The Truth About Cars » tsi http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 24 Jul 2015 14:00:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » tsi http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TSI SE Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-vw-jetta-tsi-se-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-vw-jetta-tsi-se-review/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 12:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1122369 In the space of 48 hours last week, I saw a first-generation Jetta plying its rusty way down the middle lane of a freeway near Columbus, Ohio and I saw some spiky-haired hipster girl driving a fourth-gen Jolf on Interstate 75 north of Lexington, KY. It was a reminder of the Jetta’s uneasy position in […]

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In the space of 48 hours last week, I saw a first-generation Jetta plying its rusty way down the middle lane of a freeway near Columbus, Ohio and I saw some spiky-haired hipster girl driving a fourth-gen Jolf on Interstate 75 north of Lexington, KY. It was a reminder of the Jetta’s uneasy position in the Volkswagen hierarchy. On one hand, it’s the uncoolest of the watercooled VWs, the American-market special loathed by the kind of Euro-fanatics who make up the vast majority of the company’s loyalists in the United States. They view the existence of the Jetta as an open expression of German contempt for Baconator-eating Americans, and the sharp divergence between Jetta and Golf that took place in the sixth generation hasn’t exactly poured oil on the waters.

On the other hand… it’s been the best-selling VW in this country more often than it hasn’t. It’s the official VW of sorority girls, single moms, adventurous empty-nesters, and rental fleets. It’s the Volkswagen we deserve, because we sign on the dotted line for it more often than we do the Golf and the GTI and the Tiguan combined. As such, it deserves a full slate of TTAC reviews. Our Managing Editor, Mark Stevenson, had kind things to say about a loaded-up Jetta TDI, and our good friend and itinerant contributor Blake Z. Rong was less complimentary about the GLI. Which leaves just the infamous “2.slow” 115-horsepower base model and the newly-remixed 1.8 TSI mid-ranger.

I chose the latter for a cheerful little 514-mile jaunt the other night, from just south of Asheville, NC to just north of Columbus, OH. It rained for much of the drive. There was fog. I witnessed the aftermath of three massive accidents, including one semi-trailer that had skidded sideways across one of Interstate 40’s most treacherous segments then flopped over in the median. I had some nontrivial time pressure and I’d already been awake for fifteen hours when I got in the car to begin the trip. Lousy circumstances, to be certain. So how did the Jetta do?


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Over the past forty years, VW has become infamous for its Brokeback Mountain-esque inability to quit its old platforms. The Beetle stuck around until 2003, the Mk1 Golf was produced until 2009, the second-generation Passat (Quantum to us) continued to dazzle Chinese buyers until, um, the year before last. No surprise, then, that VW’s decision to continue the Golf unto the seventh generation has yet to apply to the Jetta. Instead, there’s a mild facelift both inside and out for 2015. Perhaps the more important change happened in 2014, under the wide, flat hood: the 170 hp @ 6200 rpm/184 lb-ft@1500-4750 1.8 TSI that shines in the Golf TSI is now standard with the SE trim level. It’s $20,915 as I drove it with the six-speed auto, or $19,815 with a manual transmission.

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That’s two or three grand cheaper than a Camry or Accord, and you’ll still get heated cloth seats, Bluetooth capability, sixteen-inch alloy wheels, push-button start, and cruise control for the money. What you will not get is the room and interior furnishings of even the most basic mid-size Japanese-brand car. The Jetta is adequately spacious front and back, and VW’s managed to do a decent job with the steering wheel and the center stack, but there’s no premium feel here. Everything’s bolted together pretty solidly, however, and if a few of the details (like the seat adjuster) feel deliberately cheapened there’s nothing that requires apologies at this price level.

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As I headed north from Asheville, I figured that I needed to average just over 70 mph for the entire trip to avoid being late for work the next day. Unfortunately for me, that section of 40 runs through the mountains, and there was heavy rain mixed with sections of thick fog. Traffic was light, but it wasn’t breaking the double-nickel in most places. Immediately the 1.8 TSI earned my affection as it chugged up a succession of four-thousand-foot climbs, usually without requiring the transmission to select fourth. The steering in this car is supposedly electric power assist and it’s fairly light, but I found that incipient scrub against wet pavement was telegraphed pretty well, allowing me to run remarkably quickly through the long, damp curves. A few times I got a bit too enthusiastic and felt the front end slip, but this wasn’t too alarming. Simply reducing throttle caused the car to find its line again.

Down the long hills, I used the indifferent Tiptronic selector to maintain speed, but once I realized how well the brakes were holding up I stopped being so deliberate about shifting. Plus, the Jetta has reasonable grade logic built in and it will avoid upshifting all the way if you’re on a nine-percent hill or similar.

