I must say, after being in this business for a little while I rarely get excited to drive something. Unless it is something on the scale of a Lotus Evora or some ridiculous supercar, everything else comes across as mundane.

And, as time furthers on, we see auto manufacturers doing everything they can to get one more MPG and improve each vehicle's efficiency. Not that there is a problem with that goal but there is a cost associated with that; most of the time it erodes a car's character.

Remember what it was like to drive a car without speed sensitive steering? Without traction control? It may have killed you but that was half of the excitement.

But we are not here today to speak about efficiency, well, maybe.

This is because I recently had the chance to not only drive the 2010 Volkswagen GTI but also the 2010 Golf TDI, a car I have been squawking should have been here years ago.

GTI, TDI, why all the letters? If you are not in the loop with veedub lingo, here's what you need to know: GTI = sport, TDI = diesel. That is it.

Before we get down to brass tacks, let's cover a couple of bases first. The last generation Golf was a bit of a misnomer, for a couple of reasons. One, its styling seemed a bit soft and a bit too rounded off, everywhere. Looking about the car, every angle had been given a soft edge, which in turn gave the Golf/Rabbit a pretty feminine look to it.

And, I have just given away the second issue. The Golf was not the Golf, it was the Rabbit. Uh, er...for tradition's sake?

Thankfully, things returned to normal with the MKVI Golf. Back again is the Golf nameplate and more squared-off lines. Granted, it appears that the MKV skeleton is the same. Whether or not this is a refresh or not really is a matter of subjectivity. But, I will say this car ushers in the latest "look" for VW and I am not hating it. It has that German scowl that was missing in the last generation Golf.

This latest design language has brought about some impressive looking veedubs. For example, the NCC concept, otherwise known by 001 as "the Jetta Coupe" while I refer to it as the "A5-lite," and the all-new 2011 VW Touareg. Both are extremely attractive machines and show some serious promise for the U.S. market's offerings in the near-term future.

Walking around to the back of the MKVI Golf is a set of new taillights, which boast a first-generation Touareg quality to them. Rather than those large, red pieces that made up the MKV, these seem to give the car a bit more style without becoming clunky. I dig it.

Then you open the door and this is where you will be blown away. The interior on these entry-level cars are pretty magnificent, especially the GTI. Since it is the sportier iteration, you are greeted by a chunky, three-spoke and flat-bottomed steering wheel with a contrasting red stitch. Even cooler is the standard touch-screen monitor to control all of the stuff in the head unit. Mind you the GTI we tested did not have a navigation system.

Trim around the cabin is a nice mix of aluminum and high-quality plastics. It feels like it is the kind of quality you get on an Audi. Our tester, which was optioned with the cloth and plaid interior is a "love it or hate it," kind of thing. I had no issues with the lumberjack vibe; however, I cannot say the same for my significant other who claimed she was about to vomit. C'est la vie.

Moving onto the TDI, sure you do not get the flat-bottomed steering wheel, but you do get a very good leather-wrapped three-spoke wheel nonetheless. The seats feel and look the same as the GTI, except they are trimmed in more tasteful garb. Once again, the cabin appears very Audi-ish. Equipped with the navigation system this time around, the unit operates in a more crisp fashion than previous nav units, which were plagued with lag and would easily become confused.

Without any doubt, this is a class-leading cabin. While there are some manufacturers that come close, the 2011 Volvo C30 springs to mind, many lag behind.

And while the C30 comes close or matches VW’s interior material quality, it lacks in space and comfort. The Golf feels like a cathedral when compared to the cramped and claustrophobia-inducing interior of the C30. There is more knee, leg, shoulder and headroom in the Golfs.

Props to Volkswagen for killing it.

If you are not sold on the way this car looks or the fact its interior is miles ahead of the other guys, perhaps the way it drives will make up for that. And, if you have not guessed, it drives well. Very well.

Leading off is the GTI. Equipped with a 2.0 liter turbocharged motor, the sportier Golf churns out 200-horsepower and 207 lbs-ft of torque. Because it is essentially a featherweight -- by modern standards -- at 3,034 pounds, the six-speed manual GTI can sprint to 60 in a quick 6.8 seconds. Although, I felt there was a pinch of turbo lag. Because the torque is low-down in the power band, it does a pretty good job masking the lag.

For a four-cylinder powerplant, this car sounds quite good too. It does not sound like it has a coffee can exhaust, nor does it become buzzy like a bee. As a matter in fact, it has a hearty grumble below 3,000 RPM that becomes quite addicting.

