by Karl Peskett

2008 Volkswagen Golf GT Sport TSI vs TDI review


Models Tested:

  • 2008 Volkswagen Golf GT Sport TSI DSG – $37,290 (RRP)
  • 2008 Volkswagen Golf GT Sport TDI DSG – $39,790 (RRP)


  • Metallic Paint (on grey TDI) $690; Leather seats (on red TSI) $2990

plus.jpg Two outstanding drivetrains, brilliant chassis, room, practicality, ride/handling balance

minus.jpg TSI not quite as good with DSG, which one to pick?

CarAdvice Rating: rating11.gifrating11.gifrating11.gifrating11.gifrating_half.GIF (Petrol & Diesel)

– by Karl Peskett

Photography by Anthony Crawford and Karl Peskett

So this is where it gets really interesting.

You take your standard Mk V Golf, whack in 15mm lower suspension, stickier tyres with new wheels, tweak the chassis a bit, add larger brakes and stick on a GT badge. Now, you have a Golf GT. But that’s not all.

Using a supercharger and a turbocharger, Volkswagen has accounted for the best of both worlds, in 1.4 TSI guise. At 125kW and 240Nm, it’s a pearler of an engine. But it gets better. You also have the choice of a turbo diesel 2-litre which belts out 125kW as well, and a stump-pulling 350Nm from 1750rpm.

So, which to choose? Hmmm…this isn’t going to be easy.

CarAdvice staff gathered in Sydney for the verdict.

Next page…

Pages: 1 2 3 4





First of all, the comfort. Golf’s are reknown worldwide (and right here at home, as well) for their superb ride/handling balance, space, and terrific seating. Well, the GTs certainly live up to the reputation.



Both models have bolstering which allows for sporty driving, yet doesn’t close in on you, allowing for easy entry and egress. All round support is excellent, and whether you opt for leather (on our red TSI) or cloth (as per the grey TDI) you won’t be sliding around on the seat. Of course when you bundle in cow’s skin, you get seat heaters as well.



No one likes deceit, however all is forgiven when you realise that the Golf is holding out on how much space the interior reveals. Easily seating 5 adults and cargo is no issue. So yes, comfortably, the Golf can go to golf, or travel from gulf to gulf.




Next up, the drive experience. And here’s where the gap between fuel types widens.


Braking is what we all expect from a VeeDub – a little snatchy, but still effective. No difference there. Steering weight and feel is similar to the Golf GTI too, that is, slightly numb, but with weighting that still satisfies.



But it’s the chassis balance between the car that separates them. The TSI tends to be a little lighter at the front, and a little twitchy in harder cornering. The super-grippy Continental tyres probably contribute here, as the transition from grip to slip in the dry can be quite sudden.



But the TDI tends to have more of that “lead-tipped arrow” feel about it, as a run down the Akuna Bay road at West Head proved. With pro driver Anthony at the wheel, the TDI simply followed where the front end was pointed, with the ESP occasionally correcting the line taken.



But even though it has a slightly heavier front end, the TDI’s grip belied it’s powerplant’s weight and positioning. The chassis seems more balanced than the TSI, and quick turns were simply a matter of the sidewalls flexing to relieve vertical movement, and not lateral slip – the sign of a superb chassis.


But of course the most obvious difference between these two GTs is the engines. To choose, you have to be very objective. Technophiles will love the TSI for it’s combination of two types of forced induction. Using a magnetic clutch to switch the supercharger on and off, with the turbocharger kicking in at the higher revs, is a sure talking point at the weekend barbeque.

By its slightly tinny sound, you can tell that it’s a small motor, but it has the balls to grunt out of corners, especially from about 3000rpm. Plus the fuel economy for what the car is, is outstanding.


The TDI, by comparison, is what you’d call a chunkier motor. It’s not as delicate as the TSI, but still gets the job done. Thank the 350Nm for that. It’s still not that loud, though, but it’s got a rougher, lumpier note, that suits the sporting intentions.



The amazing thing is with the DSG changing when it does, there’s no letup. While most diesels run out of puff at the top end, this 2-litre pulls hard, and then when it changes gear, there’s no lag. Just a seamless flow of torque, which then transitions as the power keeps the pull going. It’s truly an amazing oil-burner, which also suits the Direct Shift Gearbox a whole lot better too.




