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Automotive Section


Brand new Volkswagen Taos is a mostly great little SUV

Volkswagen has a solution for any consumers who may think the Tiguan has gotten too big for its britches. It's the Taos, a new and smaller "SUVW" that's poised to go head-to-head with such competitors as the Honda HR-V, Toyota CH-R, etc.

It's really nice, too, though that doesn't surprise me because I happen to love Volkswagen products for the most part. This is the first VW I've had a chance to review since the current Jetta was new, about three and a half years ago, and I'd heard rumours that the company may have done some really dumb things in the meantime, like removing the tuning knob from the centre stack's audio system controls – following the lead of Honda, who did that stupid deed several years ago.

The good news is that this is a new but "classically Volkswagen" Volkswagen and, as someone who nearly bought a used Tiguan a few years ago and who drives a different Volkswagen Auto Group vehicle to this day, I think it's a winner. And, yes, I would buy one. I'd prefer a wagon, but they're getting hard to find these days and, really, the Taos is kind of like a tall wagon. Not as much as Mazda's CX-30 is, but it's still pretty good.

Except – well, the darn German company DID remove the tuning knob, even though when you first check out the dashboard it looks as if it's still there. I don't like that, but I can live with how they've done it – and will opine more about this later when I rant about the interior.

The Taos differs from the Tiguan in many ways, but one big one is that its engine is smaller – and another one is that you can't get a third row of seats for the Taos. Neither of these are necessarily big deals, depending upon your needs and wants. more...

Reborn VW Jetta is a terrific small sedan

It may be German inside and out, but VW's new small sedan makes me think in French.

French, as in "Je t'adore" because (putting it into pun-dit English) "Jetta adore" is how I came away from my week with the new, 2019 Volkswagen Jetta. This probably surprises no one who reads my columns regularly, because you know that I'm a big fan of VW's, just about any VW – and that includes Audi and Porsche as well (and would probably include such other VW brands as Lamborghini, Bugatti and Bentley, if I were ever lucky enough to get seat time in them).

But this piece is about the Jetta, which is all-new for 2019. I'm always afraid when a new generation of a favourite car comes out, concerned that the manufacturer will have taken a great car and (for whatever reason) made it worse. So, I entered this Jetta review with some trepidation that was, fortunately, short-lived. more...

Volkswagen stretching things with new generation Tiguan

The VW Tiguan has always been a great compact SUV, and for 2018 the German carmaker has redesigned the vehicle completely, crafting a new generation Tiguan that seems fully capable of slugging it out in this niche of the market.

As a VW fan, I'm always nervous when they release a new model because I'm afraid they'll screw it up. It's like your favourite sports team coming off a championship-winning season, and you just know the team will be different next year thanks to retirements, free agency, etc., and you dearly hope the new team will be everything the old one was. Fortunately, at least in Volkswagen's case, their history is generally one of steady development and refinement rather than the company rushing to throw the new baby out with the ancient bath water.

Some might think that makes VW's designers and engineers some of the laziest in the world - heck, a Golf still looks like a Golf even after decades of development, but can you say that about, say, a Civic? I think it means they're steady and don't throw something out just for the sake of newness. I like that.

So here we have an all-new Tiguan, hot on the heels of the all-new Atlas I drove a few weeks ago. It's bigger, bolder, more muscular-looking and with newer technology than the outgoing Tiguan. And you can even get it with a third row of seats! more...

Does VW's Atlas hold the company's future on its shoulders?

Volkswagen's first all new SUV since the Tiguan is here, and it's bigger, more angular - and more modern in VW's inventory, than the Tiguan and the Touareg.  Will it be enough to help turn around any negative public impressions there may be coming out of the diesel kerfuffle of the past couple of years?

Who knows? I doubt one model could do that - though the Atlas is a darn fine place to start. Besides, I think the whole diesel thing was BS anyway - and a shame from consumers' standpoints. That's because, if I were to buy a vehicle today that was offered in gas or diesel, in most cases I'd opt for the diesel. Sure, they're down on horsepower, but they generate gobs of torque, which is more important for the lead footed, plus they get terrific fuel mileage. And, though prices wobble wildly, diesel is often cheaper than gasoline.

