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The Top Gear car review:Volkswagen Golf/Golf SV
For:Latest Golf improves a car that was already the class leader
Against:It could be more fun to drive...but would buyers want it to be?
1.6 TDI 105 SE 5dr
What’s this, then?
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Incredibly confident, engaging and very well refined. But maybe you should buy the cheaper Leon FR instead?
Obviously, we’ll tell you to go all out and get a GTI. But if you want to save pennies, this is a fine, well-sorted eco machine.
The GTI vs its upgraded Performance Pack version. Fight!
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Efficient, fast, confident. But there’s a fly in the ointment…
More than ever, the Golf is all things to all men and women. But in hitting every target, it denies you deep driving satisfaction
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You might think it po-faced and humourless, but you just can’t argue with this sort of comfort, economy and quality
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A very nice car, but not actually the hot hatch it pretends to be. And deceit is really quite a bad thing.
The definitive all-rounder for a world in crisis. Cars don’t come more complete than this.
Still the best hot-hatch on the market, even if it’s lost some of that vital visual understatement.
There’s nothing here that will blow your mind, but it’s all where it should be and all works well.
New Golf, new levels of refinement. Even the petrols are better.
Why can’t more eco cars be like this? No leafy logos or pompous wafflings here, which is just how we like it.
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What we say:
The Golf enters its seventh incarnation. And this time it's more revolution than evolution. Well, sort of
What is it?
Unlike the outgoing Golf MkVI, this is more than just a comprehensive and clever facelift. The Golf MkVII really is an all-new car. But instead of radically redesigning the hatch, VW has come up with… a Golf. When you’ve sold 29 million of ‘em, you don’t throw away a formula that’s so successful. Instead, you improve it. Which is why no stone has been left unturned in the pursuit of perfection.
Given how the old one was already the class leader, this means every other family hatchback should rightly be worried. You can sense the disquiet at Ford and Vauxhall: here’s cash-rich Volkswagen starting from scratch. And just to further compound things, it’s radically improved the Golf’s high-rise cousin, too. Bye bye dreary old Golf Plus, hello smart new Golf SV.
The headline here is the ride, which is little short of a revelation. It absorbs, isolates and simply glides above the disturbance of Britain’s knackered roads. Yet, with less weight up front and all-new suspension, the chassis also delivers more feedback and grip than you may expect from such a supple ride. Sure, you’d never call it agile, but for progression and precision, it’s fine – albeit better on higher-end multi-link rear suspension than the penny-pinching torsion bar setup of lesser cars. The new Golf has some interesting new engines along with the familiar (and still able) TSIs and TDIs from the old one. The 150bhp 1.4 TSI ACT is most meritorious, with an ingenious cylinder shut-off feature that lets it run as a two-pot when power demand is low. You can just about tell when it’s doing so but the transition is buttery smooth, and it really does offer the best of both petrol and diesel.
On the inside
Golfs have been defined by their interiors for years and this one doesn’t disappoint. It delivers a real sense of calm, orderly wellbeing but, thanks to the new platform, also has a lower and comfier driving position, better layout and generally makes smarter use of the space on offer.
No doubting the quality either, while the top-level sat nav’s proximity-sensing feature is genius. You get all this in the Golf SV too: you also get even more room, practicality and boot space.
Because it’s lighter, the new Golf is yet more fuel efficient. Even the standard 1.6 TDI matches the old Bluemotion’s 99g/km CO2 figure, while the greenest Golf is now, like most others, 15 per cent more efficient. The cut-above prices remain but you get even more for your money. As it’s cheaper to run and safer, it’s hard to see how any rival can compete.