Underneath, the Plus shares its underpinnings with the new Golf. The two are the same width (1759mm), and the Plus is just 2mm longer (4206mm). The big difference is in height, which increases by 95mm to 1580mm.
In the cabin
The increased height has allowed VW’s engineers to incorporate appreciably larger door apertures than on the Golf, easing entry. The doors open wide and you virtually step up into the interior. With the front seats 75mm higher than those in the Golf, there’s no awkward folding of body parts: you simply slide onto the seat and swing your legs into the generously sized footwells. The driver is presented with a commanding view of the road.
The high-mounted dashboard uses the same agreeable (if somewhat dark) soft-touch plastics as the Golf, but has been thoroughly redesigned. The fascia is dominated by a large central pod a hand’s width away from the steering wheel that houses secondary controls.
It’s obvious that VW has worked hard at getting the cabin right. There’s a feeling of spaciousness you just don’t get in the Golf and everywhere you turn there is somewhere to put things. Volkswagen claims 34 cubby holes in all, including a large glovebox, a front centre armrest box, bins on each door, drawers under the front seats, a large area beneath the boot floor and four optional compartments mounted in the roof lining. The problem will be finding what you’ve stashed away.
Like the 307 SW, the Golf Plus makes no concession to seating seven with a cramped third row of seats mounted in the boot (the Touran fulfils that role). Instead, it retains a traditional five-seat layout while providing loads of luggage space.Not so traditional are the sliding 60/40 split/fold rear seats. Like those up front, they’re mounted on runners which give 160mm of adjustment fore and aft, allowing you to maximise either rear seat space or luggage space.
With the seats in their rearmost position, there’s 395 litres of luggage space beneath the parcel shelf. Flick a latch, slide the seats forward, and you get another 155 litres, taking boot space up to 505 litres (155 litres more than in the Golf). A pull mechanism folds the seats away to provide a flat and deep load bay. In this configuration there’s 1450 litres of space (a Ford Focus estate offers just 75 litres more).
Under the bonnet
Volkswagen is bullish about the Golf Plus’s chances and says it expects up to 150,000 sales worldwide in the first full year of production, 18,000 of them in the UK. It will be launched here in June, with up to five different four-cylinder engines. On the petrol side there’s a standard 74bhp 1.4-litre and advanced 110bhp 1.6-litre FSI direct-injection unit, with a 138bhp 2.0-litre to follow. As with the Golf, however, it’s the turbodiesel engines that are expected to capture most sales in the UK. These engines include a 1.9-litre with 103bhp and a 2.0-litre with 138bhp.
Pick of the bunch is the 2.0-litre TDi. Mated to a standard six-speed manual ’box, the four-valves-per-cylinder unit delivers solid shove and propels the Golf Plus with a decent turn of speed. With 236lb ft of torque between 1750 and 2500rpm it is quite flexible, requiring fewer gearchanges than any of the petrol units, and ensures you’re less likely to struggle when the car is fully loaded.VW puts the 0-62mph sprint at 9.7sec, and the top speed at 125mph. For those seeking added sportiness, there is the option of a DSG dual-clutch gearbox on TDI models. Petrol engines are available with an optional six-speed auto.