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It's the first time we've tested the Mk7 Volkswagen Golf in the UK, and its all-round competence still shines

Our Verdict

Just how good is the mighty Volkswagen Golf, Europe's best selling car that's now in its seventh generation?

22 November 2012

What is it?: 

This is the first time we’ve driven the latest Volkswagen Golf in the UK, having been so impressed with it when we tried it overseas.

Our UK test car was still a left-hooker, thus putting its driver on the kerb side of the road in Britain and leaving them susceptible to the worst aspects of a car’s ride.

It came with a 138bhp 1.4 TSI turbo petrol engine driving through a six-speed manual gearbox, with a cylinder-deactivation system that cuts two cylinders on a light load.

What's it like?: 

Impressive right away. The driving position is straight and widely adjustable, the driver’s seat comfortable and supportive, albeit that I found under-thigh support to be set too high when the seat was in its lower positions. The steering wheel is a thin-rimmed affair, pleasing but for a small flattened section, with an attractive small central boss and a slightly overloaded array of buttons for the cruise control, telephone, audio, and so on.

There are new column stalks, too, which are quite cute. And, unlike in the new Volvo V40 and others in the class, the Golf retains a set of entirely analogue instruments; they’re bold and clear, like the rest of the swtichgear. Clearly they follow Volkswagen standards for clarity and ergonomics, and are much the better for it. It’s not a particularly swooshy, inventive or exciting interior, but that’s the way Volkswagen likes it – and that’s fine by us.

Cabin materials are generally excellent. Soft-feel plastics adorn the door tops and dashboard, while even areas of harder plastic feel like they have a depth, thickness and solidity to them. There’s no low-grade brittleness anywhere. Carpets line the door pockets; there are little illuminated ambient lights in the doors. It all feels classy. You could argue that it lacks the imagination of an Audi A3 or Volvo V40, but you can’t knock what it does. And its materials are a league ahead of those used in any non-premium branded hatch.

Rear accommodation is generous for the class, which is impressive given that the Golf remains less than 4.3m long. If you were downsizing from a larger car, smaller boot aside, I think you’d be pretty pleased with the Golf’s level of spaciousness.

And to drive, it’s very...Golfy. Like before, but with some welcome extra per cent added to each aspect. The ride of our test car was generally smooth on its 225/45 R17 tyres (albeit with £795 adaptive chassis control), while wind and road noise are both well suppressed. They make the Golf a refined, capable cruiser, with pleasingly consistent and well matched pedal weights and a light, positive gearchange with only a little notch.  

The turbo engine is all but inaudible most of the time, and revs smoothly to a little over 6000rpm. It isn’t a high-revver, and has a broad spread of power and torque, making peak power of 138bhp at 5000rpm and peak 184lb ft from as low as 1500rpm.

It’s clear of notable lag but, as you move from off to part-throttle, our test car had an occasional hesitation in response. It was hard to know what it was: it felt almost like a traction control system intervening for a nanosecond, but clearly wasn’t. It could have been the cylinder deactivation kicking in or out, but it’s impossible to know for sure. A small foible, but noticeable nonetheless.

The Golf steers accurately and smoothly, without the keenness of, say, a Ford Focus, and the VW exudes a feeling of dynamic solidity and stability that can’t quite be matched by an Audi A3 or the Focus. The VW feels less agile than those, but that's usually been the case with the Gol; if you want the sharpest steering or handling car in the class, that hasn’t traditionally been the VW’s remit.

However, at least this time around it does display a tenaciously keen front end and, for all that of its stability and solidity, it generates a lot of grip and is happy to involve the rear wheels (suspended by a four-link set-up on our test car) in the cornering line if you lift or trail-brake into a corner. It’s now a car, even in this cooking form, that enthusiasts will take some satisfaction from driving. And, when you combine that with its completeness elsewhere, you get a pretty compelling package. 

Should I buy one?: 

If it isn’t on your shortlist, then it could be that you’ve got something against Volkswagens, because this is one of the standout cars of this or any other year. If the criticisms above sound nitpicky that’s because you have to be.

The Golf is so crushingly competent in all respects that you have to look hard and deep for things that are ‘less right’ (nothing is outright ‘wrong’ with it) than other elements. To our eyes, it looks good, it feels good, and in every way it is good. It’s easy and satisfying to drive, easy to see out of, comfortable to sit in and economical to run (the combined consumption figure is 60.1mpg, we comfortably exceeded 40mpg in brisk driving, and the CO2 output is 112g/km). 

If you were in charge of small family cars at Vauxhall, Peugeot, Citroen, Fiat, Renault, Honda, Toyota or any one of a number of mainstream manufacturers, the Golf would give you nightmares.

There are still reasons to look to other brands: for me, a Focus with a light petrol engine is a touch more dynamically satisfying, a Volvo V40 is a pleasing proposition and an Audi A3 is satisfyingly classy. But none of them does so many things with the competence of the Golf.

Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI ACT 140 5dr

Price £22,960; 0-62mph 8.4 sec; Top speed 131 mph; Economy 60.1mpg (combined); CO2 112g/km; Kerb weight 1270 kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1395cc, turbo petrol; Power 138bhp at 5000rpm; Torque 184lb ft at 1500-3000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual

Join the debate

Comments
54

23 November 2012

So, this car has the 'go' of a mk3 GTI 16v but will also probably nudge 60mpg on a long run. I guess that's what you call 'progress'. Impressive.

