Volkswagen Charts A New Course With Its Updated Golf
Andy Harris, Motoring and Property Editor
The Volkswagen Golf Mk 7 has been Europe's best selling car since it arrived in 2014 and UK sales are especially strong.
So far this year 19,223 Golf models have been registered, placing it at number four in the sales charts.
One in every three Volkswagens sold to UK buyers is a Golf and with the German manufacturer keen to restore faith in its products following the emissions scandal, a new Golf has now hit the showrooms.
Those expecting anything radical clearly don't understand VW's policy of careful evolution whereby each new rendition of the Golf subtly improves the model in key areas.
Furthermore what is now on offer is Golf 'Mk 7.5', so we are talking a mid-life facelift.
Styling has been gently tweaked with a revised front bumper and the option of LED head and tail-lights on all editions.
Technology updates are more significant especially with regards to the all-important infotainment system. All Golf models now feature a standard eight-inch colour screen (an increase of two inches), while the range-topping Discover Pro system in bigger still. Resolution is better too, so expect to find a sharper and crisper display.
The bigger screen boasts a motion sensor feature whereby sweeping motions with your hand are all it takes to scroll through the various menus. It sounds great in theory and will amuse for a short time, but in reality touching a screen is a more intuitive and reliable way of accessing the necessary information.
In a further development, back seat passengers will now be able to link their smartphones to the infotainment system and thereby control the music played through the speakers. Clever stuff but perhaps a mixed blessing which will allow your children to choose the tunes...
The latest Golf will eventually be offered with a wide choice of drive systems, with petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid and all electric versions available to UK buyers.
A pair of 1.0-litre TSI petrol engines (85 and 110PS) opens the proceedings and despite their diminutive size, turbochargers ensure brisk performance. The more powerful variant can sprint to 62mph in a whisker less than ten seconds and 58.9mpg is forecast for the combined cycle.
At the launch event I managed an hour behind the wheel, during which time the engine impressed with its willing nature, characterful sound and frugal nature (44mpg). £20,120 on the road in SE Nav trim.
Over the course of the year the familiar 1.4-litre TFSI petrol engine will make way for an all-new 1.5-litre version. Available in 150PS and 130PS BlueMotion guises, the latter will offer a complete engine shut-down function for improved economy.
Sadly this much anticipated engine was not here in time for the UK Media launch, so I will arrange to sample its delights at a later date.
Diesel lovers (they do still exist) can choose either a 115PS 1.6-litre engine or a 2.0-litre with 150 or 184PS.
I was able to sample the smaller motor over the same test route. Performance compared favourably with the petrol engined car and as expected it proved to be more economical (49mpg, against the official combined figure of 68.9mpg). Perhaps only the driver who covers the highest of mileages should now be considering a diesel engine?
The Golf's manual gearboxes proved to be as slick as ever and the optional 6 and 7-speed DSG gearboxes are super smooth in operation and should prove more economical in use.
An exhaustive range of trims are offered from the humble 'S' model through to the fire breathing 'R' - a variant to cater for all tastes and budgets.
Equipment levels are high, with SE models expected to be the best sellers (alloy wheels, air conditioning, Adaptive Cruise Control and Driving Mode Selection amongst the highlights).
Also available from launch is the capacious estate model. The carrying capacity increases considerably over the hatch with 605 litres of boot space available, which can be increased to 1,620 litres with the rear seats folded. The load deck is commendably flat too for ease of loading. Add about £1,000 for the load-lugger and its increased versatility.
No Golf review would be complete without mention of the iconic Golf GTi. The new model is faster than ever (0-62mph in 6.4 seconds) and without a doubt it will continue to thrill.
With time being short, I overlooked the GTi for the range-topping 'R' model and was not disappointed. Able to sprint to the benchmark 62mph in just 4.6 seconds (in DSG guise) and with a top speed of 155mph, the bare figures don't do justice to the savagery that is easily released at the merest prod of the right foot.
It is all too easy to find yourself travelling way in excess of the speed limit, so perhaps those without self-control might be better taking the GTi path.
Whichever hot Golf you select, Volkswagen's engineers have worked hard to ensure that the chassis can cope with the power and offer thrills without the spills.
For the almost supercar performance available from the Golf R, the price of £33,935 (with DSG) seems almost like a bargain.
This latest Golf continues to offer a hard-to-beat combination of comfort, performance, efficiency and practicality. With a certain classless appeal, there will undoubtedly be a Golf to suit most buyers.
I therefore predict that the Golf is well and truly on course for continued success and that a new GTi would undoubtedly suit me down to a tee!
New Golf 'Mk 7.5' on sale now
Prices start at £17,625 (almost £650 less than old car)
New engines including 1.5 TSI Evo unit
Added power for the GTi 0 245PS
Newly developed 7-speed DSG gearbox for TDi engines
Latest generation infotainment system
Connected online services
Best seller likely to be SE Nav spec
Expect 65% fleet, 35% retail split
Volkswagen Charts A New Course With Its Updated Golf, 19th April 2017, 8:51 AM