Good: stunning quality especially inside, great engine/gearbox, brilliant value and performance, German build
Not so much: pick the differences with the MK VI
IN a departure from our usual high standards, we didn’t get the full week in the Golf. Clashing schedules and launches and dinners and general fun got in the way of a really thorough test. None the less it was decent enough to give you all a general run down prior to a longer evaluation.
I feel like saying “there is nothing to see here, move along” because only the keen among us will pick the differences. Although it is a new car on a new platform, it look like the old car on the old platform. The metalwork is new but like most of the VW group, models evolve rather than drastically alter from one model to the next. This is a good thing in a way. It means the resale value stays way up, good news when it comes time to move your precious possession on.
Unusually, we had a base model which is sans frivolous adornment. For the budget conscience there are no alloy wheels (a saving too far in my opinion) and no keyless entry/start. Other than that there isn’t a world of difference between the 90 and the 103 TSI.
The basic shape of the body is the same albeit a little bigger. Funnily enough it’s 100kg lighter than is predecessor. The lights will be the easiest way for most of us to tell the differences. They are slightly elongated back and front but I’d have liked to see more change. I’m a fan of LED’s and by now all lighting on road vehicles should have a bit of moodiness about them. Audi, Jaguar and Bentley do great LED’s. But on Ford’s humble little Focus, Golf’s direct and biggest competitor, the tail lights look fabulous on the S, ST and Titanium models because they are festooned with bright sexy LEDs.
The whole silhouette seems a little more streamlined if you can say a 2-box design can be considered streamlined. While it isn’t exciting, it does have a nice look about it and feels homey and familiar 15” steel wheels notwithstanding.
This is where we get serious. The interior design fairy was told to go berserk.
You’ll no doubt remember I had a bit of a boy-crush on the Passat. Its lovely interior was classy rather than fashionable. I was wooed by the impeccable finish and the care and attention to detail. I loved the thoughtful design and the tasteful touches. For some reason motoring writers get all hot and bothered when joints meet with tight tolerances. The finish is so good you have to keep reminding yourself that you’re in the bottom of the line
The base model has a very plain centre console but the surfaces feel top quality and the buttons, which were redesigned, feel solid and sturdy. The steering wheel buttons have also had a makeover. It took a little while to find everything as the old setup has been with us for quite some while. All switch gear falls exactly to hand and with very little practise becomes second nature.
The cabin feels as spacious as ever and although completely new, feels comforting familiar. That’s the secret to VeeDub’s success, they try never to alienate anyone but in doing so some models can appear a little bland. In their defence, the stripped down models are aimed directly at those wanting quality without bells and whistles. For $21,460 plus onroads, it simply isn’t possible to buy better quality and finish. This is the price for Holden’s Cruze but there is a chasm of difference in every way measurable. It might be more correct to say “without bells and very small whistles” because there is still plenty of stuff in the pov-pack. The drawers under the seats have been kept from the old model thankfully.
There’s more, there are shopping bag hooks, though I’ve never been able to find them. Previous braking options now included as standard. Hill hold was in the previous model but the Auto Brake is now in all Golfs. Activate this feature and when you stop you can take your foot off the pedal and the car won’t move until you press the accelerator. I’ve used this before and hated it. The Tiguan was far too jerky when releasing the hold. A gentle press of the pedal elicits a jump forward in a most unpleasant way. The other safety features are the same across the range, including airbags, traction control, and brake enhancements.
There’s no auto wiper action going on and auto headlights are only a distant memory. Of course these things are in the upper-class models as standard so perhaps forking out a few extra shekels is worth it. I can’t shake the feeling that the boat has been pushed out so far that the opposition will take a generation to catch up. It’s a pleasure to see the bean counters have been told to sit down and shut up instead of designing a car to a price then charging the customer through the back teeth for the good stuff.
Our base model test car had steel wheels but still drove like it was on rails. The ride is superb and it changes direction like a guided missile. It’s here that the 1.4 turbo feels just a touch underpowered. Smooth and willing though it is, you really do feel the need for more horses almost every time you put your foot down. The 9.3 dash to a hundred feels leisurely too. The 103 kw petrol and 110 kw diesel are not even a second faster so there is almost nothing in it. The 90TSi weighs a just a fraction over 1200 kgs so is fairly light for a 5 seater, and a comfy 5 seater at that.
The manual is a delight, but Volkswagen manuals always are sensational. The clutch is delightful. It has just a soupçon of feeling but still has enough feedback to let the driver exactly control his gears. It is simply brilliant. The shifts take advantage of a close gate to give a firmly sprung indication of where the shifter is. Gentle left for 1st and 2nd, straight up and down for 3rd and 4th and a gentle pull towards the driver for the remaining 2 cogs. Speedy changes occasionally allows the lever to slip into the wrong gear but the engine has sufficient grunt if the speed is right so as not to be a problem.
For a base model. The handling is a brilliant. In fact it’s brilliant even for a sporty job. VW seems to have done away with the steering getting progressively better the further up the range you go. Similarly with the fabulous ride, fabulous brakes and fabulous handling. All of these seem a bargain on the entry level model.
I’m sure this is due at least in part to the massive jumps all hatches have made in the last few years. Then there is the Toyota/Subaru 86/brz which blitzes everything in the price range. If VW didn’t want Golf to lose ground, they had to make their Golf as good as it possibly can be. The new platform seems to have done that in spades. Toyota’s Corolla, Holden’s Cruze, Ford’s Focus and the Korean hatches all fall in the same price bracket. Drive them all and the differences are chalk and cheese. I predict big changes in the opposition if they want to sell cars. The challenge for VW will be getting bums on seats. VW dealerships can be intimidating places at the best of times.
CONCLUSION: Though the test was only about 50 k’s or so, it was more than enough to give the “New Golf” (AKA Golf MK VII) full ticks. We will of course be driving other Golfs in the range but we already know the engines are brilliant. Although the twin charge is gone, the experience doesn’t feel worse off for it. I can’t wait for the top model, and then the GTi which promises to be in a stratosphere of its own making.
Would I buy one? Yes, yes, yes.
- 2013 Golf 90TSI 6 Speed Manual – $21,490
- 2013 Golf 90TSI 7 Speed DSG – $23,990
- 2013 Golf 90TSI Comfortline 6 Speed Manual – $24,990
- 2013 Golf 90TSI Comfortline 7 Speed DSG – $27,490
- 2013 Golf 103TSI Highline 7 Speed DSG – $31,990
- 2013 Golf 110TDI Highline 6 Speed DSG – $34,490