It's not an economy car, and that's a good thing
I purchased the car a couple of months ago, and one of the engine weather guards was split, and flapping in the wind. I trimmed the offending piece off, other than that, everything is good so far.
I bought this car after my Saturn had an unfortunate impact with a deer, and was rendered a total loss. This car is the first Volkswagen I've bought, and only the second of eight cars that I've owned from a non US manufacturer. The previous vehicle being an 89 Honda Civic I had when I was a teenager.
My initial appraisal of the car was that it was a small yet versatile hatchback with decently stylish looks. My main gripe was the plain steel wheels with VW wheel covers, and the black plastic lower bumper. The matte black bumper won't win any fashion awards, but it will take wear and abuse well and won't show any ugly exhaust stains. Hopefully it won't do a 'GM fade to gray' like I typically see on cars with matte black bumpers. The wheel covers, however, scream "Cheap". not what I was expecting at all from a brand.
While the wheel covers and matte bumper left me scratching my head a little, the interior was exactly what I expected from VW. Fantastic quality and attention to detail. Everything is laid out in a precise and orderly fashion. None of the bins or cup holders fold out in anyway that interferes with any other controls or features. The driver's seat is not quite as comfortable as I was hoping for. It's a little narrow due to the side airbag, and the stuffing is a bit stiff. The ergonomics are not quite to my liking, but it is mostly due to my strange proportions, I'm rather tall, and extremely gangly. The Germans had too much refining everything for a perfect fit for average sized people. That being said; I'm extremely thin and I find all the seats to be too narrow. I'd hate to think what an average adult male with a waist size greater then 30 inches would think of them.
The back seats are somewhat more comfortable then the drivers seat. While the back seats and front passenger seat all fold down, the back seats do not fold flat, and none of them have any kind of plastic or rubber backing to protect them from damage while lugging cargo. I have a couple plastic mats to lay on them when moving things, but in a car this well built the few details that are missed stand out.
The conventional trunk space is decently acceptable, capable of holding my gym bag, and some groceries. It won't pack much on a vacation, but it's perfectly adequate for day to day work. The extra power adapter in the back is a nifty feature to have while airing up your tires, and the four tie down points are all well placed and very well constructed. At least two of them are recessed metal loop units. The spare tire is under a well constructed trunk floor, and fits inside a foam well with little cutouts that make a nice place to stuff your emergency kit. I've got a first aid kit, electric tire pump, some bungee cords, an a bottle or two of oil all hidden out of sight yet easily accessed.
The most surprising, and pleasing aspect of the car is its drive train. Most cars this size and class carry engines in the 1.8-2.2 liter range. The 2.5 liter five cylinder is a beast of an engine for such a small and light car. I don't know how they managed to shoe horn a 6 speed tiptronic trans underneath it, but what you wind up with is a very performance oriented car. The acceleration and torque are very impressive for a small economy car. I didn't think I'd use the tiptronic feature much, but it's a godsend in slow speed zones and neighborhoods, when a regular automatic would spend most its time hunting gears. It's only weakness is its irritating habit of out thinking me. The computer will kick in and shift gears right when I do, so instead of dropping from fifth to fourth, I end up going from fifth to third! I'd prefer a more passive approach, like a shift light on the gauge. There's nothing worse than two people fighting over a transmission.
My only complaint concerning the mechanical components of the car is the lack of serviceability. Swapping the air filter requires a couple hand tools and removal of the engine cover, as compared to most cars where you simply unsnap an airbox cover, no tools required. Changing the oil requires a special tool. These are basic car maintenance items, and need not be hassle that Volkswagen has made them out to be. The car already suffers from a short spare parts train, making the simplest of maintenance tasks overly difficult does not help. I'm sure that the dealerships love the concept, but I as an owner am not enamored with the idea.
Bottom line: The engine and trans provide great acceleration and torque. The suspension is mildly stiff, but very sure footed even in rough weather. The dual exhaust provides a surprisingly deep and smooth tone. The interior is very well appointed and organized. It scores high in performance and driving ability, above average in comfort and features. The only letdowns is mediocre mileage (25-30 miles per gallon), and maintenance (both for the cost of parts and service, and for just how challenging even the simplest of tasks can be.) It's an economy car in size only, everything else is geared for luxury or performance.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know
Review Date: 1st December, 2009