Volkswagen Golf TSI 2013 Review

Volkswagen Golf TSI 2013 Review

Social influence is one of the phrases du jour of digital marketing. It means that rather than advertising influencing you, you are more moved by what others say: reviews, word of mouth, celebrity endorsements, what your friends say, and so on.

vw-golf-tsi-rqIt’s one of the regular features of having this writing gig that people ask me what car they should buy. I usually respond by telling them to buy one they can afford (you’d be surprised at how many don’t), and I try to avoid recommending specific makes and models because I don’t want to be responsible if they happen to buy one that was put together last thing on a Friday afternoon and has been subsequently used as a mobile P lab.

vw-golf-tsi-screen-drivingBut I’m breaking my rule here, not because I want to be a ‘social influencer’, but because I genuinely feel strongly about this car. The Volkswagen Golf TSI is fantastic in everything but one respect (which we’ll get to in a minute).

With the optional handling package (Dynamic Chassis Control – $2500) it was an engaging drive that felt much quicker than the stats would have you believe. The 103kW 1.4-litre petrol is both frugal when you want it to be (5l/100km combined), and spritely when you need it to be (8.4s to 100kph). If you want it to be a little more gentle on the fuel, go for the 2-litre, 100kW diesel option with the six-speed DSG, which will give you 4.4l/100km combined, but it’s 0.2s slower to 100kph and you’ll miss the petrol engine’s buzzy note.

vw-golf-tsi-sThe seven-speed DSG gearbox in this petrol model changes faster than you can blink and just keeps getting better. Its inherent prowess is evident most in sport mode when it rarely leaves you wanting a different gear. VW has done a brilliant job of making this Golf handle like a go-kart, but without creating a crashy nightmare of a ride. Sure, it’s a little firmer than a family sedan, but you wouldn’t want it any other way. The steering is precise and direct with perfect feel in sport mode as the XDS electronic diff lock helps pull you out of slow corners under heavy throttle; and it’s light enough in comfort mode for easy parking by even those with the most atrophied of deltoids.


Dynamic Chassis Control really makes this car. If you want it to be soft and economical, you can have it that way; if you want the steering to have more feel and for the gears to change up later and down earlier, you can have that, too. You can even devise your own program from all the available options and store it.


The brakes were keen, and the Golf has Bluemotion technologies which include engine start/stop and brake energy recuperation systems. With a five-star EuroNCAP safety rating, it has all the safety features you’d expect (Electronic Stability Program, multi-collision braking, seven airbags, tyre pressure warning, and more). Multi-collision braking automatically applies the brakes after a collision to bring you to a halt as quickly as possible.

A reversing camera cleverly pops out from under the VW badge and disappears again when you engage forward gears. The camera graphics are displayed on a touchscreen and are overlaid with radar graphics (ParkPilot) which are some of the best I’ve seen, following your steering to show you where potential dangers might be.


The rest of the interior is fairly standard VW fare. There’s a bit of piano black splashed around, but it’s neither dowdy nor showy. It’s fairly functional with a number of controls on the steering wheel, an electronic handbrake, and fairly intuitive switchgear (some of which could be a little more stylishly designed).

This touchscreen also doubles as the media control centre and satellite navigation display. The Golf supports Bluetooth streaming from your phone, and the stereo is of acceptable quality for a car in this price bracket. You can plug in all kinds of USB devices, too. There’s even a nice touch when the screen reminds you to take your phone with you after you turn off the car.

Space for rear passengers is about right for the size of the car, and the boot space is OK, too – not huge, but what you would expect, and the rear seats split and fold forward if you need more space.

vw-golf-tsi-roofThe only thing I didn’t like was the optional panorama sunroof which, on the white golf, meant that half the roof was white and half was black and that looks odd. I’m not even a fan of a sunroof anyway because it’s a pointless invention now that we have climate control air conditioning, and this Golf has dual climate control. Therefore, you don’t need to buy this $2500 upgrade and spoil the look of the car.

The other options fitted to the car were stylish 18” Durban alloys ($1500) that take 225/40ZR18 tyres, and Bi-xenon lights with LED daytime running lamps ($3500). $3500 is a huge wad of cash for those lights, so I would most likely leave them off the list, along with the panoramic sunroof, thus saving $6000.

Therefore, my TSI Golf would be the base $39,750 plus four grand in options for a total price of $43,750: not bad.

Would I buy one: well, I haven’t driven the GTI or R yet, and if they are measurably better than the TSI, they will be phenomenal. However, for less than forty-five grand, I can’t think of a better hatchback than the TSI in the specification I mentioned above.

Price: From $39,750; $49,750 as tested.


  • It’s probably the best hatchback out there for the price


  • Some options are expensive for what you get

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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