23 November 2012

Makes the diesel look a bit pointless

23 November 2012

The 2.0 diesel does cost £500 more but gives 10 mpg better results, has 150 bhp and 236 lbs/ft  rather than the 184 torque of the turbo petrol.

It will be interesting to see what percentage of Golf GT's, the only model available with the 1.4 ACT engine sell compared with the 2.0 litre diesel.

maxecat

TS7

23 November 2012

Maxecat wrote:

The 2.0 diesel does cost £500 more but gives 10 mpg better results, has 150 bhp and 236 lbs/ft  rather than the 184 torque of the turbo petrol.

It will be interesting to see what percentage of Golf GT's, the only model available with the 1.4 ACT engine sell compared with the 2.0 litre diesel.

 

Need to be careful comparing torque directly, as the torque at the wheels also depends on gearing. Generally diesels need a higher final drive ratio as they don't rev as high as a petrol, thus reducing the torque advantage markedly.

Not necessarily arguing with the 'government' fuel figures though.

23 November 2012

23 grand for 1.4 Golf ? Ridiculous.

www.KOOOLcr.com

 

24 November 2012

These are advanced engines.  Just because it has a lower capacity, does not mean that it is cheap to produce. The current 1.4 TSI 160, is a fabulous, extremely advanced engine (turbo + supercharger), however VW are not including it in the Mk7, as it is just too expensive to produce.  I bet this is a finer, more advanced engine than virtually all of the rattling 2.0 diesels under the bonnets of most german rep-mobiles these days.

Also, re some people on here suggesting the price of this Golf is too high, at £23,000. Why? Isn't that a rather silly thing to say.  You get what you pay for, and I would much sooner have a mid range 1.4 Golf than a 2.0 diesel 3 series any day.  Golfs in this price range are just as luxurious as any 3 series. I've driven both and I'd have the Golf over the 3 series any day! Many people feel the same, and that's why you see many Golfs of 3 series money on the road today.

A Golf for £16.5k is available for those that want a car in that price range.  You can also pay well over £40k for a top of the range Golf, with leather, sat nav etc.  Why do some people feel that only Audi, BMW or Mercs are allowed to have a wide range of prices and specifications in their model ranges?  A base BMW 1 series is just about the same as a base VW Golf, but a 135i costs £29k. I ask you, why is it that it's ok for a BMW badge to cost more tham £17k, and not a VW? There's no reason at all (...other than snobbery perhaps?) The cars are equally as good - the Golf more than likely better. You take your pick, you make your choice. Golfs sell like hot cakes and rightly so. Everyone to their own.

27 November 2012

kcrally wrote:

23 grand for 1.4 Golf ? Ridiculous.

Forget about the list price, no numpty is going to pay it. Give it 12 months and It'll be available on contract hire for 200 quid a month, why do people still buy cars?

 

27 November 2012

New cars only get onto the road at all because there are people prepared to buy them on ludicrous contract terms. Most of the of the list price down, then £200 a month (whoopee!), then most of the list price again at the end of three years. If it gets a speck of dust on it, there's a massive penalty and don't, whatever you do, dare drive it, because there's a massive penalty for anything above a tiny mileage specified in the small print.

But the people who fall for this don't care, because the important thing is that the neighbours can see it. Gives them something to look at when they've finished bonking the loser next door's wife.

Then, when the idiot who took out the contract has finished paying way over the odds for it, the rest of us have a look.

27 November 2012

Chris576 wrote:

New cars only get onto the road at all because there are people prepared to buy them on ludicrous contract terms. Most of the of the list price down, then £200 a month (whoopee!), then most of the list price again at the end of three years. If it gets a speck of dust on it, there's a massive penalty and don't, whatever you do, dare drive it, because there's a massive penalty for anything above a tiny mileage specified in the small print.

But the people who fall for this don't care, because the important thing is that the neighbours can see it. Gives them something to look at when they've finished bonking the loser next door's wife.

Then, when the idiot who took out the contract has finished paying way over the odds for it, the rest of us have a look.

 

Not sure you understand what contract hire is

Have you rented a car on contract hire before?

My Volvo V60 was £720 down and £240 per month inc VAT with 10k miles per annum and met paint, I'm contracted to it for 18 months then hand it back, no final payment and that's for a car with a 28K list price.

My wife has just hired a Mk 6 Golf GTD with leather that lists at over 26k, that was £1200 down and 200 per month, no final payment over 24 months when it's finished a nice man just comes to your house, you sign a piece of paper and it's gone. Again inc Vat with 10k miles per annum.

And the VED is included as well, all you pay is fuel, insurance and a service if needed. I've been renting cars this way for over 10 years, I'd never buy new or used again.

Do the math, you can't get a 5 year old sh1t box from you local dealer for that, its got fxxk all to do with the neighbours.....or even fxxcking the neighbours.

And your welome to the Volvo when I've finished with it, I'll just take great pleasure in ragging it to death just for you.

 

23 November 2012

How would you/we know, we have had only the basic details on the new diesels coming but its looking (very,very) good.

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