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Figured today that it was time I actually drove some of these cars I've been pining over. I had my list... and figured it was as good a time as any to take some for a drive - even if I wasn't buying today. I needed to narrow my list down and see what I did and did not like.

Jen and I went up to Maguire in Ithaca after work today and I was able to get a few drives out of the way. For those that don't know, Maguire is probably one of the largest dealers in the area. They have 5 brands just at the location that I went to - and another few down the road. This particular dealer is Toyota, Scion, VW, Audi, Kia, and Volvo. All under one (currently expanding) roof. Subaru and Hyundai are down the road.

Today I got to take a drive in 2 (sort of 3) of the cars on my list. They had each a 2010 VW GTI and 2010 Volvo C30. Sadly both were automatic - but at the very least the drive would offer a chance to see how they really felt... or how comfortable they were. And I don't even mean physical comfort in sitting in them. I mean everything... perception, touch, sound... how does it really feel getting in and out of one? I was also able to test drive a VW Golf TDI. The salesman thought it might be a good one to try just b/c of the torque of the diesel and it was also a 6spd. Worth a shot... I figured. Keep on reading to see my initial thoughts and reactions to each...

I'm going to go in reverse order here... not for any particular reason other than I want to. I'm going to run through my thoughts on each of the cars and then at the end give some closing words and try to figure out where I'm going from here...

2010 Volvo C30

The last car I drove was the Volvo C30. This thing had two problems right away... it was not an R-Design and it was also an automatic. Two things that actually could be overlooked for sake of getting to know the car and how it feels.

2010 Volvo C30

2010 Volvo C30

Part of the reason I like the C30 is that it really does have some distinct styling. It's different. It's a hatch back, but a quirky one. In a fun way. And the lip kit that is part of the R-Design package plays that up a bit. The one I drove... not so awesome. It was a silver one and was just kind of "blah" in the looks department. I had a bad vibe to start with.

The interior was nice enough. I knew it was pretty minimal and had the floating center stack with radio and HVAC. It did have automatic climate control and heated seats... and integrated bluetooth... and some other things I didn't care about. All of that was nice enough but there were some things that were seriously lacking. The seats... not that comfortable. I honestly expected nicer. They had very little bolstering and just didn't feel good. The controls for the windows, mirrors and other odd things felt very... odd. They seemed to be all sort of miniature. Not really comfortable. Felt funny to try to put the window down. Like my finger didn't quite fit in the switch. There were other little things too, but the ergonomics like that really stuck out.

The drive was decent. It wasn't too hard but really wasn't that comfortable either. It felt like it lacked a bit of refinement (and that's coming from me driving on my lowered, stiff suspension daily). This is another point where it would have been nice to try the R-Design - it has some new suspension bits for a more sporty feel. Steering was OK but the wheel felt gigantic. I think that took away from some of the fun. Felt like I was driving a bus or something having to hurl around that huge wheel. Power delivery was decent - but without driving a manual, I couldn't really gauge if it was where I wanted it to be or not.

2010 VW Golf TDI

2010 VW Golf TDI

2010 VW Golf TDI

The middle car I drove was the Golf TDI. This isn't a bad car. I mean, it's based on the Golf, has a torquey diesel under the hood, gets great gas mileage, and it was a manual! Have to say, for my first diesel drive, it was weird. It sounded weird, felt weird, everything. Not necessarily in a bad way - but in a "it would take me a little while to adjust to this" kind of way. I'd get used to it - just not immediately. Oh, and I stalled it once. Those engines rev funny.

The interior was very obviously all VW. Class all the way. Not totally upscale like the GTI or anything - but certainly nice in its own way. Even came with heated seats standard! It drove well I thought. The torque was good and you could hear the turbo spooling up so it was fun to lay some power down. I didn't go crazy though. I knew from the start that I didn't really want a TDI - this thing wasn't really meant for autox and whatever I got would definitely have its share of cone killing. None-the-less, it was a fun drive.

2010 VW GTI

The first one I drove was actually the GTI. I have to be honest, for a while, this really wasn't on my list. I don't know what I was really thinking, but just had neglected to honestly consider it. Not for any particular reason, just didn't have it there. I knew it was a good car and had already read tons of reviews... yet somehow just forgot it.

2010 VW GTI

2010 VW GTI

That was dumb. Even though it lacks the distinctive styling of the C30 (not that it's a bad looker or anything) and maybe lacks the eco-mindedness of the TDI, I can see why the GTI gets rave review after rave review. The thing is a killer. Sadly I only got to drive the DSG version but it was still quite fun (paddle shifters and all). The interior was fantastic. Love those plaid GTI seats (again, heated, standard). Everything just seemed comfortable and intuitive. It wasn't difficult, nothing felt out of place, things just seemed right. Totally class all the way. Even the steering wheel in that thing is just awesome. Nice and beefy but not trucker-large or anything.

So what does it all mean?

I'm pretty sure the C30 has dropped a couple notches on my list. I could consider trying a manual C30 and see if I like it more - but the interior, the bits and pieces... something was missing. Just wasn't feeling it.

The TDI was cool (and fun to drive) but I can't see it being as "fun" daily as the GTI. And the overall driving refinement was a bit lacking compared to the GTI. It did not feel as composed. Then again, this wasn't really on my list to begin with, so I'm not really missing out.

The GTI is hands down the winner of this round. The driving experience, the interior, the overall feel of the drive... it was all there. Just need to put it together with the 6spd version for one more test. I think I need to row some gears in it before I really decide.

What next then? Well, next week I leave for Salt Lake City... so nothing more on the car front for a while. At some point after I get back though, I'll be heading down the road from that dealer to another one of their locations to hopefully try out a new WRX and maybe a Hyundai Genesis Coupe. Then the real comparisons begin...

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