What is it?
The Volkswagen Golf SV, VW's replacement for the Golf Plus and a new model which we praised when we drove it on the continent earlier this year. Now it's a chance for this compact MPV to prove itself on British asphalt.
Transplanting the regular Golf's looks onto the SV, which stands for Sportsvan, has been successful, but the overall design remains conservative. That said, the SV appears practical from the outset; at 4338mm, it's only 83mm longer than the regular Mk7 Golf, but that extra length has been put to good use inside.
The boot comes with 500 litres of storage space with the back bench in place – compared to the regular car's 380 litres – and with the rear seats folded forwards a maximum load area of 1520 litres can be liberated. By comparison, the Golf SV's key rival, Ford's versatile C-Max, offers 471 litres with the rear seats up and 1723 litres with them down.
We tested an SE-specification model equipped with a 108bhp 1.6-litre TDI powerplant.
Our mid-spec model came with adaptive cruise control, folding tray tables, a trip computer, automatic headlights and wipers and VW's Driver Profile Selection system to the already well-equipped entry-level specification. That's all for £22,585, but the metallic paint added to our test car – the sole box ticked on the options list – took the total cost to £23,120.
What's it like?
Rather practical, if not as engaging as we'd like on the road.
Starting inside, the Golf SV is well packaged throughout. Most of the surfaces you're likely to touch are clad in soft-touch plastics or leather trim. It's a premium environment, with only a few cheaper touches like the air conditioning cluster reminding you of what could be unlocked had you upgraded to climate control, a £410 option.
The SV's seats are supportive, and most drivers should have no trouble finding a comfortable position. There's also plenty of space, both in the front and on the rear bench, with masses of legroom and headroom.
While the SV is well deserving of being called practical, it's not done with the same clever touches as the C-Max. Some of the rear stowage, including the door bins and the pockets on the back of the front seats, isn't big enough to hold anything substantial. While the rear bench can be moved forward and back for extra space, the awkward middle seat can't be completely stowed away like it can in the Ford.
To drive, the 1.6-litre TDI is competent, though feels slightly out of breath getting up to motorway speeds. That's likely not helped by this engine coming with a five-speed manual transmission, the gearchange action of which felt stiff in our test car.
It still provides smooth changes, but at cruising speed – at around 2000rpm – we yearned for the six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG transmissions found elsewhere in the range. There's noticeable wind noise from around the A-pillar and wing mirrors.
It's a credit to Volkswagen that, elsewhere, the SV feels very similar to the standard Golf on the road. There's the same composed handling, accurate and well weighted steering and very little body roll through corners, a package which should make covering long journeys a breeze.