Could this be the weirdest comparison test ever invented? Quite possibly unless one of your jobs is reviewing cars from Honda and VW for my two National auto Examiner titles (if you are a little slow, I am the Honda and Acura Examiner and the VW Examiner). This is the first time I have ever written a head to head comparison of VW vs. Honda for joltleft.com but somehow after driving them I noticed a lot of conceptual synergy. Well some synergy, at least.
Yes, I know that the CR-Z only has two seats and is a hybrid and the Golf TDI has seating for five and runs on diesel. But both models proved to return excellent fuel economy figures and were very comfortable on long freeway drives—a truly impressive fact given the CR-Z’s size. So call this a hybrid vs. diesel review, a VW vs. Honda comparison or just call me crazy—these two vehicles would make excellent high economy commuters for anyone on the lookout for an affordable new car.
Neither of these two coupes can be called ugly but it is the 2011 Honda CR-Z that really grabs people’s attention. The 2011 Golf TDI’s exterior styling is one of the best interpretations on this classic VW hatch but passerby won’t tell you how pretty your car is which happens a lot when you are piloting the CR-Z. (Advantage: 2011 Honda CR-Z)
You’d also be surprised how roomy the passenger and cargo hold of the CR-Z feels once you sit inside it. The CR-Z offers 25.1 cubic feet under the rear hatch and it was big enough to hold a big wheel from Toys R’ Us and a week’s worth of Costco supplies (we tested that). Cargo volume in the Golf TDI is 12.4 cubic feet but that isn’t counting the rear seats which split and conveniently fold flat.
The 2011 CR-Z and the 2011 VW Golf TDI take very different approaches to interiors with the German car taking the lead in the perceived quality stakes. The design, feel and solidity you find in the 2011 Golf is classy and timeless. The CR-Z has a more space age interior with terrific ergonomics but the Golf feels more expensive. (Advantage: 2011 VW Golf TDI)
Take the CR-Z’s 34 mile per gallon during my test and the Golf TDI’s 41 miles per gallon during its test and you have the makings of two very nice commuter cars. (Advantage: 2011 VW Golf TDI)
The 2011 VW Golf TDI 2-door starts at $22,810 and our tester ran above $25,000 thanks to the addition of navigation, a sunroof (not available with the Honda) and a premium sound system. The 2011 Honda CR-Z starts at $19,200 and our fully loaded EX model with navigation topped out at $22,560. Automatic transmissions are optional with the CR-Z or Golf TDI but will cost extra. (Advantage: 2011 Honda CR-Z)
Fun to Drive
The 2011 Honda CR-Z feels much, much slower mainly because it only has 122 horsepower/128 lb. feet of torque with the engine/electric motor combined. The 2011 VW Golf TDI, on the other hand, offers up 140 horsepower/236 lb. feet of torque for a driving experience that is more VW GTI than Honda Fit power wise.
Sure, you may have to work the CR-Z’s engine a lot harder to get power but the six-speed manual transmission is so precise and accurate that you will never feel like you are missing out either. Granted, the 2011 VW Golf TDI has enough torque to pull the Honda out of a ditch but it too has a terrific six-speed manual that feels both meaty and still not too heavy.
Both of these cars were two of our favorite models to drive this past year with well weighted steering, absorptive rides and quick, go-cart style handling. The VW gets the nod here, though, just by dint of its superior handling and meatier gear change. (Advantage: 2011 VW Golf TDI)
With these two fun to drive, affordable, economical and supremely comfortable commuter models on the market there is no reason to proclaim that there are no affordable yet semi-sporty economy models out there. In fact, there are two very nice choices in the alternative energy market. But every comparison test needs a winner and in this case it has to be the 2011 VW Golf TDI which (especially in 4-door form) is simply the more useful everyday vehicle. It also just has the little bit of extra power the current CR-Z lacks.