But back to the Atlas, which Volkswagen Canada said in its press release "launches a big new chapter in the company's history." The new, seven passenger Atlas replaces the two row Touareg, at least temporarily, and also points the way toward where Volkswagen is taking its vehicle design. To that end, it has a more angular and chiseled look than either the Tiguan or the outgoing Touareg (the 2018 Tiguan will adopt the theme as well) - but it also looks more "modern" since both other models are very due for updating (though I think they've aged gracefully). And it still looks like a Volkswagen, which is a bonus. more...

AWD makes Golf wagon an even better choice

One of my favourite cars has received a couple of great updates for 2017. It's the Volkswagen Golf, one of the world's great cars, and now they've introduced the Alltrack, a raised, all-wheel drive version of the Golf Sportwagon I enjoyed so much last year.

Now, I'm a sucker for Volkswagen products anyway, whether VW itself, Audi or Porsche (the only VW brands I've driven to date - no Bentleys or Bugattis for me, yet, alas). But even the "garden variety" VW's drive great, have wonderful interiors with interfaces that are easy to get up to speed with, and are just wonderful cars all around. It's a shame you can't buy a VW diesel right now, too, because they're great vehicles despite VW's run-in with the Obama regime - and that would be the version I'd want. more...

VW Jetta gets new motivation for 2016

Volkswagen's Jetta was a terrific car before the 2016 model year, but the addition of a brand new engine creates an even more powerful reason to give the car a look if you're shopping in this market niche.

The engine is a 1.4 litre turbocharged four cylinder unit that replaces the two litre power plant that populated VW's before. It's a peach, too, upping the engine output ante from the old unit's 115 horsepower to a much more interesting 150 horses - and an even more interesting 184 lb.-ft. of torque (compared to the old engine's 125) that comes on at a low 1400 rpm.

The new engine doesn't really make the Jetta feel like a GTI, or even a Jetta GLI, but it isn't meant to. Rather, it's a modern take on the entry level engine species and as such it's a real joy. The engine is not only smaller, lighter and more efficient (which means better fuel mileage) than the outgoing two litre unit, which should help make it appeal to entry level buyers, it adds enough fun to the mix that enthusiasts on a budget should find it more than adequate. That performance versus price and economy question creates an interesting tight rope walk and Volkswagen has hoofed that hawser handsomely. more...

Volkswagen stretches things with Golf wagon

If you've always loved the VW Golf but want something with which you can carry more stuff, the German carmaker has a Golf model for you to love.

It's the Golf Sportwagon, which is a terrific car and I have to admit up front that if I didn't already have a VW-owned wagon in my life I might be stampeding for the nearest dealership to sign on the dotted line. That's how much I loved this car.

Sportwagons start at $22,495 Canadian for the base, "Trendline" model, but VW's sample was of the top, Highline persuasion, which starts at $30,495. VW's sample was even pricier, at $35,720, because it also included the multimedia package. Add about two grand if you opt for the diesel, in whatever trim level you care to choose. A lot of money for a stretched Golf? Perhaps, but it's a lot of car! more...

VW Golf re-in-car-nated for its new generation

Volkswagen has knocked its next generation Golf out of the park, with an evolutionary new design that's clean and modern – just like its new base engine.

The new Golf is the first Volkswagen to be built on the company's, "extremely advanced" MQB platform that's lighter and stronger than previous generations, which means better handling and less fuel consumption. VW says the MQB also gives the Golf more passenger room and cargo space, though you certainly won't mistake it for a VW microbus. VW also says the new platform is less complex than previous ones, which  (according to their media materials) means they can build it for less - and sell it for less.  I'd still advise you to dicker, though… more...

VW's hot hatch GTI is back - and better than ever!

Ah, the GTI. Sure, it's basically a Golf, but an outing in this Golf  is sure to achieve a hole in one in the hearts of driving enthusiasts. Not that I'm advocating having a hole in your heart!

Available in three or five door versions (which means two or four doors plus the hot hatch's hatch), the 2015 Golf GTI wears a two liter, direct injection, turbocharged four cylinder engine putting out 210 horses and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. That might not sound like a lot in an area where turbocharged four bangers are putting out nearly 300 gee-gees, but as always horsepower is only part of the story.

There's also torque, and while this GTI is only up about 20 horses from the last iteration, it's also up about 50 tourque-like thingies - and it's the torque that pushes you back into your seat when you tromp the gas pedal. Well, the turbo doesn't hurt and when it comes on with its characteristic whoosh (after only a little lag) you probably won't want to take a selfie because the silly grin on your face will end up ridiculed forever on social media. more...

Volkwagen Jetta Turbo hybrid – buying the wrong car?

