Can The 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI Be A Family Car?

2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI.pngOur DIY Mom gets an inside look at one of the most buzz-worthy cars of the season, and ponders its usability for the family.

I want to start this column by thinking critically about the concept of a “family car.” Cars like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are traditionally considered to be family cars — yet the Environmental Protection Agency classifies them as large cars. And if you’ve driven them, you know the EPA’s not kidding. These sedans are big, no two ways about it.

So here’s my question:

Does a car have to be large in order to be suitable for family use?

Certainly, sedans like the Accord and Camry offer distinct advantages relative to cheaper, smaller alternatives like the Civic and Corolla. But what if there were a car that combined the refinement and versatility of a large car with the manageable dimensions of a small one? I drove the 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI recently, and as both a mom and a car enthusiast, I think it just might offer the best of both worlds. Let’s take a closer look at what makes this VW tick.

1. Deceptively Spacious Cabin

Most folks dismiss the Golf as just another small car, and let me tell you, they don’t know what they’re missing. The way I judge a car is by how well it can accommodate six-footers front and rear, because Lord knows my kids will hit six feet any day now — and the Golf can swallow four of ’em for hours at a time. Rear legroom and headroom is superb; I bet Golf owners hardly ever find themselves wishing for more. Yet this VW is compact enough to squeeze into any urban parking spot, unlike the mainstream “family car” behemoths that are a chore to maneuver through tight spaces.

And don’t forget about the handy hatchback body style. The Golf can swallow 22.8 cubic feet of cargo behind its rear seats, which is about seven cubes more than the typical family sedan. Plus, you can fold the Golf’s rear seatbacks to open up more than 50 cubic feet of space, a figure that no family sedan can touch.

2. Awesome Powertrain

Whenever you see “TDI” on a Golf, it means there’s a turbodiesel engine under the hood, and that’s a very good thing. The latest generation of VW’s turbodiesel 2.0-liter four is rated at just 150 horsepower, but the figure you want to focus on is the 236 pound-feet of torque. All that torque is available at low rpm, so the Golf TDI launches effortlessly from stoplights and always has some extra punch in reserve. Of course, diesels are known for their fuel economy, and the 2015 VW Golf TDI doesn’t disappoint, returning up to 45 mpg — way more than the most efficient family sedan.

3. Premium Character

Here’s the other thing that prevents more Americans from buying small cars. There’s a perception out there that small equals cheap, and it drives a lot of folks to buy bigger cars than they really need. If that mindset sounds familiar, trust me, go drive a Golf and see what you think. I’m pretty sure you’ll be astonished by how nice everything is in this car, from the materials on the dashboard to the precise, expertly damped knobs and levers — not to mention the crisp, well-lit gauges and displays. The Golf presents as a more expensive car, and that’s a rare thing these days. Whereas most family cars feel built to a price, the Golf feels like the engineers had the leeway to get everything just right. It’s like having a little luxury car at no extra cost.

The Best Family Car Around $25,000?

I think the 2015 VW Golf TDI is a strong contender for this prize, all things considered, and I’m a mom — so I should know. But am I wrong? Have you experienced the new Golf TDI for yourself? Tell me what you think in the comments.Driving 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI.png

 

Editor’s note: Whether you’ve got a minivan, a muscle car or even a motorcycle, count on Advance Auto Parts to keep you running right all year long. Get back to work fast—buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

Review: the 2014 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid

2014 Infinity Q50 Hybrid 1Our resident Gearhead takes this hotly tipped hybrid for a spin.

Given my loyalty to old-fashioned muscle cars, you might think that “Hybrid” is a dirty word in these parts. But you’d be wrong. Tell you what, I love the idea of an extra electric motor that helps the gas engine do its job. If you design it right, that electric motor will really kick in at low speeds to give you more torque, and it’ll help you when you’re merging and passing, too. Kind of like a modern turbocharged engine without the lag.

Trouble is, most hybrids are all about fuel economy, which means they pretty much hate fun. But I’ve finally found one that’s a little different, and I’m smitten. Let me tell you a few things about my new crush — it’s called the 2014 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid.