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In circumstances like these, the Jetta has some clear advantages over something like an Accord. It’s a bit smaller, a bit more manageable, it has 205-width tires that cut standing water pretty well, the turbo engine/six-speed combination feels more enthusiastic and flexible than the big-bore four/CVT setup you get with a Honda or Nissan. I don’t think I could have made the same kind of time in a Camry or even (shhhhhhh) something like a 535i. So as the road flattened out and I saw the signs for Knoxville, I was feeling good about the Hecho-In-Mexico compact VW.

On a straight and dry freeway, however, the Jetta’s absolutely miserable stereo threatened to erase a lot of that good will. The single-zone climate control that seemed incapable of making subtle adjustments didn’t help either. And though there’s very little aero noise in this car, there’s no shortage of tire rumble, mechanical noise, and booming resonance at various rev ranges. All of a sudden, the extra money for something like an Accord EX seems like a solid return on investment. But the Jetta is no penalty box; it’s simply not quite up to the standards set by larger, more expensive competition.

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Over the course of the next three hundred miles I came to respect this car despite the above-mentioned flaws. The ergonomics are correct. The controls respond with appropriate weighting and feedback. The cruise control offers adjustment in both one-and-five-mile-per-hour increments, and though it’s not quite as slick as the way Mercedes-Benz does it, at least the feature is present. The seats look like an experiment in using recycled garbage bags to wrap around low-density foam molds but they failed to aggravate the back injury I suffered at Laguna Seca a few weeks back. Compared to the much more expensive seats in the brand-new Porsche 911 I’d been driving earlier in the day, these cheapo buckets were positively delightful. This kind of stuff matters, you know. Like my old 1990 Fox, the Jetta has the basics right and that shines through despite the low-cost execution.

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I would be remiss if I did not mention another particular excellence of this automobile: fuel economy. In the mountains, with full throttle the order of the day far more often than would occur in normal driving, the Jetta TSI reported 34.5 mpg. On the long run from Lexington to Columbus, it reported 38.9. These numbers were approximately confirmed when I refueled over the course of the trip. Given that I was running a flat 85 mph most of the time, that’s positively parsimonious. No Accord or Camry is going to turn in numbers like that unless it has the word “Hybrid” somewhere on the rear fascia. I’d be surprised if the Golf TSI could match it; there’s something to be said for the aerodynamics of three inches more wheelbase and quite a bit of trunk to smooth out the airflow in back. Keep in mind, too, that I never self-consciously drove for fuel economy. Operated in the same fashion, my Accord V6 six-speed typically returns about 25 mpg. Hell, my Honda VFR800 can’t return much better than 40 mpg at a steady 85 mph. So this is a big deal and if gasoline returns to four bucks a gallon outside California — you’ll see people taking it into account.

Thanks in large part to the Jetta’s long range on a single tank, I got home a few minutes earlier than I’d planned, letting me catch a quick nap before work. I felt reasonably rested and pain-free despite the length and conditions of the trip. I couldn’t think of another twenty-grand vehicle that would have done any better in this assignment — but I also didn’t feel even a twitch of joy or delight regarding the 2015 Jetta SE TSI. I’d rather have had a new GTI, but there’s six grand of difference between a stick-shift TSI Jetta and the GTI. At that point, if you’re willing to spend real money, you might as well go the whole hog, import a new Phaeton in a container, and rivet on the VIN from some junkyard’s 2005 basketcase W12. Am I right? Of course I’m right.

If we ever get a Mk7 Jetta, if there is even such a thing in the works, it will no doubt be a better car than this is. For today, however, the price is fair and the performance is more than adequate. So what if it’s the “American VW”. This is America. And for my American road trip, this Mexican VW was just fine.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.8 TSI http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/capsule-review-2015-volkswagen-golf-1-8-tsi/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/capsule-review-2015-volkswagen-golf-1-8-tsi/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 15:30:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949281 For all its foibles, I loved the 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine in the Volkswagen parts bin. It provided an audible grunt you couldn’t get anywhere else for the same amount of money and, in its early days, was the best way to buy cheap torque without going diesel or turbo. Thanks to a finer focus on […]

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2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.8 TSI (4 of 30)

For all its foibles, I loved the 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine in the Volkswagen parts bin. It provided an audible grunt you couldn’t get anywhere else for the same amount of money and, in its early days, was the best way to buy cheap torque without going diesel or turbo.

