2012 Volkswagen Golf Walk Around

This is the sixth-generation Golf, launched as a 2010 model. Over the years, body proportions have remained stoically the same, making the Golf instantly recognizable.

The stylists did a good job of giving the C pillar (the body panel behind the rearmost side window) a consistent shape and proportion on the 2 door and 4 door body styles, given the reality of both cars sharing the same wheelbase and being equal in overall length. A clearly defined character line tracks rearward from the top of the front fender blister all the way to the upper taillight element, giving the rear fenders a hint of a shoulder. Wheelwells encircle the tires leaving the barest of gaps, visually pulling the car down onto the pavement. Minimalist door handles are snug for hands wearing anything larger than medium size gloves. Gaps between body panels are pencil thin, which suggest high-quality construction.

Taillight housings mirror the ovoid shape of the headlights, boosting the rear fenders' shoulder look the aforementioned side body panel character line establishes. The wraparound rear window glass fills the top of the lift gate. A large, round VW logo parked in the middle between the taillights doubles as the lever for opening the liftgate.

The TDI is distinguished from the 2.5-liter gas model by an eponymous chrome logo beneath the right taillight, balancing the chrome Golf badge both cars wear below the left taillight.

The Golf R has several distinct features. The front end has a more aggressive look, with large air intakes at each corner that house LED daytime running lights, and a gloss-black radiator grille. Along the sides, there are sportier rocker panel moldings and gloss-black-painted brake calipers that peek through the unique five-spoke 18-inch wheels. The rear features a center-mounted chrome twin tailpipe and a racing-style gloss black diffuser.


Inside, the Volkswagen Golf shows a Teutonic dedication to austere functionality. Brightwork is confined to touches on steering wheel spokes, around air registers, door handles and tasteful outlines on various knobs and the shifter. Textures give good touch. In fact, the older Golf features more soft-touch surfaces and a generally higher interior quality than its newer cousin, the Jetta. A contrasting silver ish strip separates top and bottom dash sections and dresses the uppermost element of the door trim panels. Completing the Bauhaus-ian theme is the cloth upholstery, to which the base Golfs offer no option.

The Golf feels roomier than it looks, and it is, actually. Passenger space equals or is at least competitive with the other major players in its niche, including the Ford Focus hatchback, Mazda3 hatchback and Kia Forte hatch. The Golf trails those vehicles in cargo space, though, as it is considerably shorter than all of them. Still, the Golf comes with both a 60/40 folding rear seat and a standard rear passthrough to allow multiple cargo and passenger configurations.

The front seats are comfortable. Getting in and out of the car is easy, in spite of sporty seat bolstering. That bolstering is welcome when exploring the Golf's relatively high handling limits, as is the grippy cloth upholstery. The eight way adjustable driver's seat works well with the tilt and telescope steering wheel to allow all but the tallest and the most stout drivers a nearly perfect triangulation with steering wheel, pedals and shift lever. Even the front seat passenger gets eight way adjustability for the seat.

The Golf R has sportier, grippier seats with more bolstering and leather seating surfaces. The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels good in the driver's hands, and the metal pedals add a sporty flair. The Golf R interior has a racing-inspired flat-bottom steering wheel, leather upholstery with R logos, a unique shifter knob, and special door sill plates.

In all models, the air conditioning and sound system controls are comfortably basic in shape, size and duty. Knobs and buttons handle the essential operations.

We especially like the navigation system, finding the fonts and colors to be the most attractive on the market. Selections permitted by the navigation system's touchscreen while the car is in motion appear in large, finger friendly, virtual buttons. These controls require only a glance by the driver to identify their assigned duties and then can be manipulated in the driver's peripheral field of vision. Or better yet, the passenger can press them.

Outward visibility is excellent, unimpeded except for the large C-pillars (the rearmost roof supports).

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