The designers of the latest Golf have managed to create a premium feel, enhance performance and up the car's eco credentials while retaining its identity, say Jim McCauley
The next generation Volkswagen Golf will shortly arrive in showrooms here and there will be no confusion over identifying it. The company argues that the car has gained iconic status and like its national cousin, the Porsche 911, there is no reason to radically depart from the original concept.
Familiar it may be, but the latest evolution is all-new under its sharper bodywork and it is longer, wider, lower and more spacious than the outgoing model. Thirty-eight years ago the original redefined the compact hatchback segment and 29 million sales later, there is justification in the company according it iconic status.
Most noticeable is the longer bonnet which adds a premium feel to the car while the crease on the front wing flows upwards as it rises into the window line. Lowered by just 28mm, a chamfer along the edge of the roof gives the impression that the car sits even lower, adding to the elegance of the overall design.
Initial engine choice comprises 1.2 and 1.4 petrol engines, each available in either of two power outputs as well as two diesels of 1.6 and 2.0 litre capacities. Test choice was the higher output 1.4 litre model driving through its standard six-speed manual gearbox. This 140PS unit additionally features Active Cylinder Technology which under certain load conditions deactivates two cylinders helping the model to stretch its official combined fuel consumption to 58.9mpg with a lowly CO2 emissions of 112gms/km.
On road, and expectations are that it will sit in the shadow of the similarly engineered Audi A3, but the Golf asserts its dominance. Refinement and flexibility are the key words from this turbocharged unit, 4th gear on twisty mountain sections supplying the ideal ratio for all challenges. Not only does each gear fulfil needs across a wide rev band but the response is instant, and along with the steering precision, takes the model line into another league. Suspension has also been modified and lightened to improved both ride and handling.
Inside, the cabin extends the premium ambition of the new model with quality materials, simple chrome ring detailing and enticing dual colour schemes. A standard five-inch infotainment display extends to eight-inches on the top model with proximity sensors negating having to touch the screen.
Other standard equipment across the three-trim range includes seven airbags, air conditioning, reach and rake steering adjustment, electronic parking brake with hill holder function and electric windows and mirrors. Safety and driver assistance aids include VW’s multi-collision braking system, electronic stability control, tyre pressure indicator and daytime running lights. The multi-collision braking system automatically applies the brakes after an initial impact to lessen the possibility of further damage.
Overall, Volkswagen has maintained the identity of the Golf while increasing its dimensions, performance, quality and environmental credentials. It may carry a marginally higher price tag than some of the competition but the trade-off is in higher residual values.
Equipment grades comprise the familiar Volkswagen ones of S, SE and GT badging with the higher output 1.4 litre model tested currently only available in top GT trim. Among the additional equipment on this specification is City Emergency Braking which automatically brakes the car to avoid a collision in city traffic at speed of up to 30kph. This is an element of the radar-based Front Assist which alerts the driver in any critical situation and preconditions the braking system for optimum performance.
A range of other technical features are available which can alert the driver to unintentionally crossing road markings and to the fact that fatigue may be setting in.
While the range of the Mark VII Golf starts at £16,330, the 1.4 TSI 5-door model tested in top GT trim is listed at £22,705.
Volkswagen Golf 1.4TSI
Engine: 1.4 litre, turbocharged. 140PS @ 4,500-6,000rpm. 250Nm torque @ 1,500–3,500rpm.
Drive: Via six-speed manual gearbox to front wheels. Start/stop technology
Performance: 0-62mph (100km/h) in 8.4 seconds; max, 132 mph (212km/h)
Fuel on combined cycle: 58.9mpg (4.8 l/100km)
CO2: 112gms/km; VED Band C for zero first-year car tax
Warranty: Three-year/60,000 miles, 12 years’ anti-perforation cover and one year’s roadside assistance and recovery.
Euro NCAP: N/A
Extras: Three-year service plan, £329; five-year/90,000 mile extended warranty, £490; automatic headlight dipping, £135; adaptive chassis control, £795; lane assist, £520; rear roof spoiler, £304.