Buying used: 2011 Volkswagen Golf is a treat to drive

The 2011 hatchback had a 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine, which made it kind of a hot rod

2011 Volkswagen Golf
Few of its competitors could match the gusto of the completely redesigned ’11 Volkswagen Golf

Ted LaturnusThe Volkswagen Golf was completely restyled and redesigned in 2010 and little changed in 2011.

The 2011 hatchback came in three and five-door variations and was propelled by a 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine, which made it kind of a hot rod.

With some 170 horsepower pushing a 1,376-kg body, the three-door version with a manual gearbox, for example, could hustle from zero to 100 km/h in about eight seconds. Few of its competitors could match that.

There was also a TDI version with a turbo-diesel engine, as well as a station wagon and lively GTI sport hatchback. But these three were different animals, with distinct driving characteristics and unique engineering.

And just to complicate things further in Canada, Volkswagen also sold the City Golf, which was essentially the former generation, featuring a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and a significantly lower price tag.

You could get the garden-variety hatchback in three trim levels: Trendline, Sportline and Highline. The Highline was only offered with the five-door version. Differences included bigger wheels and tires, a power sunroof, different seats, tighter suspension, heated front seats, and various other odds and sods. Base transmission was a five-speed manual and you could also get a six-speed automatic.

Click here to downloadThe standard equipment level was decent. You got items such as cruise control, air conditioning, remote central locking and power adjustable mirrors. Heated front seats and heated windshield nozzles were also available but weren’t standard.

One of the things that separated the Golf from its competitors was that it had an almost upscale feel. Aside from a little engine growl, it was arguably the quietest hatchback on the market with minimal noise, vibration and harshness, tasteful interior trim, full instrumentation and sensible ergonomics.

Fold down the 60/40 backseat and you got 1,310 litres of storage space, which compared favourably with models such as the Mazda3 and Toyota Matrix.

The five-cylinder Golf was a little shy on fuel economy. The three-door with the five-speed manual was rated at 10.4 litres per 100 km in town by Natural Resources Canada and 7.0 on the highway. These numbers were below just about every other competitor at this end of the market. The City Golf was slightly better.

There are two safety recalls from Transport Canada to report. One concerned the TDI version, which could have fuel line issues, and the other affected all five-cylinder models, also involving the fuel supply. In this case, a plastic tab on the windshield washer fluid reservoir could chafe against the fuel line and cause it to leak, possibly resulting in a fire.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had 25 technical service bulletins for this generation of the Golf. These included possible timing chain slippage, low fuel pressure resulting in problems starting, fine snow getting into the heating and ventilation system, total engine failure and issues with the automatic gearbox experiencing “delay” before the vehicle gets underway.

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Consumer Reports was kind of schizophrenic about the 2011 Golf. On the one hand, it liked its crisp handling and ride quality and agreed that it’s fun to drive. On the other hand, CR acknowledged that the Golf  has “a long history of iffy reliability.” It scored well in most areas but only rated an “average” reliability rating.

Some comments to CR from owners:

  • “a blast to drive”;
  • “high quality throughout”;
  • “at idle I am barely aware it’s running.”

A 2011 Golf seems to be going from about $6,000 to $10,000, depending on options and trim level. The base three-door Trendline, for example, is in the $6,000-to-$8,000 neighbourhood, while the top-end five-door Highline is approaching $10,000. The three-door seems to be going for slightly less than the five-door.

2011 Volkswagen Golf

Original base price: $19,999
Engine: 2.5-litre five-cylinder
Horsepower: 170
Torque: 177 foot pounds
Transmission: Five-speed manual or six-speed automatic with Tiptronic manual shift
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.4 city and 7.0 highway, with manual transmission and regular gas
Some alternatives: Mazda3, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Toyota Matrix, Kia Rondo, Volkswagen City Golf, Nissan Versa

Ted Laturnus has been an automotive journalist since 1976. He was named Canadian Automobile Journalist of the Year twice and is past president of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). For interview requests, click here.


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