In TSI form, the ‘box tends to shunt and clunk a little, not to mention the indecisive changes which go along with it. However in TDI, the grunty bottom end glosses over these imperfections, meaning smoother changes, and a more liveable daily drive.



The other consideration is that diesel is 10% more expensive that premium unleaded, yet the TDI costs 15% less to run. 7.7-litres/100km for the TSI, versus 6.6l/100km for the TDI.

In the end, you’re going to end up with a cracker of a car, either way. Both GTs are brilliant, even in their own right.

But if we had to choose; if we were pressed, we’d have to pick the Golf GT Sport TDI.


  • Golfschwein

    Well, if I hadn’t bought 2 years ago, I’d still go the diesel.

  • Liam

    Nice comparison, thanks! I’m sure most GT buyers would probably consider both engines.

  • trackdaze

    No mention of fuel use on test.

    Imagine the TSI 1.4 is a false economy. Little motor that performs like a bigger motor but also drinks like a bigger motor. What is the point again?

    Me i’d take the diesel too.

  • Carl

    Did i miss something or is the verdict missing???? also could we have the fuel consumptions for both???

  • Karl Peskett

    Hi Carl.

    Something has happened with the article.

    I’ll get it sorted.

  • Carl

    Karl….Thanx mate!

  • Jimbo

    Trackdaze, The fuel ecomomy on the TSI is 7.7L to 100km combined, with performance of 0-100 in 7.7s. Not bad for a sports model don’t you think. However the TDI goes from 0-100km in 8.2s with an economy of 6.6l to 100km.

    True these cars are not lightning quick, but they are the hot hatches to get if you want to stay green.

  • Jimbo

    P.S I would personaly choose TDI. The better handling is what swayed me.

  • trackdaze


    Im not doubting the little TSI’s ability as a drivers car. & VW have to be comended for bringing the technology to the masses (twin charging has been on big trucks for some time). It’s just that I can’t help but think the same (if not more)would have been achievable with a downsized 2.0TFSI lets say 1.8.

    Its worth noting the 1.6turbo’s from Mini & Peugot produce the same numbers out & return the same or better economy without the added complexity.

    Having said all this the technology probably better suits application to the Diesel (as in the prime movers) That’d be something. Torque from zero revs from the supercharger and a bigger turbo for better power up high….& excellent economy.

  • Mitch

    its not all about maximum kw or torque, you may get 90% of power from lower revs making it more useable

  • Jimbo


    Your right, less complexity for the same performance is much more logical. Plus it will keep costs down such as maintanence and insurance.

  • Frugal-One

    Is it BigBrother or Houdini? :-)



  • Anthony

    Frugal-One – whilst we appreciate much of your comment, can you please post sensible comment on the cars themselves.

    With thanks

  • No Name

    And the diesel does it again.
    sorry couldn’t help myself there. Bear in mind the VW is the last generation of the direct injection, soon to be common rail injection due to VW not being able to meet emission controls to Euro 5 requirements. A direct injection motor is somewhat noisier than a common rail so driving noise will be reduced somewhat when these are released. Thats a fine motor the 1.4TSI pretty economical to but i’ve heard its a bit harsh at times.

  • Mischa

    ive got the gt tdi and have also driven the tsi. just a few things to note that numbers on pages dont tell you. the tsi is slower in-gear than the tdi. the reason for the quicker 0-100 time is that the tsi reaches 100 in 2nd whereas you need to shift to third in the tdi. the longer gearing of the tsi makes it easier to drive everyday if you’re a manual transmission disciple (as i am). also, the gt and gti golfs are waaaaaay too rolly polly from the factory for me. they need bigger front and rear stabiliser bars in my opinion. however i really believe my gt tdi is the best daily driver on the market today, regardless of money. its fun to drive, fairly quickish, has space for 4 full size adults and their luggage, is easy to park and i dont have to sell it when i have kids :)

  • Villiers

    More food for thought:
    Load up the car and the TSI becomes gutless and lethargic. It’s 0-100 is quoted when empty save the driver. How many people don’t carry anything???
    Load up the TDI and its performance loss is almost unnoticeable (love them torqs!)
    I don’t really follow Mischa’s talk of gear changes – the DSG changes gears in 0.04 of a second and keeps the TDI in the thick of the torque band.
    I just love VWAG’s diesel technology, come on you Japanese manufacturers – catch up!
    Biggest drawback for the diesel – $1.60 a litre is now common!