Thanks to a finer focus on fuel efficiency — a strength the five-pot did not possess — the base 2.5-litre is now gone. Instead, we have a new 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, dubbed 1.8T or 1.8 TSI, delivering the same amount of horsepower, more torque, and better fuel economy than the outgoing 2.5 five-cylinder.

Our tester for the week, a 2015 Volkswagen Golf 1.8 TSI Comfortline (Canada), is the mid-trim option in the Golf lineup and equipped with a five-speed manual transmission. Ticking off the optional Convenience Package adds automatic headlights, auto-dimming rearview mirror, Climatronic dual-zone electronic climate control, light assist, Panorama tilt and slide power sunroof, and rain sensing wipers. The whole package before taxes and freight rings in at $24,590 CAD.

(For you folks living in Canada’s pants bemoaning my Canadian pricing, it’s hard to find an equivalent in the US Golf trim matrix that matches up, so you’ll have to do a little digging on your own.)

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The new 1.8 TSI is a fantastic little motor but does miss some of the charm of the old 2.5 inline-5. Thanks to the wizardry of turbocharging, the four-cylinder produces a very healthy 170 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. It also does duty in other Volkswagen lineup models, such as the Beetle and Jetta.

It won’t leave your wallet empty at the pumps either, returning 7.6L/100km (31 MPG) and running on regular gas instead of premium.

The rush of torque comes on fairly early and the most fun is had when shifting at least 1,000 rpm before redline so you can feel the torque through each gear change. This is a car that will actually reward you for shifting slowly and letting the revs drop a bit.

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The five-speed manual is crisp, notchy, and great for people who actually enjoy rowing their way through the gears. With solid feedback and tight gating, the gearbox might be a little too much for the novice driver though. I’d suggest the Fiesta with its long throws and lighter feedback for that crowd. But, for those who’ve already mastered the third pedal, this is as good a choice as any, except for the fact it is down a gear versus a few of its competitors.

Being the first Golf to ride on the new MQB Volkswagen platform also brings with it new characteristics in ride and handling. The Golf now rides like a much bigger car, smoothing out the bumps in the road while the body stays relatively stable. The softer ride does mean the Golf suffers slightly when chucking it around corners. But, unless you are trying to recreate the car chase scene from Ronin, you should be just fine.

There are two trends Volkswagen has bucked with the new Golf — one for the better and the other for the worse.

The first one comes down to design, as the Golf eschews the sloped rear glass used by the Mazda3 Sport and other hatchbacks in favour of a more two-box silhouette. This gives the Golf decent cargo space in the rear. Also, and this is the big kicker, Volkswagen hasn’t brought the beltline up to such a level that makes it hard to see out of the rear of the car. While the Golf gets a nifty backup camera hidden behind the VW badge, you don’t need to rely on the camera to reverse from a parking space. That’s a very welcomed surprise.

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But, the one trend where Volkswagen really needs to play catch up is from an infotainment point of you. Specifically, the Golf has a serious lack of USB ports, and by that I mean it has exactly zero of them. Instead, Volkswagen still wants you to use the proprietary iPod connector and a car charger that pops into the plug that used to be a cigarette lighter. VW — you should really know better.

Also a point of pain is the beige-and-black two tone interior available on Comfortline models in Canada. While the materials are top drawer, the two-tone scheme cheapens it all just a bit. Again, VW — you should really know better.

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Even with these slight issues, the Golf is a solid contender (though, if I were at Motor Trend, I wouldn’t be giving the Golf a Car of the Year award). For those who enjoy driving but don’t necessarily enjoy the firm ride, compromised visibility, or stick-on infotainment screen of the Mazda3, this is your next choice. Also, turbocharging makes everything a bit more fun.

But, if you desire something with slightly sharper handling, USB ports, or an interior that doesn’t mutter how boring you are, there are other options.

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Review: 2011 VW Polo 1.2 TSI http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/review-2011-vw-polo-1-2-tsi/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/06/review-2011-vw-polo-1-2-tsi/#comments Mon, 14 Jun 2010 17:30:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=358831 Polo players don’t drive German superminis, in the same way Dustin Hoffman never pulled over near a Hollywood studio in a Chevy Celebrity. So, who does drive a Polo? The same people who drive a Golf – only ten years younger, with a bank account ten grand shorter. And until last year, these people have […]

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Polo players don’t drive German superminis, in the same way Dustin Hoffman never pulled over near a Hollywood studio in a Chevy Celebrity. So, who does drive a Polo? The same people who drive a Golf – only ten years younger, with a bank account ten grand shorter. And until last year, these people have been a little alienated from the VW customer circle – with a new Golf recently introduced and the older Polo getting a little long in the tooth.

