Fine drive makes Volkswagen Golf winner
- Credit: Volkswagen
The multi-talented new Volkswagen Golf is the magnificent seven, says motoring editor Andy Russell.
It's understandable that an all-new Volkswagen golf is going to be big news given that it has sold the best part of 30 million since its debut in 1974. But you can also understand why some people can't see what all the fuss is about when the new Mark VII closely resembles it predecessor.
That evolution has been part of the Golf success story, bringing loyal customers back for more and attracting new ones to the brand.
Even if you can't easily spot the difference, the latest Golf looks more dynamic with strong, bold lines and curves. And every single component is different so it is what you don't see that really sets it apart from its predecessor.
It's longer, wider and lower which means it has a more spacious cabin and bigger boot and is also 10pc more aerodynamic which helps fuel economy.
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Built on Volkswagen Group's new modular transverse matrix platform, which standardises many parts across marques and models and gives access to new technologies, the new Golf is also up to 100kg lighter and costs 20pc less to produce which is reflected in a lower entry price than the outgoing model and significant gains in standard equipment, safety and security which in turn have cut insurance ratings by up to 13 groups.
Under the bonnet are a new range of turbo petrol and diesel engines up to 23pc more efficient and 40kg lighter. All have stop/start and battery regeneration systems to prevent wasting fuel and emissions when stationary and reduce load on the engine.
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The petrol line-up starts with 85PS and 105PS 1.2 TSI engines and moves up to 122PS and 140PS 1.4 TSI, the latter featuring active cylinder technology (ACT) which can shut down two cylinders on a light throttle to save fuel and emissions. Diesels comprise the 105PS 1.6 TDI and new, more powerful 150PS 2.0 TDI. All but the entry petrol engine are available with manual or DSG automatic gearboxes.
The 1.4 ACT model, only in top GT trim, has impressive performance and returned 45mpg driven hard and 60mpg with a light foot in mixed driving which saw it running on two cylinders at 60mph,
But it's the lower-powered 1.4 that makes the biggest impression. It also revs freely and is no slouch with crisp acceleration but still returned 47mpg overall and in the most popular mid-spec SE is more than £3,000 cheaper while the entry S version saves more than £4,000.
The 1.6 TDI and 2.0 TDI are also quiet and civilised on the go, but a little gruff under hard acceleration, and returned 63.5 and 46mpg respectively in real-world driving. A new 110PS 1.6 TDI BlueMotion version comes later this year, along with the GTI and estate, and is claimed to return 88mpg combined with CO2 emissions of 85g/km.
The Golf is not the most entertaining drive in its class but it's the best all-round package with a flat, stable feel through corners and well-weighted steering response while the supple suspension does an admirable job of soaking up poor surfaces although there is noticeable road noise on GT models with their bigger 17in wheels with lower profile, wider tyres and the ride is also more sensitive than SE models.
The petrol models are more fun to drive with their lighter engines making them feel more agile on twisty roads.
Inside the Golf is surprisingly roomy and able to accommodate large adults front and back in comfort thanks to extra rear legroom. The deep, flat-sided boot has grown 30 litres to 380 litres and is made more practical by a two-level floor and 60/40 split, flat-folding rear seat backs.
The interior takes the Golf to new levels of quality and ambience with top-notch materials, ergonomics and fit and finish – shutting the glovebox sounds classier than the doors of some competitors. The dashboard follows the tried-and-tested Volkswagen design which is user-friendly rather than over-fussy with clear dials and switchgear. The centre console in angled more towards to the driver to make it even easier to use while a new standard, electronic parking brake makes it feel less cluttered.
All models come with seven airbags, including a driver's knee airbag, anti-lock brakes and stability control, electronic differential lock, Isofix preparation for two rear child seats, colour touchscreen, DAB digital radio, CD player, iPod or MP3 player connection, Bluetooth and semi-automatic air-conditioning.
SE adds standard adaptive cruise control with front assist and city emergency braking systems which can bring the car to a complete halt, a driver alert system to monitor fatigue, pre-crash preventative occupant protection which, if it detects the possibility of an accident, pre-tensions seatbelts and closes the windows and sunroof, driver profile selection which allows the driver to choose from eco, sport, normal and individual modes and also comfort on automatic models, rain-sensitive wipers, automatically dimming rear-view mirror and automatic headlights.
GT gets 17in alloy wheels, front fog lights, heat-insulating dark-tinted rear glass, electrically-folding door mirrors with puddle lights, and front and rear parking sensors with visual display. Inside are gloss black inserts, Alcantara and cloth sports seats, ambient lighting and the Discover Navigation media system with 5.8in touchscreen.
Options include high beam assist, lane assist, park assist, adaptive chassis control, a rear-view camera, Discover Pro navigation system with 8in touchscreen, keyless entry and a panoramic sunroof.
It's hard to find fault with the overall quality package that is the new Golf, a car that will hit the spot with so many drivers and is such a pleasure to drive as well as own.