of proven clean diesel technology.

Observations: 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SE

The seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf continues the long heritage of a fun, nimble compact car being a favorite of drivers worldwide. The clean diesel models take this car one step further by

2015, VW Golf, Volkswagen TDI, clean diesel,fuel economy,mpg

All systems go(lf)

delivering stellar fuel economy. Clean Fleet Report has now tested most of the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Volkswagen TDI offerings and easily place them in the top of all the cars and SUVs we have driven. They are smooth, quiet, powerful and get excellent fuel economy against their class competition.

Being a leader in clean diesel technology is not the end of Volkswagen’s environmental and sustainability efforts. Volkswagen is an active partner with The Conservation Fund in the reclamation and preservation of redwood forests, specifically the Garcia River Forest in Northern California’s Sonoma County. Going even further than this project, Volkswagen has made a commitment across its 12 brands worldwide and 118 production locations on four continents to be the most sustainable automobile manufacturer in the world by the year 2018.

Find a Volkswagen dealer that will let you take the Golf TDI on the open highway, around some mountain twisties and crawl all around the interior experimenting with the seat and storage options. You may find the larger car you have been considering for interior space, or the smaller car for fuel economy will be crossed off your shopping and consideration list.

Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!

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Tesla Tops Another Top 10 Green Cars List

Tesla Tops Another Top 10 Green Cars List

AAA Names Diverse Top 10 Green Cars & Trucks

Another day, another Top 10 Green Car list. While many of these lists might be linkbait for websites scrambling to add eyeballs, some of them stand out as the result of actual testing and measuring. The AAA list just released is one of the latter, focused on real-world capabilities. After all, this the automobile club, dedicated to helping its members travel and keep up their cars; it’s not some non-profit environmental group wishing everyone would walk or bike wherever they need to go (not that there’s anything wrong with optimizing your mode of travel for environmental impact).

So, when the AAA of Southern California says they’ve tested more than 80 models and have a list of the Top 10 Green Cars and Trucks in each category—it’s worth a look. It’s also not surprising that Clean Fleet Report has more to add on almost every vehicle on the list. Here is AAA’s Top 10 (broken between the Top Green Cars and the Top Green Values as well as the greenest cars in some main categories) and our take on the winners with links to our own tests of these vehicles or news stories on them.

Top Scoring Green Cars

  1. 2015 Tesla Model SP85D (electric)
    Bigger, but still an Outback

    Outback=Green AWD


  2. 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL (electric)
  3. 2014 BMW i3 (electric)
  4. 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i PZEV (gasoline)
  5. 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SE (diesel)

Best Value (cost-per-point score)

  1. 2014 Nissan Versa SV (gasoline)
  2. 2014 Nissan Versa Note SV (gasoline)
  3. 2013 Hyundai Accent GLS (gasoline)
  4. 2015 Toyota Yaris LE (gasoline)
  5. 2014 Kia Soul+ (gasoline)

Of course the AAA also correctly separated vehicles into categories (since there isn’t a lot of cross-shopping at Toyota between the Yaris and Tundra, for instance) and came up with these six winners, two-thirds of which were reflected in the Top 5.

2015 AAA Green Car Guide Category Winners

Large car:             2015 Tesla Model S P85D (electric)

Midsize car:        2015 Audi A7 TDI Quattro (diesel)

Compact car:      2015 Volkswagen e-Golf (electric)


2015 Ford F-150 – An Eco truck

Subcompact car:  2014 BMW i3 (electric)

SUV/Minivan:    2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i (gasoline)

Pickup truck:      2015 Ford F-150 Supercab Lariat (gasoline)

So there you have it. If green is all you care about, there are a range of choices led by some great new electric cars. If your pocket book is the green you care about the most (while still wanting to make a green choice), then it looks like gasoline still rules the day in the AAA’s evaluation.  The company has a very basic definition of what makes a car green, one that we at Clean Fleet Report follow as well—a car is green if it burns less fuel than an average gasoline or diesel vehicle and minimizes emissions from burning its fuel (we look at fuel in a global sense from “well-to-wheel” since we all know the electrons it takes to run an electric car create pollution where they’re created unless they’re coming from solar panels or wind power).

In their testing AAA took a holistic view of the car, rating them on not only emissions and fuel economy, but crashworthiness, braking, acceleration, handling, cargo-carrying capacity, ride quality, interior noise, ease of entry and exit, maneuverability, roominess and visibility—a total of 13 categories. Among the 80+ tested were diesels, hybrids, CNG-power vehicles, electrics, plug-in hybrids, flex-fuel vehicles and high-mpg gasoline vehicles.

2015 Toyota Yaris,hatchback, SE

Yaris-a big little eco car

Clean Fleet Report has tested most of the winning vehicles (though not quite as thoroughly since we don’t have a test track and a staff of engineers) and agrees with many of the AAA picks. The Tesla does stand alone among the “green” vehicles on the market right now, but as AAA noted, its price certainly doesn’t make it easy to go green. On the other end of the spectrum, our experience with the Nissan Versa Note and the Toyota Yaris validate the findings—there’s a lot of bang for the buck in those little cars.

Likewise, the Volkswagen e-Golf and BMW i3 are our two favorite “affordable” electric cars, along with the Fiat 500e. Since AAA had to use a standardized metric for cost, they used MSRP (the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price, or the official list price), they weren’t able to show some of the lease deals or discounted sales that would have shifted the cost-per-point score to a much more favorable number. We’re also a sucker for the Golf TDI (or just about any Golf in the new generation) and the TDI on the tail of an Audi puts it at the head of any list we’re drawing up. Similarly, Subarus, including the Outback, have long been our choice among compact

2015 VW,Jetta TDI, badge

A badge of honor

all-wheel drives. We’ve seen the new F-150 and are impressed with the leap that Ford has made with the truck’s technology, but have only had a brief chance to put that knowledge into practice in a test session, so we’ll withhold judgement in the truck category. What we do know from past tests of the Chevy Silverado and drives of the Dodge Ram is—they have some tough competition in the Green Truck category.

The bottom line is, even if we quibble with some of the details of the AAA process and decisions that process leads to, we applaud their willingness to do hands-on testing of vehicles and their approach that looks beyond a simple “green” label based on the type of fuel or propulsion unit for the car. Factoring in the value is another critical step that every smart consumer makes, which is probably why the AAA remains such a valuable resource for some many people.

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Road Test: 2015 Toyota Yaris SE 5-Door

Road Test: 2014 Golf e-Golf

Road Test: 2015 BMW i3

Road Test: 2014 Subaru Outback