  • Fred

    With only 1.1 l/100km difference, there’s a chance the diesel may cost more to maintain. Obviously, fuel is more expensive, and if you factor in the spare parts, which are also more costly in diesel cars, the oil burner alternative may be a hard argument.

  • Cameron

    My concern with the TSI is longevity. We don’t have any models with 100,000 K’s plus to see the reliability of such a small yet ferocious engine.

  • Greg

    Awesome article, and spot on opinions.

    Funnily enough I had a guy ask me this morning about my GT TDI. He too was tossing up between these two models. I understood all too well his dilemma. I will be putting him onto this very article.

    I went in to buy a TSI as the technology impressed me, but one drive of the oiler, and wow, I was sold. And I stepped out of a FPV GT Ford. The real world driving performance of either is indeed amazing.

    And it’s a real tough choice.

  • Liam

    If the GT TDI has a weakness it is that is so closely priced to the GTI. I tested a GT TDI today with DSG and the diesel engine and DSG were perfectly matched, and while I acknowledge that not all TDI buyers would be considering the GTI as well, the GTI is a better driver’s car, as you’d expect. The GT definitely has more pickup at town speeds, and there is the fuel economy benefits, too. But I’d say most people that can afford to pay 40-ish driveaway for a GT, could stretch the extra few K for a GTI, which in itself can be driven very economically. We’ve taken ours from Canberra to Sydney and back with an indicated consumption under 7l/100km (cruise set to indicated 115-120km/h), and while the diesel may do it in 5-6l/100km or less, the GTI is hardly guzzling the fuel.

    That said, if you wanted a solid all round car, the GT TDI is damn hard to beat. Not as focused in the twisties, but certainly not embarrassed by any stretch.

    Great to see Volkswagen remedy the faults of the Mk4, which was still a pretty reasonable car, in such a successful way. I hope the Mk6 follows suit and raises the bar once again.

  • Revhed

    Another factor that many fail to consider are how dirty many diesels still are – although diesels generally emit less CO2 than a petrol equivalent, particulates and NOx emmisions are much worse.

  • Jonathan

    If the driving were typically stop-start city/urban motoring – up to the shops, school and other such short trips – would the better pick up from low revs of the TSI tip the balance in its favour over the GT TDI?

    The authors, who appear to have been fanging around semi-urban roads such as West Head etc, did not say.

    If “Villiers” is right about the TSI suffering under load, as might be expected, I would be concerned as I am after a car to carry 4 + pooch.

    Currently I am tossing up between a TSI and a GTI (about to cancel my GT TDI (manual) order after deciding we could not live with the dead zone from rest to 1750).

  • Fred

    Anti-spam is BMWM3, woohoo!

    How about a comparison of 320i and 320d, or X5 3.0si and 3.0sd, or all 4 cars?!

  • Lindz

    City driving in Brisbane has returned 6.8l/100k from our TSI for the first 5,500klm. The car was not purchased for economy but has been great on fuel.It is a manual version. I couldnt see the point of the diesel after the experience of a bad tank of fuel cost me $4,500 on a small diesel 10 years ago.

  • Cameron

    Lindz, the standards of refining diesel have improved remarkably, it would be very bad luck to encounter the same issue today. Those fuel figures you have are very impressive, can you let us know how they go over the next 5000ks? How do you find it’s performance when it’s fully laden?

    Jonathon, can I suggest you try to test drive another TDI?
    I know there is some turbo lag with them, but what you are describing sounds more like a car with issues as opposed to lag.

  • Fergy

    Great article and the reader comments have been a great read so thanks.

    I’m in the market now for a GT TDI or a GTI. It’s hard not to stretch that extra few thousand dollars but is the benefit really there?

