Driving the MkVII Golf
The first Golf was a monster. It was so popular everyone knew what a Golf was even if they had no interest whatever in cars – and they still do. VW used that familiarity recently with its clever ‘like a Golf’ ad. The 1974 original was nippy, and fun, the GTI became the car every lad wanted to own.
But the Golf has changed. I suppose it's grown up. It’s way bigger, and I was surprised to learn its sales are 70% fleet.
The seventh generation is loaded with electronic goodies to entertain the driver and keep them safe. The VW elves have sought out lighter materials and worked to hone every piece to shave off weight in order to improve fuel consumption while keeping the car stiff for excellent handling and strong for crash protection.
One nifty new safety feature automatically activates the brakes if the car is involved in an accident, to prevent injury from subsequent impacts.
A Driver Alert system standard on SE and GT, or optional on S, gets to know the driver’s style during the start of the journey so it can spot if they seem to be drowsy and suggest a cup of coffee.
Perhaps the best option is Park Assist (see Blog), a feature that’s been available before on more expensive motors. It’s good to see it moving down the price range. It's standard on the S and SE and optional on the GT. VW obviously reckons GT owners will be too proud to let a machine itself, but if they don't trust their partner to park it, the £145 option cost is probably less than the cost of fixing a car park bump.
I’ve always admired VW design. It manages to be smart and minimal without being staid. The bling-rings are just enough to lighten the feeling of the dark interior. There are some very tasteful details, too - see the detail photo of the interior door handle. Some of the 'gloss black' surfaces in the GT are a bit too shiny for my tastes (as in the Citroen DS3), but I like the Alcantara-panel seats.
I tried three models. The 2.0 TDI 150PS with 6sp DSG automatic was smooth and executive but a bit solid – no ball of fire. The best-seller will be the 1.6 TDI 105 PS 6-speed manual and that was pretty punchy. Finally I took a turn in the GT 1.4 TSI ACT 140 PS 5dr 6-speed manual. Of course that was my favourite, but if I were a fleet customer, it would have to be a diesel - the promised fuel economy looks staggering with the 1.6 TDI delivering 85.6mpg on the extra-urban cycle. Official fuel figures never represent real-world figures, though, they're really only good as a comparison. I'll be interested to see what they really do.
Overall, I thought the Golf wasn’t as lively or as much fun to drive as a Ford Focus, but it was more comfortable, and it's cabin is definitely a more attractive place to be.
PRICES AND MPG (Jan 2013)
1.2 TSI from £16,285, 47.9/67.3/57.6mpg
1.2 TSI 7-speed DSG from £19,365 , 48.7/62.8/56.5mpg
1.4 TSI from £18,055, 42.8/65.7/54.3mpg
1.4 TSI 7-speed DSG £20,125, 45.6/65.7/56.5mpg
1.4 TSI ACT from £22,305, 48.7/67.3/60.1mpg
1.4 TSI ACT DSG from £24,375, 48.7/68.9/60.1mpg
1.6 TDI from £18,910, 61.4/85.6/74.3mpg
1.6 TDI 7-speed DSG £21,915, 61.4/80.7/72.4
2.0 TDI from £21,360, 56.5/78.5/68.9mpg
2.0 TDI 6-speed DSG from £23,430, 52.3/68.9/62.8mpg