Neither sporty nor a van, but very competent. And very pointless.
The new Golf Sportsvan is a Golf, but a bit bigger. Like the old Golf Plus, but a fraction bigger still. And equipped with a sillier name. We'll shorten it to SV. It's 134mm longer than the old Plus, and 83mm longer than the current Golf, but 224mm shorter than the Golf Estate. It's 1,578mm tall, 126mm higher up than the others.
Inside, it straddles the two. You don't get the length you'd find in the Estate, but the 2,685mm 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, offering up to 500 litres of bootspace (76 more than the old one), and five tall, well-fed types can get comfortable in there.
So far, so dull. Much like the engine lineup. Don't expect anything remotely GTI-ish, as the SV uses the super-efficient (and excellent) range you'll find in the Golf Estate. Your choice is either a 1.4-litre turbo petrol (with 84bhp, 109bhp, 123bhp or 148bhp) or a pair of turbodiesels - a 2.0-litre with 148bhp, or a 1.6 with 89bhp or 109bhp. We'd go for the chunkiest diesel. Mainly because it's got 250 very exploitable torques.
Despite the extra extraness, and the jacked-up centre of gravity, it's pretty much identical to a Golf through corners. There's a fraction more roll, and the steering is not the last word in feelsomeness, but considering its mass, it's stable and composed.
But there's a fly in the ointment. Unless more than 50 per cent of your family are over six foot, you can't sleep at night knowing you share your eyeline with the proles, or your ageing hips don't flex too well, it's utterly pointless. That's not to say the SV is a bad car, but it's a needless, overpriced one when the Golf Estate does the same sort of thing for £1,500 less (the SV starts at £18,875), and it's not as useful as a dedicated MPV, or as imperious as an SUV.
That said, the swollen hatchback vernacular is growing. BMW announced the faintly sacrilegious front-wheel-drive 2-Series Active Tourer earlier this year. If you're really desperate for a big small car that's neither sporty nor a van, we'd wait to see if that brings anything cleverer to the table.
1968cc, 4cyl turbodiesel, FWD, 148bhp, 250lb ft, 60.1mpg, 122g/km CO2, 0-62mph in 9.2secs, 130mph, 1474kg, £25,400
An entirely reasonable car, but marred by the existence of the Golf hatch and estate.