After a week's worth of driving in the city and the suburbs, I obtained a predictable 21-22 MPG. Considering I am a lead foot, I am sure others could do better.

There is a whole lot to like about the GTI, with one exception, XDS. XDS monitors each wheel's condition, if there is slip, it will send extra torque to the wheel(s) with the most traction. In all likelihood, this seemed to be the creator behind the worst noise on the face of the planet because I have never heard a traction control/limited slip system become this intrusive -- check out the video below, you'll hear the dreaded sound at the 1:00 mark.

The frugal TDI, on the other hand, comes with a turbo'd 2.0 liter making 140-ponies and a pretty serious 236 lbs-ft of torque. Although it is not a speed demon, 60 MPH comes in a tick over eight and a half seconds -- when equipped with DSG -- it provides plenty of fun while sipping from the pumps.

Sure it sounds like a diesel, what did you expect? Make note, most of that chatter is on the exterior as its interior noise volume does not become overwhelmed with that diesel clutter. However, it does have this bassy note when cruising that I adore. Then again, I marvel at diesel locomotives. To each their own, right?

Putting the TDI through its paces rewarded me with a 33 MPG figure when all was said and done after a week. What really killed the number was city driving where I saw as low as 26 MPG; however, hop onto a highway and you can hit 38 MPG all night long while traveling at a spirited rate of speed.

Here is the surprising part, both cars drive identical through the corners. This is probably because the TDI uses an updated sport suspension rather than the usual Golf running gear.

For front-wheel drive cars, it is phenomenal how well these cars perform. Aside from a bit of torque steer in the GTI on aggressive launches and a tad of understeer when you overcook it in a turn, these Golfs are the real deal.

Steering on both cars is weighted just about perfectly. It is not overly boosted so you can flick it with a finger nor does it feel artificially over weighted. It makes getting around town easy and it is dead-on accurate at speeds.

Taking one of these cars to triple-digit speed is a cake walk and because the steering is so right, you do not think to yourself "should I not be doing this?" It just seems so right.

The only indication that you are going fast is the wind noise that becomes intrusive above 80 MPH. Other than that, this car is an autobahn cruiser.

Our manual-equipped GTI was an easy driver. Boasting a relatively light clutch, it takes a second or two to get the take-up point down pat since there is a lacking amount of feel -- not every car can have a clutch like the 2010 Audi S4 ;). But, fear not, the clutch is not as light and feathery as the Mazdaspeed3.

A nice touch is the location of the dead pedal. Not only is it wide but it is placed higher and in line with the clutch so you just move your foot sideways to clutch in, rather than having to lift your leg, then move sideways to depress the clutch. It is a little detail that even Audi's R8 had. Well done, VW.

Getting the manual into gear was an absolute breeze, as it literally takes a finger to do the work for you.

Although if you are feeling lazier, the DSG gearbox is more than adequate. Like all dual-clutch transmissions, it snaps into every gear flawlessly and faster than you could ever shift.

One issue with Volkswagen DSGs I have noted is that they tend to be a bit eager when slowing down to a stop, it loves dropping the car into first gear when it could easily launch from second. Granted, it makes sense in order to have less stress on the car, it would become a little herky-jerky, as experienced in my 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI tester.

While the 2010 TDI still dropped the car into first, it did not become as unruly.

So, what do we know about the 2010 GTI and TDI. Let's think this over:

1) They both have class-leading interiors
2) They both do not drive like FWD vehicles
3) The GTI gets decent MPG while the TDI exceeds the norm
4) Whether you opt for a manual or DSG, the transmissions are solid

Now as an auto nut, I am commonly asked by friends, relatives and acquaintances, "What is the best car for about $25,000?" And being that I adore the 2010 Golfs I always say I would either buy a GTI or a TDI, depending on someone's aversion towards diesel.

With that said, I always have to issue a disclaimer: VW's reliability has consistently lagged the industry.

As a former Touareg owner, I will admit firsthand that I got rid of my Touareg not too long after its four year/50,000 mile warranty was over and in the recently published J.D. Power Dependability Study, Volkswagen placed third to last, next to Suzuki and Land Rover.

Granted, if I was going to the dealer with a $25,000 check today, you can bet that I would be picking up a 2010 Golf TDI over all the competition, even the GTI.

This is why: it does everything a GTI does just with a slower launch time. With the MPG it obtains though, I can live with life in the slower lane. Oh yeah, and it excites me like a Lotus Evora would.

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REVIEW: Are Volkswagen's Golf GTI AND TDI The Best For $25k?

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