ROAD TEST REPORT AND REVIEW: Volkswagen Golf Mk 7
The VW Golf has always been an important car, and as the seventh generation of this motoring icon goes on sale, Motoring Journalist MARTYN COLLINS has a look at the new range.
FEW cars have a history and such significance as the new Volkswagen Golf. With sales topping 29-million across six-generations and 38 years, the launch of the seventh model is a very big deal for the Wolfsburg-based manufacturer.
On first look, you might wonder what all the fuss is about, as like the last, this car looks more evolutionary than revolutionary. But you’d be wrong, as the new VW Golf is the latest member of the Volkswagen Group to benefit from the so-called MQB platform, which debuted first on the Audi A3 and more recently with its Spanish sister, the SEAT Leon.
So, whilst this clever platform leads to significant production and weight savings across the group (23kg lighter for the Golf), what does it mean for buyers? For a start, the VW Golf is 56mm longer than its predecessor at 4,255mm. This and the fact that the wheels are pushed further forward, equals more interior and boot space. On top of this, weight savings should see 23% fuel efficiency improvements.
Design-wise, there’s no doubt that Walter de Silva’s latest work carries on the Golf style DNA that has been evolving through the decades. However, we think that the new platform has given him the chance to give the car some much needed character.
The most interesting part of the design from the front has to be the bonnet, wings and bumper with their defined creases, which we believe gives the VW Golf a sleeker look than before.
Move to the side and the most distinctive features are the tiny quarter lights, which are fitted for the first time since 1987 and the sleek wing mirrors. There’s also a defined shoulder line and arches.
At the back, the changes for the seven are more difficult to notice, although the rear lights which stretch across the back, are now more angular.
Inside, there’s the usual high-quality textured, soft-feel trim you come to expect from a Volkswagen. The tall dashboard design with centre console angled towards the driver is attractive. Whilst all models now have touchscreen infotainment systems as standard.
On top of this, SE and GT models are fitted with a whole host of desirable big car features, including adaptive cruise control and a city safe collision mitigation set-up.
Three trim levels will be available initially: S, SE and GT, with the iconic GTI coming later this year. We had the chance to experience the SE and GT trims on the launch and were surprised how much impact the different choices of textures and colours could make on this modern interior.
Of the two trims, it is the GT that we preferred, but we’re not 100% convinced about the piano black detailing – we wonder if it will still look as good in the long-term.
The driving position is excellent and even the standard seats are really comfortable. There is much more rear legroom (up by 15mm) with front shoulder room increased by 31mm. Bootspace is now 380 litres, an increase of 30 litres.
So, what is the new Golf like to drive then? Well, we had the chance to try the 104bhp 1.6-litre and 148bhp 2.0-litre TDi diesels and the 138bhp 1.4 TSI petrol. Other engines include, 104bhp 1.2 and 120bhp 1.4-litre TSI petrol engines.
The 1.6-litre diesel engine is expected to be the top seller. This is because of the low 99g/km CO2 emissions and average fuel economy figures of 74.3mpg. It is no fire-breather, but in everyday use it is perfectly adequate. Compared to the bigger 2.0-litre, the 1.6 lacks some of the torque, smoothness and an extra cog for the sweeter manual gearbox.
We believe the best engine we tried at the launch was the turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol with ACT. ACT stands for Active Cylinder Technology, which seamlessly switches between two and four-cylinders to save fuel. Capable of 131mph, with 62mph coming up 8.4 seconds, more impressive is the C02 emissions of just 112g/km and Combined fuel consumption figures of 58.9mpg. Well matched to six-speed manual transmission, it lacks the charisma and silky note of bigger engines.
For us, the most impressive stand out feature of the new VW Golf has to be the ride. Even on the GT’s standard 17-inch alloy wheels with lowered sports suspension, we were impressed with the refinement and composure.
Both SE and GT models are fitted with a Driver Profile Selection, offering five different settings to personalise the driving experience. Similar to the Audi Drive select system, Eco, Sport, Normal and individual modes are included. Each of these alter the engine mapping, with Sport feeling the sharpest and Eco the most sluggish.
We also appreciated the light, responsive and well-weighted steering, which along with the excellent body control and high levels of grip meant that the new Golf is the best version we’ve driven yet, even if the Focus is sportier.
So to sum up, the Golf might not be the cheapest model in its class with prices starting at £16,285, but VW has actually worked out that the seventh-generation on average costs £155 less than the outgoing car.
The new Golf is such a complete package, that it has to be one of the very best small family cars available and is in the showrooms now.
THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL: Volkswagen Golf Mk 7
BODY STYLES: 5-door hatchback
ENGINES: 104bhp 1.6-litre, 148bhp 2.0-litre TDi, 138bhp 1.4 TSI petrol, 104bhp 1.2 and 120bhp, 1.4-litre TSI petrol engines.
TRIM GRADES: S, SE and GT
PRICES: From £16,285
IN THE SHOWROOM: Now
• All data correct at time of publishing.