More excitement and refinement for VW's mid-range Golf

What is it?

This is the 120bhp Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI 122, complete with turbocharger, but lacking the supercharger of the more powerful 158bhp VW Golf 1.4 TSI 160 GT.

Our test car came in mid-range SE spec, which is expected to be the most popular choice, complete with the VW Golf 1.4 TSI 122’s standard six-speed manual gearbox.

What’s it like?

The new VW Golf offers a step forward in quality, and the new 1.4 TSI 122 makes the step forward in technology to match it, for this engine effectively replaces the old 113bhp 1.6. The lightweight turbocharger gives the engine a linear power delivery that makes the VW Golf effortless to drive in any everyday situation.

Okay, so the 9.5sec 0-62mph time is hardly going to satisfy thrill-seekers, but the level of composure will inspire confidence in any driver and, teamed with the engine’s refinement and free-revving nature, it makes the VW Golf 1.4 TSI 122 one of the most engaging cars in its class.

The ride quality has also improved, though imperfections in the road regularly make it as far as the driver’s posterior.

Cabin refinement hasn’t made the leap forward that Volkswagen would have you believe, either. Tyre noise intrudes at higher speeds, as does wind flutter around the wing mirrors and A-pillar; VW’s efforts have resulted in a car that is eerily silent at idle, but there seems to be little gain at higher speeds.

The sixth-generation VW Golf isn’t a radical evolution, but it has certainly moved the game on. When viewed from the driver’s seat, the Golf 1.4 TSI is closer to the benchmark Ford Focus than ever.

Should I buy one?

Absolutely. Don’t overlook it if you do high mileages either. However, the optional seven-speed DSG ’box might make more sense if you’re looking at daily motorway commutes; combined economy goes up from 45.5mpg in the manual to 47.9mpg in the DSG, so it will save your wallet as well as your left foot.

The more powerful 158bhp VW Golf GT TSI is undoubtedly a better driver’s car but if you’re looking further down the range then the search should start here.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
FR3000 27 May 2011

Re: Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI 122 SE

I've read various reports in Autocar on the Leon 122 TSI and the Jetta ans it seem there are widely varying returns on the numbers. Does anyone have first hand experience of what they will actually return?

70s fan 21 April 2010

Re: Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI 122 SE

I agree with steve.zodiac. I've recently tested a 2.0 TDCI Titanium Powershift, and a Golf 1.4 TSI DSG. The Focus is better handling but does not win in any other category. The VW DSG is brilliant. It operates like a switch - push the lever and it changes gear seemingly instantly. The Powershift on the Ford is not as good. There is a slight delay in the gear change, which makes it feel more like a traditional auto, even though it isn't. The noise from the diesel engine is bad, especially on start up from cold, and this was what made it unacceptable to me. The interior (Titanium spec) was very toy town, with too much shiny chrome, presumably to make it look like quality, but it had the opposite effect on me. I went to the VW garage, tested the Golf and was impressed by the solidity, quietness, DSG, and good power from the engine, whilst still sipping the petrol rather than glugging it. In short I went for an ex demo Golf 1.4 TSI DSG, having expected to buy a Focus.

steve.zodiac 30 September 2009

Re: Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI 122 SE

I get fed up reading posts that the Golf is boring or the same old thing or not up to the benchmark Focus, have any of these folk actually DRIVEN a Focus, I have and a couple of different versions,

1.6TDCI LX - extremely slow, noisy, uncomfortable seats, rattly interior, this particular model tore up it's front tyres in 16000 miles

1.8TDCI Titanium - quite punchy, but still noisy, still had a rattly interior and again ripped its front tyres to shreds inside 15000 miles

2.0 Titanium - got to admit pretty quick, but still had the failings of the diesels, like it was put together unlike the Golf which has the feel of being honed from a solid piece of metal

My own Golf a 1.6FSI automatic, soon to be swapped for a 1.4TSI 122 DSG, now has 46000 miles on the clock, still drives a well as the day I drove it out the dealers, no rattles, knocks or clangs, tyres that lasted 26000 miles is 200% the better car of these so called class leaders, Fords!! still the Dagenham Dustbins they always were!!