Sometimes a TV commercial is just too precious to be true.

Remember the humorous commercial for Volkswagen's new Jetta hybrid, where a guy brings his newly-purchased Jetta back to the dealership, accusing the salesman of having sold him the wrong one?

The guy proceeds to take the salesdude on a test drive, zipping around as if the Jetta's a sports car to prove that it isn't really a hybrid and therefore he couldn't possibly have been sold the correct unit.

It's a funny and pretty compelling ad, especially if you're interested in buying a hybrid that doesn't suck to drive. Most "mainstream" hybrids slant toward saving gasoline and biosphere-blessing rather than upping the entertainment ante (though there are exceptions), so if it's true that the Jetta hybrid is still a blast to drive even though it's Gaia-friendly, it could be pretty compelling choice for green-minded folk who still enjoy a bit of "joie de conduire." more...

On the road with Volkswagen's new Passat diesel

Want to go on a road trip and not spend a lot on fuel? The Volkswagen Passat TDI may be just the ticket.

VW was kind enough to lend me such a car, in the fairly low end Trendline+ trim level, for a recent trip from Vancouver, B.C. to the Seattle, WA, area, and it turned out to be very nearly the perfect vehicle for such a jaunt. Any quibbles I had could be corrected easily by optioning it up. more...

VW crafts a hot hatch with no hatch

You could call it the hot Jetta. And you'd be right.

The VW Jetta GLI is basically a GTI with buttocks, in that it isn't a hatchback like the Golf-based GTI, but rather is a sedan – like, er, the Jetta. It's the most entertaining Jetta you can buy off the shelf. And needless to say, it's a blast.

And, all things considered, it's also priced well. more...

Volkswagen's new Passat a big, smooth ride

You can get it as a diesel or in gas-powered five and six cylinder models, but however you configure your power train you may just discover that the 2012 Volkswagen Passat is a top car in the mainstream midsize class.

All new for 2012, the Passat is VW's largest family car available in North America. It's a fine one, too. more...

New, New Beetle a step forward for the car, a step backward for the cuteness

It's a Beetle you probably won't want to stomp on, unless you're only referring to what your foot does to the accelerator pedal.

After the reasonable success of the first generation of the "New Beetle," you might think Volkswagen would leave well enough alone and not risk alienating its built in audience. You'd be wrong, though: as with other cars in its lineup, the "new New Beetle" has been extensively retooled and reimagined for a new generation, Volkswagen in the process eschewing some of the "Old New Beetle's" cuteness in an apparent attempt to make it seem like a more serious car that its predecessor, while still holding true to its "buggy" heritage. more...

VW Tiguan a Fine Choice in a Crowded Market

VW's entry into the "Cute Ute" segment is a little more cute for 2012, while still being a good ute.

It isn't an all-new version, but you can definitely notice the evolution. It starts with handsome new front and rear ends that have more than a little Touareg in them – not a bad thing, since VW's bigger SUV is a handsome beast – and continues inside to an even nicer interior than before. Not that the previous interior was a bust; I think Volkswagen makes some of the best interiors on the market and, fortunately, they haven't messed with success here. more...

VW Jetta Diesel – Cheap on Fuel, Big on Torque

Pump pain. It's the ache you feel at the sight of your bank account being depleted of vital resources by the vital resources your vehicle burns if it's to be of any use to you.

Which brings me to the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, the turbo diesel version of the popular Jetta sedan. The Jetta has offered a diesel for years, but there's a new generation of Jetta now that looks just as clean as its diesel power plant promises to be. And it's a heckuva car. more...

VW Touareg Diesel Rocks

High gas prices may make you want to think about a hybrid as a way to save some fuel, but there's another way to do it: Go diesel.

Diesels have had a reputation for being stinky and slow, but that was then and this is now. According to Sergio Stiberman, CEO and founder of,  "The diesel cars of today are clearly not your father's diesel." Stiberman, whose company matches shoppers with "shoppees" who want to get out of their auto leases, says "More people today are searching for diesels because of the improved mileage they can get." more...

VW Touarag Ups Its Own Ante for '11

It's bigger, more graceful and more efficient than the previous generation and you can get it in a hybrid if that's important to you. It's also comfortable and luxurious, kind of a "less well-heeled man's" Porsche Cayenne.

The difficult to spell Touareg is Volkswagen's full-sized SUV and it's a fine one. And for 2011 the Touareg, promoted as the second generation of the vehicle, there are substantial changes from the original model. more...

