2009 Volkswagen City Golf
2009 Volkswagen City Golf. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2009 Volkswagen City Golf/Jetta

Oshawa, Ontario – There’s far more that separates us from our neighbours to the south than just maple syrup. Canadians buy many more compact cars, far more hatchbacks, and are much more likely to look at inexpensive trim lines.

That created a problem for Volkswagen when it replaced the Golf for 2007 with the Rabbit. Not only was the new model pricier, but emissions standards had brought an end to the diesel-powered Golf TDI that had been extremely popular with Canadians. The company came up with a solution for Canada: it continued to import the last-generation Golf, which it prefaced with the name “City,” and which became the company’s entry-level vehicle, slipped into the lineup below the Rabbit. It did the same with the Jetta, with dealers selling both the City Jetta and the new, redesigned Jetta. It was also a uniquely Canadian sales tactic, as the City models were never offered in the United States.

2009 Volkswagen City Golf
2009 Volkswagen City Golf. Click image to enlarge

They’ve both soldiered on for 2009, but you’d better hurry if you want one. The City Jetta is in its final year, while the City Golf will end after the 2010 model year. An all-new Golf is coming down the pipe, hip-hopping again with its name. The little hatchback started in North America as the Rabbit, switched to the European name (which is a German variation on “gulfstream,” not for the game), again became the Rabbit, and will be the Golf for 2010.

The City Golf comes in a single trim line, solely as a four-door hatchback, and starts at $15,300. That gets you a five-speed manual transmission; a six-speed automatic adds another $1,400, and it comes with both a “Sport” setting that holds the gears out longer than in “Drive,” along with a manual shift mode. The sole engine choice is a naturally-aspirated, 2.0-litre, SOHC four-cylinder gasoline engine that’s now reserved solely for the City series (the Rabbit uses a 2.5-litre). The diesel that was available in the old Golf isn’t offered in the City Golf. The 2.0-litre’s 115 horsepower doesn’t sound like much, but its 122 lb-ft of torque gives it a peppy feel. It’s noisy and rough, though, and the transmission in my tester lurched heavily on frosty mornings when the unit was cold. Against a published rate of 9.9 L/100 km in the city and 6.9 on the highway for the automatic, I averaged 10.4 L/100 km in cold weather.

2009 Volkswagen City Golf
2009 Volkswagen City Golf
2009 Volkswagen City Golf. Click image to enlarge

But the lack of engine sophistication is more than balanced by the ride and handling, which is first-rate even given the relative age of the design. My rural roads took a real beating this winter, but despite the asphalt mountains and deep potholes, the City Golf’s suspension never crashed or banged over them. Steering is quick and accurate, and the ride and handling makes it feel like a far more expensive car. On the highway, the little hatchback feels well-planted and stable, with good heft and straight on-centre feel that doesn’t require constant correction. Four-wheel discs are standard, and bring everything to a halt quickly; anti-lock brakes are also standard equipment. The turning radius is tight, and it’s simple to back or nose it into the tightest of parking spaces.

Save for the standard ABS, the City Golf is fairly basic when it comes to features: manual remote mirrors, manual locks, wind-up windows, and 15-inch steel wheels, although the wipers are of the variable intermittent variety (fixed intermittent on the rear one), and the CD player includes both an auxiliary jack and USB port for music players. Stand-alone options include air conditioning, at $1,350; electronic stability control, at $450, which adds brake assist; side airbags for $160; curtain airbags for $410; and a power sunroof, at $1,200. All else comes bundled. A Comfort Package, at $1,175, adds 15-inch alloy wheels, alarm system, cruise control, heated power mirrors, power locks with keyless entry, power windows, and a remote trunk and fuel door release, while a Cold Weather Package, at $275, adds heated front seats and washer nozzles. (The seat heaters have five settings, and get up to serious sizzle at the top end.) The model also carries Volkswagen’s standard warranty package of 4 years/80,000 km on almost everything, plus 5 years/100,000 on powertrain.

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