Volkswagen Golf pitches for par with its digital update and sharper look - all in one stroke
First drive in Majorca: VW Golf Update
This is not so much a facelift for the Volkswagen Golf range (from 3dr to GTI), as a digital update.
Sure, there's a sharper exterior look, new radiator grille, LED headlights, new back lights, some power added to engines, a 7spd dual-clutch gearbox (DSG) etc.
But they take something of a back seat to the digital update; the combined effect will be an average hike of €400/€500 when it gets here in March.
Basically, they have upgraded the infotainment and connectivity systems - starting with bigger and better displays. There is Android Auto, MirrorLink, on-board internet etc - all designed to keep pace with the digital revolution. There is nothing new by way of technology, as such, but people expect it to be on the menu now. The infotainment system redesign means all models have larger touchscreens; even entry-level gets composition colour.
On the safety side, there is semi-automatic driving (Traffic Jam Assist, up to 60kmh); and there's a newly-developed 7spd dual-clutch gearbox (DSG).
However, much of the stuff - from gesture control to safety assist systems, such as emergency brake with pedestrian recognition - are high-end elements. They cost more, either as part of a pricier trim level, or as options. I've used, and reported on, most of them before, so I won't bore you going over them again.
Happily, the event provided an opportunity to drive a few models too; such as the new 1.5-litre TSI petrol engine (150bhp). But it won't come to Ireland yet; the1.4-litre it will eventually replace, is not a major seller.
But the newly-boosted (to 230bhp) GTI will - and it is a treat. I could drive it all day long; the GTI Performance now pumps out 245bhp.
We also drove the 2-litre (150bhp) diesel (no 1.6-litre or new 1-litre 3-cyl petrol, which takes over from the 1.2 - silly not to have them available). I'd be tempted by the 2-litre.
We (I) often overlook the Golf when reviewing new rivals. It's taken for granted. Coming to it afresh, it was easy to see why people pay a bit more. The only fault is a small boot - due to a full-size spare. You can't have it every way.
Here are a few other bits and pieces:
*As well as the 3dr hatches and GTI, the GTE, GTD and estates benefit from the upgrade. The 7spd DSG box will replace 6spd DSGs over time.
*Prices start from €21,670 for the 3dr OTR (incl €775 delivery/related charges); 5dr €22,670. That's for the 1-litre (999cc) TSI 3cyl 85bhp Trendline petrol 108g/km (€190 road tax).
The 110bhp (107g/km, €190 tax) version starts at €22,670 (3dr); the 5dr €1,000 more. Mid-trim Comfortline starts at €24,570 (5dr: €25,570) for the 110bhp version - no 85bhp in that trim.
And Highline begins at €27,070 (5dr: €28,070) - for the 110bhp version.
* Diesels start with the 1.6-litre 90bhp (106g/km, €190 road tax) at €23,770 (5dr: €24,770). The 115bhp version costs €24,770; 5dr - €25,770.
Comfortline (115bhp only) 3dr costs from €26,670 (5dr: €27, 670). Highline (110bhp) costs €29,170 (€30,170 5dr). There is a 5dr 2-litre 150bhp diesel (€200 tax) at €31,670 and a 1.4TSi petrol 150bhp (€270 tax) €28,670 (5dr; €29,670).
* Diesels are most popular; the 1.6 TDI Highline (45pc of buyers) is in keen demand.
* The growth of high-spec buying is attributable to VW's PCP strategy that makes top-of-range deals more attractive. In 2012, the mix was Trendline 39.6pc, Comfortline 32.1pc, Highline 26.7pc. By 2016, that moved to Trendline 24.9pc, Comfortline 28.0pc and Highline 40.9pc.
*Trendline spec has climatic air con, full-size steel spare wheel, Bluetooth, ISOFIX fixtures for two child seats on rear bench, 15ins steel wheels, rear fogs, height adjustment for front seats (lumbar support), cooled glove compartment, unsplit rear bench, electric windows, halogen headlights, separate LED daytime running lights, 6.5ins 'composition colour' radio system (4 speakers), USB interface, hill-hold control.
Comfortline adds: adaptive cruise control, 8ins 8-speaker 'composition media', app connect, voice control, 2-zone climatronic air con/allergen filter, 16ins alloys, front fogs, front assist with pedestrian recognition warning; dark metal insets on passenger-side dashboard, side/door panels, storage drawer under front passenger seat, 12V socket in boot compartment.
Highline adds: active info display, park distance control (front/rear), sport front seats, 17ins dijon alloys, electric/folding/heated door mirrors, tinted rear windows, auto headlights, sports suspension, space/weight-saving steel spare.
* There's an R-Line spec too with special bumpers, a scattering of logos, special fabric seat covering etc.
* There has been a slight shift to petrol: from 20.7pc in 2013, to 21.4pc last year.
* Around 1m buy a Golf globally every year (5,000 in Ireland). Around 33m have been sold in total.
* You can work the new, optional, Discover Pro radio-nav (9.2ins screen) and online system via gesture control.
* Online services and apps include 'smart home' which lets you open the door at home, via MirrorLink while you're mobile in the car.