Price: £21,850
Top speed: 136 mph 0-60mph 8.1 seconds
Consumption: 53.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 139g/km
Best for: Shy types
Also worth considering? BMW 118d MSport; Honda Civic 2.CDTI Sport; Volvo C30 Sport

The Volkswagen Golf GTD is a curious case. Unlike its flashier bro, the Golf GTI, which is powered by a free-revving petrol ball of fire under the front bonnet, VW's sporty diesel Golf is a more demure, almost shy thing. It just doesn't scream "thrash me". It doesn't have those special little flashes of red you see scattered around the GTI to remind you that you're in charge of a performance machine. It's a bit noisy when cold. It's a diesel. The temptation then, obviously, is to dawdle.

You'd be silly to, but it is odd how easily you fall into this complacent trap. For when the need arises, the Golf GTD is nearly the match of a GTI, and in some respects its superior. The acceleration is there, startlingly so, and the diesel's natural low-down urge means astonishing flexibility though its six gears. In technical terms, the GTD's maximum torque of 350 Newton metres is delivered at between 1,750 and 2,500 rpm. That means, in the words of the old Denim aftershave advert, that this Golf doesn't have to try too hard. It is smooth too, though, subjectively, it feels more silky at the top end of its wide rev range than it does at the bottom, where you get more dieselly grunt and rattle. Still, this is a diesel that will rev to heights that no diesel has a right to fly around in. It just keeps going and gives little way to its more glamorous GTI stablemate – being just over a second slower to 60mph, and only marginally less nimble.

The bonus is economy. The deal is this; with a GTD you do sacrifice a little of the fame of the GTI and a little of its friskiness, but you gain financially. Enormously. Driven even with a certain amount of verve, the GTD gets though a tank of fuel only reluctantly. Its list price is a bit lower, too.

Happily, this Golf shares the usual qualities with the rest of the Golf Mark VI range (a mild reworking of the Mark V, if truth be told). Mostly fine build, tasteful fabrics and materials everywhere and technological prowess such as a rear reversing camera on tap (though at a price). The one disappointment was a noise that sounded like a mosquito had been trapped in the pillar behind the driver's door. It didn't exactly put me off this Golf's nice blend of economy and performance, but I do wonder how many trips to the dealer might be required to fix that pesky fault.

Search for used cars