First DriveNew GTE offers the best blend of economy and performance in the Golf range, but could do with more boot space and a lower price
First DriveThe Golf gains more anonymity in estate form, but remains practical and appealing to economy-conscious buyers
What is it?
The Mk6 Golf but with a new 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine, which replaces the 109bhp version of the 2.0 TDI.
For now the 1.6 TDI comes in two states of tune: either 89bhp (available only in S trim), or 104bhp (S or SE) as tested here. A third version will appear later this year in the Golf BlueMotion, with the same 104bhp but better economy and emissions figures.
What’s it like?
Smooth but slow. At idle and at low revs the 1.6-litre diesel is very un-diesel-like, making the most of the Golf’s refined cabin and relaxed ride.
If you’re not in a hurry, this is a ideal car to get places while using the minimum of the world’s resources, the engine returning 62.8mpg on the combined cycle and emitting just 119g/km of CO2.
For gentle town driving or motorway cruising the Golf’s performance is entirely adequate, but if you want to pick up speed quickly, for instance to squeeze into a gap in traffic, there isn’t the low to mid-range torque you might expect from a turbodiesel.
In VW’s defence, the 1.6 produces as much torque as the old 2.0-litre (185lb ft) but that doesn’t change the fact that it feels somewhat slovenly.
Both versions of the engine come with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, and we can’t help thinking an additional ratio would help lift the performance. You can specify a seven-speed DSG on the 104bhp version, but at a cost of £1455.
Should I buy one?
If the Golf’s maturity appeals and you’re happy to live with the relaxed power delivery, the 1.6 TDI offers economical and polished family transport.
For those who want a little extra performance, the 138bhp 2.0 TDI costs around £1000 more but pushes the CO2 rating up to 129g/km, meaning road tax of £120 (rather than £35) and a BIK band of 15 per cent (rather than 10 per cent). As they say, the choice is yours.