  • troy

    about to get 2.0 TDi DSG (not GT).. but really tempted to get the GT after reading this article. is t worth the extra 5k? by the way, how much do you guys pay for the GT, driveaway? Thanks.

  • Greg

    All three of the sportier 4 cylinder golfs are great choices. I went in to buy a techno TSI, just drive the legendary GTI and didn’t even consider the oiler. I found the TSI to drive like a bigger engined car, quite smooth overall, felt a lot like my mum’s honda. The GTI was sheer go-cart, effortless lazy power, awesome finish and drive, but I found the suspension just too harsh. The dealer talked me into a TDI drive, and one shot of boost and I was grinning like a kid. I can see however that most won’t be thrilled with the on-off power delivery, whereas i was!

    In the end I love the jeckyl and hyde nature, the fact that my manual TDI is dead level with an XR6 or SV6 auto in a traffic light drag, and has returned an average of 6.5L per hundered for the last 7000k’s from new. And I drive it hard. I get about that overall combined, and into the lower 5’s on the highway. $’s would be feasable, but I love the power too much!

    In the end, for me, it’s the fact that I fill up ( ouch these days ) and get to drive my usual 850km’s out of the tank like clockwork. Diesel is expensive, but I am at the bowser a whole lot less!

  • Golfschwein

    Still loving mine too, Greg. Which engine did you get?

  • Levy

    im in the same dilema as you Troy. very inclined to get the 2.0 TDI but considering GT DSG at the moment -still working out on the drive away price with the dealer at Barloworld. Has anyone got a figure to compare -for GT Sports TDI with out any options.

  • Philip Minifie

    Had the TDI for about 15 months. cant fault it, except diesel costs about $1.80 in Manly.

  • Doosie

    Took delivery of a GT Sport Tdi in Feb. Very pleased with the car overall. However I was a bit disappointed to see that the car has been placarded by VW against using Bio D, under threat of voiding the warranty! Can anyone enlighten me? I believe most diesel in Europe is a 10% bio blend, so why the difference here. The way things appear to be heading these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bio becomes the cheaper option.

  • Rob

    I have owned a GT TDI with the DSG since Feb this year, (My first VW, before this I was totally sold on XR6’s) I test drove most 2 lt cars and had set around a $40000 limit. I was after economy but did not want to sacrifice power or comfort. I was about to order the new Ford Mondeo Diesel and the Golf was the last car I tested, just to really see what it was like without any pre-conceived ideas. Talk about blown away, Now After owning the Golf for 4 months and 13000ks, what a car, not the least bit disappointed. Commuting from the country to Melbourne I get an average 5.6 l/100km with 3 adults on board, I love the seats and pickup and learn to ignore the slight turbo lag. I preferred the GTI but decided on the TDI for the economy and resale since I will do more than 100000kms over the next 3 years.

  • Alf

    Bought my 08 gt tdi late april, and like many of you here have found no fault in this machine thus far (bar from the ridiculous price of diesel @ the moment). however, for those who want a smile on their faces after you switch this thing into second and feel yourself taking-off like a rocket with the greatest of ease, even though you have 4 occupants and a load of gear in the boot, this is certainly your car to pick. took it down to wagga recently and i swear to you that it could might as-well have just run on a damp oiled cloth, a little over 450 or so km’s it used to get back and it still had more than 650km left on the fuel reader that i used to run around sydney that following week. brilliant! also, in addition… try to get a corporate or fleet price when haggling for the ‘driveaway’ of this car, VW will try and arrange this for you, over-all and with my trade-in it took around 10k off the price of mine and afforded me the leather seats. which are most brilliant!

  • Kim

    Still waiting on long term opinions on the TSI if anyone can help. Drove one for a weekend recently and was completely sold, however I never had passengers or any load to speak of. Love the VWgroup diesels, but having a diesel small car currently I’m getting sick of the $100 petrol bills.

  • Greg

    Kim, I hear you, but the only real cheap option these days, and especially in the coming years will me a two wheeler. Alternately it’s hard to beat the Honda Jazz for economy!

