TG drives the new Volkswagen Golf
"Every dimension, every line is different. Sit inside and it's eerily familiar, but they've altered everything..."
Posted: 10 Oct 2012
There's an ineffable confidence about the Golf. Born of an unwavering trajectory of evolution over 38 years and seven generations, it knows exactly what it is. VW isn't changing that.
And yet to be literal, VW is changing it. Every dimension, every line is different. Sit inside and it's eerily familiar, but they've altered everything. Even stuff that never changes - stalks, minor switches - is different here. Pretty well every mechanical part too. This really is the newest new Golf ever.
We've talked about Volkswagen's gigantic MQB modular platform before, so let's just remind ourselves that MQB is the reason this Golf is so new, and move on. Because however new it is, it's still a Golf.
Just a better one.
I didn't realise from the pictures how changed it is. "It's obviously a Golf at 200 paces" says the designer, and he's dead right. But see it on the road and it's emphatically lower and visually wider and stronger-proportioned. It looks stretched.
Inside there's a bit more room. As always, there's an immense sense of well-being, and of attention to detail and smartly applied tech. For instance, when the navigation is in map view the screen is beautifully uncluttered. But there's a proximity sensor, so when your hand comes close to the screen, an extra set of soft-keys magically appears.
I'm driving the 140bhp 1.4-litre petrol turbo. It's cheaper than the 2.0-litre diesel, and the CO2 and economy are on a par. Its clever trick is that at low revs and light throttle, the valves on two cylinders stay shut and the engine runs on just the other two. You can just feel a little burble when it's working in that condition, but really you don't notice unless you try.
Otherwise, it's just a sweet, willing engine that has terrific flexibility at low revs (like a diesel) but is willing to spin around the dial too. And it's quieter in town. It doesn't go like a GTI, but it's definitely quick enough to be fun, especially as the rest of the Golf has lost 100kg in lard. Annoyingly though, they only sell this engine with the top trim level, so it's a £22k+ car.
The test car was more than that because it also had optional adaptive dampers. But honestly the ride and handling balance is so ruddy good I'd be staggered if the car really needs them. The fundamentals are just so right.
Especially the ride. It's amazingly supple and quiet, gracefully gliding over crappy town-speed broken tarmac in a way no rivals get near. Nor do most cars a size up, or a size up again. It's wonderfully soothing.
The handling's fine too, as you'd expect from a car where they've moved weight away from the nose. It resists understeer and takes all the swerves you chuck at it. But it is a bit po-faced. It stops short of actually encouraging you to throw swerves at it.
Fair dos. Most Golf drivers probably don't want too much involvement. This car is so impressive in the way it isolates you so well from the cares of the world: from noise, from bumps, from danger, from fatigue.
And of course from scorn. Nobody ever got criticised for buying a Golf. They certainly won't now.