A round of Golf
I was heading to Cliveden House, famous location for the sex, lies and spies scandal of the 1960s that made Christine Keeler a household name, also previously the opulent home of Nancy and Waldorf Astor and now an elegant hotel.
I wondered what sort of car would look right pulling up to its imposing doors. A Merc definitely, or a classic sports car. I think my Mini has the right kind of classless-with-class image, and so does the car I’d come to drive, a new version of the Volkswagen Golf.
The Golf is the kind of car that gets an approving nod wherever it pulls up. It’s stylish with a reputation for being fun to drive and reliable. (Remember the classic ad where the woman dumps her fur coat and drives off in her Golf?) VWs hold their value, too, so it’s a smart buy, even though on the pricey side to buy.
The five-door SV model adds a little more space for busy owners, being 83mm longer than a hatchback but 224mm shorter than an estate, and the sloping rear end has a touch of coupe to its shape. It replaces the Golf Plus launched in 2005.
If you need to load in sports kit, or the latest flatpack challenge from IKEA, the seats and floor do all sorts of clever tricks such as split, fold, slide, or remove (but be careful not to leave bits in the IKEA car park).
In the mood
I drove the punchy but economical 1.4 TSI model, and enjoyed chucking it around some twisty roads. It’s as eager as labradoodle let off its leash when you put your foot down, and my only grumble was quite a bit of road noise.
Cars are ridiculously clever these days, and this one offers various programmes to match your driving style according to your journey or mood, such as Eco, Sport and Normal. (I couldn’t find Tetchy, but I’m sure it’s there somewhere.)
To save fuel, the car switches off at traffic lights, and it harvests electrical energy while braking.
A clever new safety function is called Automatic Post-Collision Braking System. Studies have found that injuries are often caused by a second impact, for example, if a car hits yours, pushing it into a barrier. So when it feels the first impact, the Golf applies the brakes. (This is on top of the airbags firing.) This gives occupants a much better change of walking away unharmed.
VW Golf SV GT 1.4 TSI 150 PS 6sp 5dr
Price £24,895, as tested £25,580
Top speed 132mph
0-62mph 8.8 seconds
Max power 150 PS
Fuel consumption 40.4/57.6/50.4mpg
Golf (car, not game) enthusiasts will love The Volkswagen Golf Story by ex-Top Gear producer Russell Hayes firstname.lastname@example.org