Volkswagen applies light-touch facelift to the venerable Golf

New fuel-efficient 1.5 TSI petrol engine and a longer-range eGolf arrive early next year

Volkswagen’s new Golf comes with new bumpers at the front and rear, standard LED lights for the back and optional ones for the front and new alloys

Volkswagen’s new Golf comes with new bumpers at the front and rear, standard LED lights for the back and optional ones for the front and new alloys

 

Volkswagen is on the cusp of a major revolution in the way it builds its cars, driven to mass-electrification by the scandal of “Dieselgate”.

That revolution is still a few years off (and possibly slightly further if Donald Trump goes through with threatened plans to cull electric car subsidies in the US market) but in the meantime, there’s an updated version of the Golf for us all to enjoy.

For those of you struggling with bifocals or a magnifying glass, worry not – this is indeed the new Golf but the exterior changes are minimal at best.

They are basically new bumpers at the front and rear, standard LED lights for the back and optional ones for the front, new alloys, new paint and some small tidying-up jobs such as moving the sensor for the active cruise control from the front air intake to a more concealed location behind the VW badge.

Underneath, the changes are a little more profound, and in a nod to Apple, VW’s engineers are referring to this update as the Golf Mk7 S – not the full new Mk8, but still a worthwhile update.

The mechanical changes include a new family of turbocharged petrol engines, a development of the existing EA211 family, which will come as a 1.5-litre with active cylinder cut-off, which means that, as with the outgoing 1.4 TSI ACT, the engine can run on just two cylinders under light throttle loads to save fuel and trim emissions.

That means that you can have a 150hp version which returns a claimed 57mpg and 110g/km of Co2, or a Bluemotion 130hp version with claimed 61mpg and 104g/km.

1.5-litre TDI engine in development

“The result is that the new Golf will therefore be up to one litre more fuel efficient in real-world operation than engines of comparable power. That is Smart Sustainability. That is affordable progress for everyone,” said Dr Frank Welsch, member of the board of management of the Volkswagen Passenger Cars.

As for diesel engines, VW is making us wait to hear of any updates on the diesel front. We know that a new 1.5-litre TDI engine is in development, but for the moment the line is that the Golf 7 S will stick with the existing 1.6 and 2.0-litre TDI units.

There are other powertrain updates, however. The GTI gets a power boost for the standard model from 200hp to 230hp, while the GTI Performance upgrade lifts that to 245hp.

The plug-in hybrid GTE Golf sticks with the old 1.4 TSI petrol engine, while there will be a simpler, more affordable Golf Hybrid using the new 1.5 petrol. Impressively, VW has also given the all-electric eGolf a major battery upgrade, fitting a 38.5kWh unit, which lifts the one-charge range to 300km, better than either the Nissan Leaf or the new Hyundai Ioniq EV.

A new seven-speed DSG automatic transmission will be available across the range.

Inside, there is now the option of the all-digital 12-inch TFT instrument panel, called the Active Info Display – it’s already offered in the Tiguan and, as the Virtual Cockpit, in various Audi models.

9.2-inch infotainment system

There are also new central infotainment setups, which now come in a choice of 6.5-inch, eight-inch or 9.2-inch versions. That top-spec one features such niceties as advanced voice control and “gesture control”, allowing you to fiddle with the radio by flapping your hands about in front of it.

“The main focus is on a completely new generation of infotainment and connectivity. No other compact car is smarter, safer or more interconnected,” said Dr Herbert Diess, chairman of the Volkswagen brand board of management.

“Volkswagen is gaining momentum. In 2017, we will be presenting more than 10 new models and major updates. By 2020, we will have renewed our complete line-up.”

There are also some new safety features, including a Traffic Jam Assistant, which will creep you along in traffic at speeds of up to 60km/h, a new emergency stop system which brings the car to a gentle halt if it detects that the driver has become unable to control the car, a more advanced active cruise control and lane-keeping system, an updated self-parking system and better emergency autonomous braking which now comes with pedestrian detection.

Irish prices haven’t yet been announced but they are expected to rise a little when the updated Golf goes on sale in April 2017.