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All the iconic Golf qualities, done better than ever

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Golf

Just how good is the mighty Volkswagen Golf? The seventh generation of Europe's best selling car has been facelifted to keep its nose ahead of its rivals

Steve Cropley Autocar
6 January 2009
Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI GT

What is it?

This is the new VW Golf 1.4 TSI GT. It’s the small capacity, turbocharged petrol version of arguably Europe’s most iconic car, and this is the first chance we’ve had to sample a petrol-powered VW Golf on UK roads.

In the early days after the new VW Golf’s static launch at the Paris motor show, the car received a bit of a panning — as new Golfs often do — for not being different enough.

However, this time the criticism seems justified, for this sixth version really does change very little. This time, for instance, the Golf’s glasshouse is more or less unchanged, and VW has made few claims about new chassis technology or improved cabin space; both are more or less carried over.

What’s different, says VW, is the quality. Just as the rest of the field reaches Golf finish levels, VW has moved the goalposts once again.

The VW Golf 1.4 TSI GT gets the 158bhp version of the 1.4-litre TSI engine. This is a tiny 16-valve petrol turbo unit with continuously variable inlet valve timing. Its headline feature is a crank-driven supercharger, which is on hand to augment the more usual turbocharger when extra torque is needed.

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The engine in the VW Golf 1.4 TSI GT drives through a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but our test car had the optional seven-speed paddle-shift DSG, with full auto facility, that seems to suit it even better.

What’s it like?

From the first mile you drive, it’s apparent that the VW Golf has taken a long step forward in ride refinement. There’s a smoothness in the way the VW Golf deals with suburban bumps that puts it ahead of the Ford Focus, yet it has most of the Ford’s poise and body control even when used hard. The secondary ride is fully comparable with much more expensive cars, and plainly tops everything else at the money.

Even if your neighbours can’t recognise it as the latest VW Golf, you’ll never be confused when you drive it. The sweetness of the steering and controls, the ride sophistication, the noise suppression and the pervading quality of the Golf are all a couple of classes above the rest.

Chuck in the smoothness and sophistication of the seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox and the zing of the 1.4-litre twin-blown engine (easily mistaken for a meaty 2.0 litre except that it can deliver 40mpg in town) and you have just about the finest car in the class.

Should I buy one?

Yes. The new VW Golf 1.4 TSI GT is just about the safest new car you can buy anywhere in this market, from the residual values point of view, and there’s nothing you’ll enjoy driving more in its class.

Try before you buy, however. VW offers lots of engines; maybe you’ll prefer the prodigious low-end torque of its diesels, for instance. But there’s little doubt that the new VW Golf opens up a margin over the rest of its rivals in the areas that most please owners.

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6 January 2009

VAG have occasionally come up with interesting engines (e.g. VR6) and this is no exception, particularly so as it's a small capacity unit. It reminds me of the type of thing the Japanese were once well known for - you know, producing midget cars with tiny turbocharged engines. On paper, the performance/fuel consumption compromise of this Golf looks very promising...getting on for diesel-like economy without the revolting smell from the tailpipe and the about-to-die Massy-Ferguson impersonation in the morning. I must test one when I get the chance.


6 January 2009

Sorry to complain - I think Steve is an excellent journalist and I've always admired his work, but......

This isn't an £18,599 Golf - Price as tested, its a £21K plus Golf when you add the 18" Wheels, Metallic Paint, Auto Box and Parking Sensors, plus whatever else VW add to the press cars.

Why can't Autocar ever get the "price as tested" right? Surely in today's climate price is becoming increasingly important, did Steve not notice that VW had stuck him in a £21K car claiming it cost (a still expensive) £18.5K?

A Focus ST with 225PS, metallic and parking sensors (no auto though) is under £20K.

"and there’s nothing you’ll enjoy driving more in its class" come on 1.4 Golf that looks like the old model but with some nice damped grab handles against a Focus with 225PS and £1500 quid to spend on petrol.

6 January 2009

I went to my local VW dealer on Sunday to have a look at the new Golf and I have to say it is such a nice place to spend time in. The cabin really is very good.

I found the styling fine, apart from the rear lights which I'm just not keen on.

As for the price anyone who pays the full list price especially in these times really isn't trying hard enough. Go to where you can already get almost £2k off list on the higher spec cars.

Anyone who chooses an Audi A3 over one of these really is just buying the badge.

7 January 2009

I have to say that it could have been more informative to read a report on the most basic petrol model rather than this high tech show case.

How close are these supension settings to the bottom of the range and how would "rowing the car" along with a manual gearbox and less torquey engine affect the refinement? That would be a more objective test of how far the latest Golf has moved the game on.

7 January 2009

[quote Pye]

A Focus ST with 225PS, metallic and parking sensors (no auto though) is under £20K.

"and there’s nothing you’ll enjoy driving more in its class" come on 1.4 Golf that looks like the old model but with some nice damped grab handles against a Focus with 225PS and £1500 quid to spend on petrol.


Then when you come to trade it in you'll find the Focus worth about as much as if you had bought a Fiesta.

Remember life costs are more important than sticker price (even if the Golf is a tad overpriced). Seem to remeber the Golf 5 was shockingly expensive in 2004, but everyone else moved their prices up to similar levels shortly after.

9 January 2009

Another engine bay shrouded in plastic and virtually impossible to work on, even if it is just changing a head light bulb or air filter.

I'm sorry I can't see what the fuss is with the Golf. Having owned a Mk5 version, because it was supposedly class best, I never gelled with the thing. The so called quality interior and class leading (well second to the Focus) dynamics just didn't measure up in my opinion. There are better cars for the money and it would appear the new version is no different.

9 January 2009

[quote jerry99] have to say that it could have been more informative to read a report on the most basic petrol model rather than this high tech show case.[/quote]

Totally agree.

Can we please have a test of a totally standard 79bhp 1.4 Golf S? No optional extras whatsover. Then we can see if it really is worth the money... (£13.5k)

10 January 2009

The typical used Focus is worth less than an equivalent Golf, but on the subject of life costs, check out how much more you will spend on insurance, servicing and parts on a Golf compared to a Focus!

12 January 2009

I also responded to an invite and went along to a local dealer for the launch display.

They had a display of well preserved previous models and with some other folks I relived camping trips across France in a 3 door MK1 with 2 kids. Can't believe how small and light the car was and that thin steering wheel etc. Sat in a Mk2 much like my two Jettas and then a Mk3 1.8 more trips and ferrying the children to universities each term We've only just passed a 10 year old Mk4 onto a niece.

Oh yes and the new car looked nice too although the rear seat squabs dont fold away like they used to. I'll need to try the 1.4T and the 140 diesel and the DSG to see which combination suits me best. I am sure that dynamically it will be better than my 2001 A4 but I wont just be able to throw the bike in the back. The Mk 4 could handle 5 dustbins of garden rubbish this is the acid test in real world suburban motoring!

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