Weidel on Wheels: The Golf is back and better than ever

Compact hatchback is fun to drive and gets solid fuel mileage
By: Jeffrey Weidel
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In the somewhat fickle car industry, the naming process can apparently mean a lot. Some companies present essentially the same vehicle, yet change the name, hoping not too many people notice this little marketing ploy that results in a “new car,” usually in an old, familiar body. A lot of automobile companies are guilty of playing that game. A good example is the 2010 Volkswagen Golf. This compact hatchback was known as the Rabbit from 2006 to 2009. The folks at VW were trying to capture an American market that knew the Rabbit as a solid Volkswagen product a few decades ago. The name did nothing for sales, so the Rabbit is gone for 2010 and the Golf has returned after sitting on the sidelines since 2005. Confused about the name switch? Don’t worry about it. All you really need to know is the Golf is back and frankly it’s better than ever. The front-wheel drive Golf is an eye-appealing hatchback that offers solid performance and is fun to drive. The downside is the price ($17,490) is higher than many rivals, yet VW feels you get what you pay for, so the company apparently isn’t too concerned with sticker shock. Looking visually different than the Rabbit, the Golf has a new headlight design, a wider grille, and a restyled lower bumper. The taillights look like a near copy-cat of the Touareg, a Volkswagen sport utility vehicle. The Golf exterior is a visual improvement and the interior adds a few new wrinkles, but didn’t have to do too much because the Rabbit already had a great interior for this class. There’s a lot to like inside – soft-touch materials, solid stereo and climate control, new center console panel, gauges and other finely constructed items. The sixth-generation Golf offers both economy and performance. The 22 to 30 miles per gallon will stretch the distance one can go on a tank of gas. And the engine, a 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower, puts out plenty of pep and performs admirably in freeway situations and takes the hills fine as well. For a compact, the Golf provides a confident ride, mastering demanding turns, offering good steering feedback, while being pretty darn quiet in the process. Not that the Golf stands alone among its competitors, but it does stand out, rivaling the heralded Mazda 3, another hatchback that offers similar performance. The Golf is fairly typical of many compacts and does feel cramped at times, especially for backseat occupants. Yet it provides many convenient storage spaces and the cargo area is above average. __________ 2010 Volkswagen Golf Price: $17,490 Mileage estimate: 22 mpg city; 30 mpg highway Power: 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine with 170 horsepower Standard features include: Anti-lock disc brakes; stability control; eight-way-adjustable front seats; brake assist; tire-pressure monitor; daytime running lights; tilt/telescopic steering wheel; split folding rear; power windows, locks, mirrors; keyless entry; CD/MP3 player digital-media player connection; outside-temperature indicator; rear defogger