Enter the fifth generation Polo. Unlike the MK6 Golf, here’s a car that wasn’t rushed into production: the MK4 Polo was introduced in 2002 and succumbed to irrelevancy over its last years, as the entire European B-segment was stirred by new models and powertrains.

If there’s any comment to be made on the exterior of the MK5 Polo, it’s déjà vu. Take off your glasses, and it’s a Golf – complete with the corporate two-bar grille and spider-leg emblem. It’s as chunky looking in profile as its mature sibling and has the same underwhelmingly dramatic roof line. Glasses back on, and several elements distinguish the junior VW from the Golf: different pentagonal backlights, a cut-out C pillar, an edgy front diffuser spawning speed bump phobia and what appears to be a serious eating disorder.

Underwhelmingly-impressive is the expression you’re looking for. Like the Golf, the Polo is very much a classless car – one that would look just as natural in an Amsterdam suburb as in Munich’s old city, as unprovocative in red as in pearl white and as classy as a teenager’s first car as a grandmother’s last.

Just like the previous Polo, the fifth-gen Polo pushes the interior quality bar further up the scale. Whether this interior is the best in B-segment territory depends on your definition of best: there’s little doubt that this is the most ‘big-car’ interior in the class, but there’s also no avoiding the feeling that it’s just a little dull and expected.

Many – if not most – knobs and controls come straight from the Golf, and seeing as Volkswagen has seemingly unlimited access to that soft-touch material mine, there’s acres of that too. Everything you touch or move – from the door knob to the gear lever – feels like German engineers have spent sleepless nights perfecting its pitch, sound and feel. If you really choose to nitpick, there are harder-than-expected plastics in the door area.

Like its slightly anemic-looking outside proportions imply, the Polo doesn’t shock in spaciousness. Two adults will find sufficient room in the back seats; the third one should consider other transportation options. At 280 liters, the trunk isn’t particularly commodious, but it’s easy to load and has a useful storage compartment underneath. There are numerous additional storage spaces inside the cabin, including two closeable hatches beneath the front seats.

So far, so Volkswagen – solid, impressive, boring. But this particular tester has one interesting ace up its sleeve: the powertrain. Replacing the old model’s 1.6 gas engine and 6 speed Aisin gearbox combination are a direct-injected and turbocharged 1.2 liter TSI engine (oddly featuring only 8 valves) and a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox. On paper, it doesn’t sound like there’s much difference: the horsepower count remains similar – there are around 105 of them – and there’s only one cog joining the party. Even the autojournos’ favorite cliché, torque, only takes a modest 1.34 pound-feet boost to just below 12 pound-feet.

The secret lies in power availability: the old 1.6 needed no less than 3,800 revs to achieve the maximum torque. The turbocharged four pot only needs 1,500 of those – and that’s enough to cut 0-60 time by about two seconds.

On the road, the new engine proves to be a refreshing surprise. Let anyone who doubts the viability of a microscopic turbocharged engine drive this Polo, and he will return fully converted. There’s more than enough power to make progress anywhere across the rev range once the turbocharger kicks in at somewhere around 1,500 rpms, and when pushed to the limits you’d be hard pressed to tell you’re driving something that’s supposed to resemble a 1.6 engine, never mind a puny 1.2.

The engine also rewards the driver and passengers with smoothness unmatched by the gruff and agricultural 1.6. This is where my ambivalent feelings about the DSG gearbox kick in (see what I did there?). Seven speeds are a lot of ratios to choose from, and this particular gearbox doesn’t hesitate to showcase all of them. Left to its own devices, it will upshift as soon as it can – leaving the TSI’s generous power band and constantly requiring one or two downshifts to maintain acceleration. Even in traffic-jam speeds, it’s not uncommon to reach the third and fourth ratios.

The seven speed DSG is also nowhere as smooth as the older 6 speed. This is because the newer version uses a pair of dry clutches instead of wet ones. This setup still hasn’t reached all DSG models since it’s only rated for weaker powerplants – currently, the SEAT Ibitza Cupra and Polo GTi, at 178 bhp, are the strongest models to utilize this particular setup.

You can’t put any blames on shifting speed – but in slower speeds, the gearbox feels somewhat shaky and sluggish, and off the line response is met with a surprising delay. This still remains a very good slushbox – but it’s one you’d have to get used to. It functions better in S mode – where the seventh ratio is disabled, throttle response is made sharper, gears are pushed further up the rev range and braking is met with numerous downshifts – and a neat throttle blip between them. There are no steering wheel shifters, but commanding in manual mode is still pleasurable with instant response from the ‘box and a satisfying feel from the lever itself.