    I have found in the VW “crew” I know now, that the TDI diesel driver have typically come from 6 packs or 8’s, or simply love diesels. The TDI isn’t always an easy, smooth drive, especially in manual form like mine. You definately re-lerarn the old clutch control, especially on steep hill starts! I can see the GT TDI with DSG would be an awesome combo. Thing is I wanted the stronger manual, and plan to keep this car beyond the 3 year warranty, and run it on Bio.

    I figure the GTI would return me 5-600k a tank, the TSI 700ish a tank, and the TDI gives me 850, and that’s driving H-A-R-D. I take these figures from the various VW forums I frequent, and see how others go in the real world. I could have easuly stretched to the awesome GTI, but the ride, and the fact I know I’d have far worse economy the way I drive were my deciding factors.

    The VW display foir economy is notoriously optimistic though, as a lot of guys who track litres and actual km’s are finding out. The error aside, the economy for the drive is atill mindblowing, and I’m very very happy with the little beast!

    Overall, get onto a few forums such as VWwatercooled and GolfMkV, and read, read, and read. MANY people come in with the same delimma, that is WHICH ONE : )

  • Greg

    sorry for the typos – shouldn’t type in the dark!

  • Ian

    Hello Im getting a Golf GT Sport 20 TDI DSG 140 BHP in 6 weeks How fast are they and also i forgot to get paddle gears now its to late are they necacery or will the manual gear stick do as good a gob thanks for any feed back Ian

  • Rob

    The GT TDI’s go hard, not great off the mark, and as some other readers noted, can be a bit rough taking off. I have had my GT (By the speedo) to 200 Ks without a problem. One BIG issue, the Continental tyres fitted are not an ‘off the shelf item, I ripped a sidewall thursday and had to wait till monday for a replacement ($550 each!). If this was not enough of a problem, the space saver spare is only good for 80 Kph and I had a 260 K round trip with highway and 110 freeways. Try cruising at 80 with cars travelling 30 Ks faster, scary stuff. One bright note, economy is outstanding at this speed.

  • George

    HAHAHA its all about the TDI people!!

    i had the option of the TSI… the TDI is a wayyyy better car!! please just stop the previous arguments, the verdict is the TDI.

    Thank you. p.s. alfa romeo are wayyyyyy better!! go for a 147 celespeed 😉

  • Callaway

    waiting on long term opinions on the TSI if anyone can help. Drove one for a weekend recently and was completely sold, however I never had passengers or any load to speak of. Love the VWgroup diesels, but having a diesel small car currently I’m getting sick of the $100 petrol bills.

  • Mark

    Turbo lag with TDI, this sounds silly to me, coming from a worked Nissan S15 with an aftermarket Jap turbo producing 240kw’s at the wheels.

    Boost from 1750rpm is hardly lag (considering what I drive and other similar performance Jap cars), and the GTI would have a similar problem with boost/rpm figures being relatively similar.

    Either way, don’t buy these cars for performance, don’t kid yourself the GTI is not a performance car – can’t compare it to a EVOIX, S15, STI or regular WRX in a straight line or around bends.

    Like Troy i’m tossing up between the TDI and GT TDI. Not sure which way I will go, plus I may end up just waiting for the MK6 to come out later this year…

    Reason for the change – quite simply something good to drive as a daily car. The other cars I mentioned are great in their own right, but not exactly user friendly on a day to day basis in city traffic. Plus the rice rocket stereotype is annoying.

  • Adam

    I am considering getting a Golf. love the sound of the GT Diesel. I have been bombarded with the opinion from mates etc, that build quality of the S.A. built Golf is poor, and yet, on forums such as this, I have never heard of anyone mentioning poor build quality. Anyone got any bad news to warn a wary buyer?

  • Golfschwein

    No bad news, Adam. Brake rotors, maybe? My front ones have been wobbly since 25,000 kms, but my original brake components are still hanging in there at 60,000 kms.

    It depends how you drive it. I follow some drivers over a kilometre stretch where they dab the brakes for no reason seven or eight times. They’re the ones who deserve their 30,000 kilometre rotor replacements.

    The job will cost between $750 and $900 using quality non-original gear.

    I had a minor engine management glitch fixed under warranty and might ask them to look at the trip computer cluster whose numerals’ bottom edges are fading, at the next service that’s due right now.

    And that’s it. Go get one.