1. It’s Fast

And I mean fast. With its 3.5-liter V6 hybrid system, this thing cranks out 360 horsepower! That’s even more than the regular non-hybrid Q50, which stops at 328. It’s not just about the power, either, because this hybrid makes boatloads of low-end torque. It’s like an old big-block V8 the way it rears back and puts down the hammer from a stop. Like I said, when you add an electric motor to the mix, it can give you a real wallop during acceleration. Infiniti gets that. For the record, the Q50 Hybrid will do 0-60 in 4.9 seconds, or almost half a second quicker than the non-hybrid car.2014 Infinity Q50 Hybrid 2

2. It Drives Like a Champ

One thing about hybrids is that they’ve got big old battery packs to run those electric motors, and you’ve got to put that heavy thing somewhere. If you’re not careful, the extra weight can mess up the balance of the car. But Infiniti has positioned the Q50 Hybrid’s battery pack such that it adds a little rearward weight bias without going crazy. The result, if you ask me, is even better balance than the regular Q50. Going around corners in the Q50 Hybrid, I felt like I was driving an honest-to-goodness sport sedan. It just hunkers down and goes, with no understeer and not much body roll, either. Who ever heard of a hybrid that’s this fun to drive?

3. Its Fuel Economy is Amazing

Quick, name a midsize, five-passenger sedan that hits 60 mph in under 5 seconds and gets 31 mpg combined. Let me emphasize the “combined” part, because that’s what the EPA says you can expect for each tank as a weighted average of city (29 mpg) and highway (36 mpg) driving. Most cars with this much speed don’t even break 30 mpg on the highway cycle, and they’re way down in the 20s or even teens for city driving. That’s the other thing about a hybrid car’s electric motor — it takes a load off the gas engine in normal driving, and that means you need less gas to get around.

2014 Infinity Q50 Hybrid 4Sign This Gearhead Up

My test car came in at a shade over $46,000. That’s actually pretty reasonable when you consider that the Q50 Hybrid is a full-on luxury car with leather, navigation, Bose audio, dual electronics displays, you name it. You could easily pay more than twice as much for a Porsche Panamera hybrid that goes 0-60 in 5.2 seconds and only gets 25 mpg combined. I never thought I’d be saying this about a hybrid, but I would really and truly like to own this 2014 Infiniti Q50 Hybrid sedan.

Am I crazy? Have you ever driven a hybrid that made you fall in love? Tell us your story in the comments.

 

Editor’s note: Whether you drive a hot new hybrid or a weathered old gas-guzzler, count on Advance Auto Parts for the best in parts—and even better values.

Give Your New Used Car a Clean Bill of Health

Used car buyingDid I ever tell you about the time my husband brought home an old Toyota Tercel? I didn’t ask for it, believe me, but there he was, puttering into the driveway in that gold 1985 hatchback. I don’t know about you, but while my husband is smart, educated and ultra-handy, he can still be pretty darn clueless sometimes.

Anyway, I don’t want to cast any aspersions on the Tercel itself. Properly maintained, it was one of the most reliable cars ever built. But my husband just trusted that it would keep running fine, so he didn’t take these three simple post-purchase steps that could have saved us some headaches down the road.

Change the Oil

When you’re buying a used car, I don’t care how convincing the previous owner is when he or she tells you, “I changed that oil religiously every 3,000 miles!” I like to assume the best of people, but in this case, I always assume the worst. It takes time, energy and money to keep up with car maintenance, and folks don’t necessarily have all three at once.

So here’s my advice: pretend like that oil hasn’t been changed since the car rolled off the assembly line, and change it immediately, whether you do it yourself (my preference, of course!) or pay for the service. My husband dragged his feet on this for a while with the Tercel, since the oil level looked fine on the dipstick, and we had some strange engine issues that cropped up down the line. I don’t know for sure that old oil was the culprit, but I wish we’d just handled it and changed the oil right away. Today, tens of thousands of miles later, the Tercel’s running great with regular DIY oil changes, thank you very much!

Get Fresh Tires and an Alignment

Unless the existing tires are fairly new and a high-quality type that’s properly fitted to the car, I always advise starting from scratch with a new set. Hey, you’ll have to buy tires at some point, right? Why not do it right away? It’s the same idea as the immediate oil change: you want the car to be yours from the get-go, and that means buying a set of top-notch tires yourself. As a fringe benefit, the tire shop will balance the wheels, which should minimize any vibrations you’re feeling on the road.

Also, make sure you have a four-wheel alignment done, because a misaligned car will eat those nice new tires for breakfast. Finally, don’t forget to rotate the tires and balance the wheels at the prescribed intervals; ideally, try to find a tire shop that will perform this service gratis for the life of the tires. My husband decided to keep the tires that came with that old Tercel, since the car itself cost so little to acquire, and the result was that we lived with a jittery ride until the tires were so far gone that he had to get new ones. The difference with the new rubber was night and day. Don’t make the same mistake!