The tiny engine idles surprisingly loudly and with an alarming degree of vibrations. Inside the Polo, however, you’d be hard pressed to tell the engine is even on at all. This is a recurring theme: the baby VW is a quiet cruiser and refinement is at the top of the class. Ride quality is also good – with a slightly harsh initial suspension travel, you’re not likely to confuse it with French hatchbacks of yore, but even the most daunting bumps are dealt with resounding comfort and softness. The front seats are comfortable and supportive, but have an annoying bulge in their upper parts, which forces a slightly artificial back posture.

The surprises end with the driving dynamics. The Polo is a car which pushes you not to push it: the electro-hydraulic steering is number, lighter and longer than I recall from the Skoda Fabia. It’s still in ‘acceptable’ territory, but at no point reminds you of anything remotely sporty. The brake pedal has a slightly awkward travel with a very strong initial bite and less than stellar progress further down the line.

Dynamic challenges are met in a composed manner and with sufficient grip, but not with much pleasure. That’s really a shame, because even other B-segment cars from VW – like the SEAT Ibiza – feature naughtier driving dynamics and more driver involvement, not to mention competition from cars such as the Ford Fiesta.

Greater men than I have already deemed the Polo to be the European Car of the Year. It’s not very surprising to find that the fifth-generation Volkswagen Polo is a very good car. It’s equally as unsurprising to find that it has a class-beating cabin and a class-beating powertrain.

“Unsurprising” and “underwhelmingly-impressive” then, are the recurring ideas behind the Polo. The Polo, like some people, is an example of a textbook execution. Compare it to a person, and you have a very intelligent and pleasant individual which you won’t want to take out for a beer.

To an automotive enthusiast, this may sound like criticism. To Volkswagen’s ears, this is a pat on the shoulder: creating a mini-Golf is exactly the idea behind the new Polo. In that, they’ve succeeded immensely: the transition from Polo to Golf is now as smooth and obvious as ever.

Volkswagen proided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

This review was made possible by icar.co.il

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New VW Polo GTI “Textbook Engine Downsizing” Yields 25% Reduction Of Fuel Consumption http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/new-vw-polo-gti-textbook-engine-downsizing-yields-25-reduction-of-fuel-consumption/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/new-vw-polo-gti-textbook-engine-downsizing-yields-25-reduction-of-fuel-consumption/#comments Wed, 24 Feb 2010 18:35:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=346543 The benefits of gasoline engine downsizing has its latest poster child: the new Polo GTI. It’s a graphic example of why diesel market share in Europe is declining, especially in smaller cars: a 25% reduction on the European mileage standards, without any loss of performance. The GTI’s 1.4 liter TSI produces 177 hp (132kW), exactly […]

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The benefits of gasoline engine downsizing has its latest poster child: the new Polo GTI. It’s a graphic example of why diesel market share in Europe is declining, especially in smaller cars: a 25% reduction on the European mileage standards, without any loss of performance. The GTI’s 1.4 liter TSI produces 177 hp (132kW), exactly the same as its 1.8 liter predecessor. But the combined fuel consumption is 5.9 L/100km (40 mpg US)—equivalent to CO2 emissions of 139 g/km, 25% lower than the outgoing model. Knowing that it also squirts to 100km (62 mph) in 6.9 seconds and comes standard with a 7 speed DSG transmission is only rubbing the wound of knowing it’s not coming to the US with salt. But undoubtedly, tightening CAFE standards will eventually send VW’s pioneering 1.4 and 1.6 TSI engines our way; the question is only in what body.

VW’s small TSI engines are to gas engines what it’s also pioneering TDI engines were to the diesel world: a breakthrough in shattering assumptions of what small artificially-aspirated gas engines are capable of, in terms of both performance and economy. Due to its combination of supercharging and turbocharging, an semblance of turbo lag is history. The 177 hp Euro-5 16-valve four-cylinder engine reaches its maximum power at a relatively low (for such a small engine) 6,200 rpm. Maximum torque of 250 N·m (184 lb-ft) arrives at 2,000 rpm and stays at a constantly high level up to 4,500 rpm. The effect is to recreate the feel of a much larger normally aspirated engine without any of the typical detriments.

Another graphic example of the narrowing gap of diesel and gas consumption is in the European Golf: two almost identically powered Golf VI versions: 140hp TDI – 5.4L/100km (43.56mpg); 160hp TSI – 6.0L/100km (39.2mpg). That represents a 10% difference. Meanwhile, the US version gas Golf slogs along with its antiquated 2.5 liter five that bumbles through the EPA test with a 26 combined rating.

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