Are cars still 'cheap and cheerful' in 2019? We crunch the numbers. And gears...
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£38,025 when new
Hahaha ‘how do you do, fellow kids?’ Yes, this particular car does feel a little middle-aged-person-in-skinny-jeans syndrome. On the one hand, you’ve got one of Volkswagen’s most sensible SUVs, and on the other, an engine from its most iconic hot hatch. Also, there’s no need to laugh. Ahem, yes. Sorry. Tell me about this GTI-engined SUV. It’s got four-wheel-drive, and a seven-speed DSG gearbox. It’s also got a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol unit that produces 226bhp and 258lb ft of torque which is exactly the same as the Golf GTI hatch it originates from. Though, the Golf GTI is available with yet more power in Performance, Clubsport, Clubsport S and even TCR versions. Why VW didn’t fit one of those engines in, will remain a mystery.
Why, is it slow? No, not in the context of life and the universe. It’ll do 0-62mph in 6.3s which is fairly rapid for something that weighs 1,710kg and capable of carrying five actual humans and quite a lot of luggage. Maybe just the feeling that… VW clearly wanted to make a hot SUV, but chose the least powerful version of that 2.0-litre turbo to chuck in. Anyway, not a deal breaker. Why, is it fun? Yeah, actually. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the corner entry/exit language of the helmsmith brigade, and talk endlessly about steering weight and angles and body control… but it’s a family SUV with a punchy engine underneath. Not an actual hot hatch. That said, it is good to hustle around if you’re in the mood for a giggle. Sport noticeably firms up the steering weight and throttle response, and sets the dampers to stun. Good grip, good balance, leans a bit if you come in too hot, but then it’s big, and tall, and heavy. Comfort is just fine for day to day – you get a decent slug of power with the ability to crush quite a lot of miles with ease, the damping just soft enough to make easy progress through the highways and byways of this increasingly fractured isle. And because it’s so big and tall, there’s great visibility, a good seating position, really quite a lot of space inside and the boot is huge. Is it nice inside? Course it is, it’s a modern VW. Which means a fabulous central touchscreen, a great set of driver dials, lots of lovely materials and a great quality to all the major touchpoints. Lots of cubbyholes and whathaveyou, lots of sensors which makes parking an absolute doddle, and a clean, straightforward design aesthetic. Sounds like a good car, then. It is. We might jest about the whole ‘my other car’s a Lamborghini’ vibe to the notion of a hot hatch engine in an SUV, but it’s a good thing to drive, and crucially, to own. We recorded around 36.4mpg overall across mixed conditions – motorway, A- and B-roads, city centres – which is actually quite a fair bit above what VW itself claims, and not bad for a punchy SUV. But at £38k, it’s quite expensive in the context of another VW product that’ll leave this thing for dust and still offer up decent space and sensibility: a Golf R Estate. Which gets 306bhp, 0-62mph in 4.9s, a DSG gearbox and a price tag of just over £37k. That’s cooler, surely?
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