  • Adam

    Cheers Golfschwein, just the encouragement I need, now that drive away deals are being splashed around in the event of the new series coming out, things are looking better from a $ perspective too

  • http://Rob Rob

    I have now done 44000 K’s in my 11 month old GT TDI apart from a minor glitch, fixed under warranty, I have had no issues.
    Not sure why the current series are considered inferior either.
    Economy is unbelievable on my trips, 900 – 950 per tank avg. but almost 1100 from I run.
    Tyre wear is OK, still running originals, but anybody got ideas on a suitable tyre replacement that doesn’t cost $550 per tyre?

  • Golfschwein

    Eeek, Rob! Makes me happy for my 1.9’s 15″ alloys that only needed $149 Michelin Energy XM1+s.

  • TSI17

    “In TSI form, the ‘box tends to shunt and clunk a little, not to mention the indecisive changes which go along with it. However in TDI, the grunty bottom end glosses over these imperfections, meaning smoother changes, and a more liveable daily drive.”


    can you please describe me more detailed why is TSI and DSG not such a good option?

    Thank you.

  • michael

    ? worth upgrading to tdi 6 from 5( 103KW)

  • S

    i have a 2007 gt tsi, and done around 64,000kms. if you push this car hard, better be careful, i have already blown up my turbo twice. ofcourse they replaced it under the warranty. what’s up with rev limiter they are supposed to have ????
    and also its a terrible car to drive with load or say another couple of poeple in the car.
    excelled fuel economy, even when i push it i get about 8/100
    bad suspension, and sunroof leaking
    otherwise a good car

  • triode12

    I purchased an 07 TSI DSG GT (not GT Sport) a couple of weeks ago with 14500Kms on the Odo. And in that time I have covered 3500kms in the car on a trip to Melbourne and back.

    Not once have I encountered the following: “‘box tends to shunt and clunk a little, not to mention the indecisive changes which go along with it.”

    As a matter of fact, it has been smooth as. Gear changes have been seamless, as has been the handover between the supercharger and turbo. You can hardly hear the supercharger working or the turbo blow off. As a matter of fact, it was only yesterday that I noticed the faint whine of the SC and only bec I was in a very quiet street with the windows down and the radio turned off.

    The dash sizzles occasionally and there is a rattle in out of the aircon outlets when the car is driven on rough roads. But on good bitumen, the car is near silent. NVH levels are pretty decent.

    I’ve easily overtaken larger cars and 18 wheelers with ease in the GT. There is a little amount of lag from stand still but after that there is heaps of torque and acceleration is smooth through the gears. I’ve blown past many a surprised motorist (doing a double take) in their falcdores with the GT sporting a big grin on my face.

    The ride is a lot more comfortable compared to my Pirelli GTI and not as grippy round the corners. Nothing a suspension and tyre change will sort out. But the GT has been setup for long distance comfort which it excels in.

    Fuel economy has been fantastic for long distance driving – the GT truly lives up to it’s name, averaging 700-750 kms (7.4km/100) on a single tank mostly highway driving (filling up before the low fuel light had even come on) and not driving like an old lady. Two people in the car with a full boot.

    However, it doesn’t do as well in the city, averaging about 600-650 kms per tank which is slightly better than average. But I do fang it a bit. :)

    All in all, I am very satisfied with my purchase. It has torque throughout it’s rev range which is great for quick overtaking, fuel economy is amazing for a car this size. It is however not as nimble as I would have liked -probably because of the way the suspension has been setup (comfort).

  • Kevin

    I have recently signed up to purchase a manual 2008 GT TDI Golf with 25ks on the clock and 18 months of manufacturer’s warranty. I have a VR6 which I am really happy with but need to upgrade. I have tested an R32 DSG (awesome) and a GTI which were both impressive, however I’m hooked on the TD red-eye and should be taking delivery of the fully optioned next week. I have one question. “Are there any vibrations evident from engine to clutch?” At the point of depression of the clutch there is a noticeable vibration (short wave – not a shudder) felt at the clutch pedal. This disappears when the pedal is depressed and is not apparent when the clutch is let out until the last 10% of travel.
    Any comments here – apart from ‘dont ride the clutch!’

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