Matthew Jones12 May 2014

First drive: VW Golf Sportsvan

The rebranded Golf Plus is as good as it is utterly, utterly pointless

What's this, then?

This is the new Golf Sportsvan. Which is, in every tiny particular, a Golf, but a bit bigger. Like your lymph nodes when you get a cold.

A bit like the old Golf Plus, then?

Just like the old Golf Plus, but a fraction bigger still. At 4338mm long, the SV's 134mm longer than the old Plus, and 83mm longer than the current Golf, 224mm shorter than the Golf Estate, and at 1578mm tall, 126mm higher up than the pair.

So... why?

Good question. VW's product developers tell us it's for people that don't want an estate car, do want a slightly higher driving position, but don't want any of the appellations attached to SUVs.

But is it actually bigger inside?

Yes and no. You don't get the longitudinal space you'd find in the estate, but the 2685mm wheelbase is 48mm longer than the normal Golf and 81mm wider, which frees up more room for things like legs. The rear seats, for example, can slide forwards and backwards by up to 180mm, which still leaves 500 litres of boot space - 76 more than the old one, and five tall, well-fed types can still get inside with enough room in front and above them. Basically, if there's only four of you, it feels like a Passat with a bit more head room. Still awake?

I was resting my eyes.

Don't worry, it's about to get SEXY.

Really?


No. If you move the rear seats forwards, you can increase the luggage capacity to 590 litres, or drop the seats entirely to free up 1520 litres. If you tick the folding front seat option, you'll be able to fit 760 2.0-litre bottles of Coke in there (that's 1520 litres, genius) and stuff that's up to 2484mm long. Which, incidentally, is the same length as Don Koehler, the 9th tallest man ever measured.

Er, OK. Is there a GTI?

Nein. The Sportsvan uses the shiny new super-efficient - and quite excellent - range of engines you'll find in the Golf Estate, but haven't yet found their way into the deflated Golf.

That lot comprises of four 1.4-litre turbocharged petrols, with 84bhp, 109bhp, 123bhp and 148bhp respectively. They're joined by three turbodiesels, a 2.0-litre 148bhp, a 1.6 with 89bhp and a 1.6 Bluemotion with 109bhp. VW reckons the latter wrings 76.3 miles out of the gallon, and emits just 95g/km of CO2. All of them but the poverty-spec petrol can be optioned with an optional DSG dual-clutch ‘box but will come as manuals as standard. They'll be variously available with the same trim grades of S, SE, GT and Bluemotion as the Golf.

So has all that extra extraness monkeyed with the dynamics?

You'd think it would, but actually the Sportvan's almost identical to a Golf through corners. Which is impressive considering that it's a great oaf a thing by comparison. There's a fraction more roll on super-twisty stuff, and the steering's not the last word in feelsomeness - but that's a foible it shared among all Golfs and, indeed, pretty much anything else with an electric power steering system.

0-62mph times are down by around 0.3 seconds across the board when you compare the SV to the wagon, which is pretty negligible. And the weight penalty's not too fierce - on our favourite, the 250lb ft, 147bhp 2.0-TDI manual, it's 38kg more than the equivalent estate at 1474kg. If nothing else, it's a bloody good example of how flexible ‘Dub's MQB platform is.

The what now?

MQB platform. Read about it here.

Aha. Now, prices. Talk to me.

At the moment, you're looking at a £1245 premium compared with a five-door with like-for-like spec. But that'll come to around £1100 when the Golf gets those new engines. So, for the diesel, that's a starting price of £25,400, though the whole range starts at £18,875 for the 1.2-litre petrol. Interestingly, though, it's still just under £1000 on top of the estate.

You say interestingly... Anyway, should I just buy the estate instead?

Unless more than 50 per cent of your family are over six foot, or you can't sleep at night knowing you share your eyeline with the proles, then yes. That's not to say the Sportsvan is a bad car - it's actually very good - but it's just a bit needless. Not least because the Golf estate does the same sort of thing for less money, but it's not as useful as a dedicated MPV, or as imperious as an SUV.

That said, the vernacular's growing - BMW announced the faintly sacrilegious 2-series Active Tourer earlier this year. And if you're really, really desperate for a mildly swollen hatch, we'd wait to see what that brings to the table.

SCORE: 4/10

Engine: 1968cc four-cyl diesel, FWD
Power: 147bhp, 250lb ft
Economy: 60.1 mpg, 122 g/km CO2
Performance: 0-62mph in 9.2secs, 130mph
Price: £25,400

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