Lightning strikes twice for VW's winning Golf

Wed, Mar 6, 2013, 00:00

The new seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf has been named Car of the Year 2013, well ahead of the joint-entry Toyota GT86/Subaru BR-Z, which came second. The announcement was made at a presentation event on the eve of the opening press day at the Geneva Motor Show.

It’s the second time in its history that a VW Golf has won the prestigious award, and only the second car – along with Renault Clio – to win the award more than once. The last time a VW Golf won the award was in 1992.

Of 32 new models in contention this year, the eight finalists were: Ford B-Max; Hyundai i30; Mercedes A-Class; Peugeot 208; Renault Clio; Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ; VW Golf; and Volvo V40.

The Car of the Year jury is made up of 58 motoring journalists from 22 European countries. In the final round of voting, judges award 25 points with a maximum of 10 points to any one car. The main criteria for voting are: technical progress; design; quality; and value for money. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the prestigious prize.

Final scores

The final scores were: VW Golf – 414 points; Toyota GT86/Subaru BR-Z – 202 points; Volvo V40 – 189 points; Ford B-Max – 148 points; Mercedes A-Class – 138 points; Renault Clio – 128 points; Peugeot 208 – 120 points; and Hyundai i30 – 111 points.

Prior to voting, jury members put the cars through their paces at several independent test events. Two weeks ago the finalists were inspected and driven at the independent test facility at Mortefontaine outside Paris. The Mortefontaine facility is used by car firms and parts manufacturers during development of new models.

Hakan Matson, jury president and auto sector correspondent of Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri, said: “The Volkswagen Golf VII received amazing results in our intensive test drives. It is a modern car with a high level of quality and safety, a wide range of drive trains as well as an outstanding driving performance. The Car of the Year winner has to show excellence in a number of categories – with special attention to the needs of consumers.”

This correspondent, who is the Irish member of the Car of the Year jury, distributed his votes as follows:

VW Golf – 8 points

From an innovation point of view, the new Golf represents not only the seventh generation of a multi-million-selling model range but also showcases the VW Group’s new MQB platform format, initially launched in the Audi A3.

From an industry point of view, this “lego-like” modular format has the potential to radically alter the production and development process and dramatically cut costs. Engineered by the firm’s head of research and development Ulrich Hackenberg, it’s already bearing fruit and could prove to be the critical innovation that will turn the VW Group into the world’s largest car firm.

As for the car itself, there’s a sense of quality about the Golf, from the cabin to the external build quality. The cabin is functional and uncluttered yet offers – unfortunately, in too many cases, from the options list – the latest technology you will need in this segment.

The breadth of the powertrain portfolio is impressive, particularly when you consider the work underway on electric and plug-in hybrid variants.

VW is a victim of its own success when it comes to design, and needs to retain the fundamental DNA of the Golf lineage while modernising the look. It has not always delivered on this in the past, but this generation is a good mix of modern looks adapted to the Golf’s immediately identifiable profile. Its designers may be tethered to a template by now, but this seventh iteration is clean, crisp and uncluttered.

The Golf also delivers in terms of value for money, not necessarily through its forecourt price but in the fact that you do feel like you’ve got a quasi-premium car for mainstream money – and in many markets the residual value on a Golf is amongst the stronger in its segment in the used market.

From its clean, iconic lines to the aura of solid build quality inside and an array of engine options to suit all tastes, the latest Golf delivers a car of the year performance.

Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ – 6 points

The beauty of the GT86/BRZ is that it’s an honest, unpretentious sports car, a reminder of what made so many of us passionate about motoring.

The pre-production concept models were better-looking than the final production model, but its design reflects its blue-collar sports car DNA, something that’s carried through to the interior and the way it drives. It’s a singular message well delivered in every aspect of the car and fitting with the heritage of the brands themselves.

The beauty of the GT86/BRZ is not that it’s lightning quick or dynamically excellent; instead, it offers sports car driving pleasure at a relatively affordable price. You get a sense of speed and sports car agility at legal speeds. In short, it’s fun to drive and that’s what counts.

Arguably this car means more to Toyota than Subaru, for it represents a revival of fun and spirit in an otherwise functionally-orientated brand. It’s important that within such a successful auto giant there beats a sporting heart, to show it’s not just another corporate focused on fuel economy, functionality and financial results.

Ford B-Max – 3 points

A smart format with a good choice of engines that already proved themselves in the Fiesta range, it’s a family-friendly and relatively affordable high-roofed supermini. Ford’s new technology package works well in the new car but the switchgear is too cluttered for ease-of-use.

Dynamically it maintains the blue oval’s ability to offer an engaging drive regardless of the shape or size of the car. Overall a much better car to drive than to look at.

Renault Clio – 3 points

Part of my fondness for this Renault is due to the fact that I expected very little from this car. However, both in terms of its sharper design and its – albeit slightly too soft – driving dynamics, the car impressed.

The steering is a little light but it fits with the nimble character of the car. The Grand Tour version is a smart edition, offering decent practicality with good looks.

Mercedes A-Class – 2 points

This is the car Mercedes should have built first time around when it deigned to create an entry-level model. Its handling is much crisper than what was there before, and the mix of engines offers a choice of decent fuel consumption or outright power.

The interior is well-designed – if not class-leading – while the look should appeal to an audience previously untapped by the three-pointed star.

Volvo V40 – 2 points

A very smart design is matched by interior comfort that delivers in terms of premium tastes and expectations. Again, Volvo deserves credit for its commitment to safety technology, although many others have now adopted similar systems to the likes of city safe.

Dynamically the car copes well with changing road conditions, the ride is comfortable and in keeping with its aim to offer some premium-like comfort in a smaller frame.

Peugeot 208 – 1 point

The look harks back to the good old days of the 205 and 206. Little tricks such as the smaller steering wheel help make it feel fun to drive. It’s a solid effort that feels more composed on the road than many of its rivals.

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