Golf GTI a little Rocket

If you're looking for a small, economical car that's also a real blast to drive, you can't go far wrong with the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

When the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada named the GTI as its 2010 Canadian Car of the year, I didn't agree. But I can see why the GTI copped the Canuck challenge: it's a delightful car, fast and wonderful to drive and with all the great things – such as a first class interior – that I've come to expect from Volkswagen. more...

Car Wars, Episode Diesel: Return of the Jetta

My love affair with Volkswagen's current product line continues with the 2010 Jetta sedan and wagon. Heck, if I were French, I'd simply look at the car's flanks, say "Jetta door!" and be done with it. Of course that doesn't make for much of a column, let alone a decent pun.

Anyway, hot on the heels of some seat time in the sixth generation Golf came a week with what in the U.S. is called the Jetta SportWagen but which everywhere else is called the Golf Wagon, in diesel form this time, followed by another week with the diesel Jetta sedan.

VW has really knocked it out of the park when it comes to these cars. They're attractive, appear to be built very well, are comfortable, fun to drive and feature classy interiors that are laid out and work extremely well. For what more could anyone ask? more...

VW's Golf a Fair Way to Get Around

If you're looking for a nice vehicle to "putter" around in, you can't go too far wrong with the latest Golf.

In fact, a little birdie told me this sixth generation of VW's entry level car was a real hole in one for the German car maker. And having driven the gas-powered four door hatchback recently, I can tell you they've definitely aced it.

Golfs have been around for years, and under various noms de plume, and I can see why it remains popular: it's a fantastic little car, well built, fun to drive and with one of the best interiors you can find. more...

VW New Beetle and Golf City – Reasonably Sublime to Downright Ridiculous

Volkswagen's entry level Golf City is a nice little car, affordable and comfortable and undoubtedly easy to live with.

Then there's the New Beetle convertible.

I got to drive both vehicles back to back, spending about three weeks with them in total – mostly (fortunately) puttering around in the Golf, no pun intended. Well, okay; I did make the pun deliberately. The Golf City restored the good taste for Volkswagens that I'd had before I was infected by the nasty bug. more...

VW Jumps into "Cute Ute" segment with Tiguan

It's cute and it's a ute – and Volkswagen is hoping to score a share of the popular small SUV market with its new Tiguan.

Volkswagen says the Tiguan crossover SUV is an ideal companion for "city adventurers", a "rare species created to help you navigate your way through the urban jungle". I don't know about the "ideal" part, but Volkswagen's kick at this segment of the marketplace – a niche populated by the likes of the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue et al – is a good one, and one that brings some European flair to the segment. more...

A "Non-Coupe" is Volkswagen's Latest Scoop

Who'd have thought a Volkswagen sedan could be sexy, an object of automotive lust?

Yet automotive lust is the feeling I got during my week with the new Passat CC, a wonderful 2+2 sedan that got me thinking about keeping a VW in my garage for the first time in my life. more...

VW "Dodges" Minivan Market

From the company whose microbus became legendary among travelers and hippies comes the 2009 Routan, Volkswagen's first honest-to-goodness "garden variety" minivan.

At heart, the Routan is a re-badged Chrysler (hence the Dodge pun in my headline) built, apparently, on a Chrysler platform and assembled in a Chrysler plant. But just as The Who's version of "Summertime Blues" takes a rock and roll standard and turns it into a "Who-ized" classic, there's more to the Routan than just a Chrysler with different logos. more....

VW Jetta Diesel – TDI, not TD-ous

In a time of unstable gasoline prices, one might think a hybrid is the best way to go. But there's a proven alternative that offers the gas mileage you want without requiring a hybrid's premium price.

It's the diesel, an engine that has been around forever but which has also been dumped upon nearly forever for such things as emissions and noise. But today's diesel can be different from days gone by, if Volkswagen's "clean diesel" technology is any indication. more....

Volkswagen GTI – Upgrades Your "Zip" Code

Volkswagen's zippy little GTI is back, a sporty hatchback that's fun to drive yet practical as well.

The GTI, which could perhaps be called the fairest haired boy in the Golf/Rabbit family, traces its roots back to 1976, when Volkswagen introduced its "compact, wild, young racer" to the Autobahn. According to the company, the GTI was planned as a limited series of 5,000 units, but the market spoke and VW listened – and the rest, apparently, is history. more....

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Jim Bray is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. His columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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