What is it?
The new Volkswagen Golf SV, or 'Sportsvan' as it’ll be known in the rest of Europe. Officially, it replaces the proportionally awkward Golf Plus that in 2013 ended an eight-year tenure during which it sold a modest 42,248 units in the UK.
But while the Plus was intended as an MPV, it was really just a vertically stretched Mk5 Golf, confined as it was to the old hatchback's platform and wheelbase.
Thanks to the shape-shifting wonders of the Mk7 Golf's MQB platform, however, the SV now has the tools to take a proper swipe at the compact MPV class in general and the sharp-handling, practical and roundly impressive Ford C-Max in particular.
For a £1245 premium over the five-door Golf hatch, or £550 more than the Golf estate, the SV offers passenger-focused roominess (its 2685mm wheelbase and 1578mm height easily outgrowing both siblings) and more flexible seating while retaining a manageable overall length of 4338mm – some 224mm shorter than the estate and just 83mm longer than the hatch.
Despite its transformations, the SV uses tricks such as a glasshouse-extending fifth side window and bonnet-lengthening creases to comfortably upscale the hatchback's considered aesthetic. And while the driver's seating position remains elevated and visibility is very good, there's no unwelcome, perched feeling that you're sitting atop a copy of Greater London's Yellow Pages.
What's it like?
Inside, the tidy switchgear, premium cabin materials and smartly functional dash theme are all familiar, but the bespoke layout is less driver-centric than in the other Golfs.
Door bins are well sized rather than cavernous front and rear, but imaginative cabin storage solutions are scarce – the drawers under the front seats (paired with seat-back picnic tables in SE and above), for example, are too small and tricky to access to make a decent contribution.
By today's standards, the rear seating solution also lacks an ingenious spark. The three-seat bench splits, slides, folds and reclines either as a whole or in 60/40 sections – much the same as the Golf Plus's did – and the middle seat remains quite skinny. A top-spec C-Max's rear seats additionally tumble forward, swallow up the middle pew when it's not needed, or come out altogether.
But headroom is excellent, as is legroom, unless the rear bench is slid right forward to extend the boot's healthy 500-litre capacity by 90 litres (maximum load space is an equally impressive 1520 litres).
Our 2.0-litre TDI engine (joined by a 1.6 TDI and 1.2 and 1.4 TSI petrols at launch) delivered plenty of pep via the positively weighted six-speed manual gearbox despite a 120kg weight penalty over the hatchback – adding just 0.6sec to the 0-62mph stat – although there's little shove on offer above 4000rpm and the engine's droning wears a bit thin. Otherwise, dynamics are very much like the hatch's: tidy rather than scything handling, a convincing balance of body control with ride comfort and rolling refinement in spades.