Take a Road Trip

With summer here, this one’s a no-brainer. This is the most fun DIY tip I’ll ever give you: after buying a used car, just hop in and drive! Most trips we take in cars are short, and that’s the worst thing for the engine and other drivetrain components, because they need plenty of time and heat to get properly warmed up. That’s why I think of long highway drives as spa treatments for my cars. Engines are happiest when they’re humming along contentedly for sustained stretches.

With the gold Tercel, we noticed that the more we drove it on trips like this, the smoother it felt (well, once we resolved those engine issues and put on new tires!). There’s nothing like a getting-to-know-you road trip in your “new” used car to knock out the car’s cobwebs and help the two of you get on the same page.

What Works For You?

I’m always eager to hear how you folks tackle real-world problems like “breaking in” a used car. Let me know in the comments! Are there any additional procedures you’d recommend?

Editor’s note: count on Advance Auto Parts to help keep your used car looking good and running right. Buy online, pick up in store—in 30 minutes.

Top Diesel Cars and Trucks for 2013

Purchasing a hybrid vehicle can make sense under the right circumstances. If you do a lot of city driving, for example, nothing can beat a hybrid’s fuel economy. And hybrids like the Toyota Prius and Ford C-MAX are downright practical vehicles, even if you put their incredible fuel economy aside.

But diesel engine cars and diesel powered trucks have a lot to offer too. Consider the following:

  • Diesels are as fuel-efficient on the highway as the most frugal hybrid
  • Diesels give you great low-end torque. That means you can effortlessly scoot away from traffic lights and oftentimes don’t even need to downshift to pass someone.
  • Diesel powered trucks are a superior choice for towing and hauling
  • Diesel engine cars and trucks are known for being reliable for hundreds of thousands of miles
  • Diesels use simple, proven technology that has powered commercial vehicles like buses and dump trucks for decades

Intrigued? Good. Here are our top picks for diesel cars and trucks for 2013.Mazda diesel

Best Small Car: 2013 Volkswagen Golf TDI

Update Dec. 2016: If you purchased one of VW’s diesels, we’re truly sorry you’ve had to deal with the fallout of their now acknowledged software designed to evade EPA emissions testing. Learn more about your options here.

The Golf hatchback is one of our favorite small cars no matter what’s under the hood, because you just can’t get its combination of versatility, European dynamics, and upscale ambiance anywhere else. But when you thrown in Volkswagen’s turbodiesel 2.0-liter inline-4, the pot only gets sweeter. Rated at a modest 140 horsepower but a robust 236 pound-feet of torque, the “TDI” diesel motor gives the Golf great get-up-and-go around town. What’s more, the EPA says it’s good for 30 mpg city/42 mpg highway. Real-world results approach 50 mpg on the open road.

Best Midsize Car: 2014 Mazda6 Skyactiv Diesel

You can’t even buy this car yet, but it’s worth waiting for. The Mazda6 is all-new for 2014, with beautiful styling and a much nicer interior. The big news though is that it’s going to be offered with a 2.2-liter turbodiesel inline-4. Based on early reports, you can expect around 280 pound-feet of torque from the Mazda diesel, as well as fuel economy in excess of 40 mpg.

If you absolutely need a midsize car right now, check out the VW Passat TDI, which shares the Golf’s motor.

Best Crossover/SUV: 2013 Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTEC

No Mercedes-Benz comes cheap, and the M-Class crossover is one of Benz’s pricier models. But if it fits your budget, you can’t go wrong with the diesel-powered ML350 BlueTEC. Blessed with an ultra-smooth 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 that cranks out 240 horsepower and an incredible 455 pound-feet of torque, the ML350 BlueTEC delivers executive-grade acceleration and refinement. It also returns 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway, which is pretty amazing for a big rig like this.

Best Truck: 2013 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Duramax

If you haven’t been paying attention to diesel powered trucks lately, let us bring you up to speed. There’s a diesel fuel arms race going on between GM, Dodge, and Ford, and the horsepower and torque figures are completely insane. But it’s not just about the numbers. At 397 horsepower and 765 pound-feet of torque, GM’s 6.6-liter “Duramax” turbodiesel V8 trails Ford’s entry on paper (believe it or not). In the real world, however, it’s the strongest truck motor you can buy. And compared to a gasoline-powered V8, it’s going to give you significantly better fuel economy, too.