2012 Volkswagen Golf TDI wagon
2012 Volkswagen Golf TDI wagon; photo by Haney Louka. Click image to enlarge

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Volkswagen Canada

By Haney Louka

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2012 Volkswagen Golf

We finally did it. Our beloved 2004 Mazda 6 Wagon is now in the hands of new owners, and our garage has a new permanent resident: a 2012 VW Golf Wagon TDI.

It took some time, but after a year of driving several crossover vehicles like the Toyota Venza, Subaru Outback, Ford Edge, and Mazda CX-7 (which came in a close second, by the way), we decided what we really wanted was a wagon. That goes against the grain of what most new vehicle shoppers look for – all-wheel drive and a higher seating position might top their lists – my wife Kirsten and I actually prefer something known as a ‘car’ which is only as big as it needs to be to do what is asked of it.

And to that end, there are precious few wagons remaining on the market. While I happily priced out a manual-equipped Mazda6 wagon with a diesel engine on Mazda’s UK site, the costs related to shipping it home and converting it to left-hand drive would have pushed it well beyond our budget.

2012 Volkswagen Golf TDI wagon
2012 Volkswagen Golf TDI wagon
2012 Volkswagen Golf TDI wagon; photos by Haney Louka. Click image to enlarge

But the Golf has grown in this latest generation and in Wagon form finds itself within spitting distance of providing the kind of space we’ve been used to with the Mazda. The 6 wagon had 953 litres of cargo volume behind the rear bench and 1,713 litres with the seat folded, and the Golf answers with 930 litres and 1,890 litres respectively. To put this in perspective, VW’s own Tiguan crossover can hold 700 litres and 1,600 litres, and the runner-up Mazda CX-7, though larger on the outside, holds 848 litres and 1,658 litres of cargo.

It was some time before we seriously considered the Golf, mostly because I have had the luxury of getting various press cars literally dropped off at my door for a week-long test drive, and the Golf Wagon TDI hasn’t been one of them. In fact, Volkswagen is having trouble keeping up with consumer demand on these vehicles, so we don’t expect to see any in the press fleet in the foreseeable future. That’s a good problem to have, though I’m sure dealers would be happy to have a bit more inventory on hand.

But I’m familiar with the 2.0-litre TDI (for turbocharged direct-injection) diesel engine under the hood of this Highline model (it’s also available on the mid-level Comfortline) because it has been a staple in VW’s car offerings since 2009. Clean, powerful, and efficient, it possesses none of the smell or smoke of diesel engines of yore. And while the diesel clatter has all but been eliminated, it does make an appearance if you roll down your windows and listen after a cold start.

2012 Volkswagen Golf TDI wagon
2012 Volkswagen Golf TDI wagon; photo by Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge

The diesel produces a middling 140 hp, which seems light compared to the 220-hp V6 that was in our last car. But what drivers feel in everyday driving at lower engine revs is torque, and the TDI serves up a heady 236 lb.-ft. of it between 1,750 and 2,500 rpm. In comparison, the Mazda V6 generated 192 lb.-ft. and needed 5,000 revs on the tach to realize its full potential. So while manufacturers routinely boast about horsepower output, just know that while those numbers will help zero-to-100 km/h and quarter mile times, they’re rarely felt out in the real world. To Kirsten, the TDI feels every bit as powerful around town (if not quite as smooth) as our Mazda.

The TDI engine is mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, another big reason that we chose the VW over larger crossovers. To date an automatic-equipped car has never found residence in our garage, and we’re happy to continue that tradition. Even though the shift throws are a bit long, this is a slick unit that’s well matched to the clutch. We both stalled it the first couple of times we drove it as we got used to the diesel’s throttle response, but since then it has been a joy.

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