Same car, same design, different class
FIRST DRIVE VOLKSWAGEN GOLF:WE USED TO say the easiest job in the car industry was to be a designer of Porsche 911s. A tweak of the front lights, a crease to the rear bumper, move the petrol filler cap and, hey presto, your work’s complete for another seven years.It seems the design team of the VW Golf are giving them a run for their money. It’s an appropriate comparison for both cars have become icons in their own rights. The new Golf may seem more of the same at first glance, but then again, if you were in the driving seat at the German car giant, would you completely change a model that has sold 29 million to date and continues to sell by the truckload? When the recipe is right, don’t mess with the fundamentals: just improve the quality of the ingredients. In that regard the new Golf delivers with aplomb.
Sitting in the roomy cabin with tactile plastics to hand and intuitive controls at your fingertips, you start to realise that VW management gave the engineers a lot of leeway on the new Golf in an effort to keep it ahead of the Asian competition.
Take the touchscreen control in the central console. Whether you get the little 5in screen, the more useful 5.8in system or the big 8in version, the controls are very intuitive.
On the mid to high-end models you get the chance to set the driving characteristics, with the menu letting you choose between comfort, normal, sport or eco mode, or alternatively set your own individual mix. Unlike similar systems in rival cars, the different settings make a noticeable difference. It’s the sort of system BMW used to offer on its flagship performance cars several years ago.
As with rivals like the Ford Focus, you can add a host of features from the options list. For example, lane assist that gently tweaks the wheel if you start to veer out of line; a self-parking system that will automatically steer the car into impressively tight parking spots, leaving you just to control the throttle and brakes; and adaptive cruise control that will maintain a fixed distance with the car in front, even if that car slows down. There’s also speed-limit recognition. None of these features is radically new to the motoring world, but they come together in concert in the Golf to give an overall feeling of intelligent design, delivered without too much fanfare and with a touch of German efficiency.
Then there’s the engineering changes up front. Volkswagen has put the Golf on a diet and dropped an average of 100kg as a result, and it affects not only handling but also economy. Bluemotion versions boast emissions under 100g/km. The initial test cars we tried were both Bluemotion – a new 1.4-litre TSI 140bhp petrol and 2.0 TDi 150bhp diesel. Most of the Golf fleet will have emissions below 120g/km, which should keep the annual motor-tax bill down.
The 2-litre diesel 150bhp is peppy enough and can cruise along at high speed with more power on call at the flick of your right foot. However, at higher revs it loses some of its lustre quite quickly.