Friday 26 December 2014

The Golf's got its ACT together – by not firing on all cylinders

Published 06/01/2013 | 06:00

I have this fascination with waste. No, not rubbish that we dump in sacks and bins. I mean the awful waste of overcapacity. In so many facets of our lives we use a sledge hammer to crack a humble nut. And it is costing us a fortune.

For example, I genuinely believe we have far too many TDs. I don't think I'm alone. We don't need senators, and we spend far too much time talking. Talking, not discussing. Did you ever watch the televised Dáil proceedings on RTÉ? I stuck it for 15 minutes on two occasions. Lads talking away to themselves and making themselves sound important. What a waste of time. Now I know they are easy targets and I am not ridiculing the lot of them. But there is MASSIVE overcapacity across the board there.

I'd love it if we could use the political equivalent of ACT on them.

And the same goes for a whole swathe of other areas which soak up your money and mine.

ACT? What is it? Well, it's a technical marvel. Don't be put off by the terminology. It stands for Active Cylinder Technology (ACT). It was in the new Volkswagen Golf I was driving recently. Unfortunately it is not standard. But it is exceptional, if not necessarily that new (big snob cars have had it for a while).

Here's how it works. Most cars, including the Golf, have engines with four cylinders. There are times, more often than I thought, when I didn't need to be, forgive the pun, firing on all those cylinders. But unless you have ACT your car continues to use fuel unnecessarily as it employs all four. With ACT the system shuts down two of them when you're tipping along with no pull or strain on the engine. So you're only using half the fuel.

And we didn't notice a thing when the system switched from four to two and/or back again. The system did flash a notice on the display screen when only two cylinders were in use. It is a fuel saver without a doubt. I had it on the 1.4-litre turbo petrol (140bhp) on test. I know for a fact we covered lots of kilometres on just two cylinders because we kept a close watch on the monitor. We were surprised.

It is the sort of principle you'd love to see extended to other engines. Not to mention parallel equivalents in real life.

In a way it also typifies the way Volkswagen has gone about the new Golf, the seventh generation believe it or not (it started in 1974 and 29 million have been bought worldwide). Because they haven't gone extravagant. Everything is worth its place. They could have spent a fortune redesigning it. But really there is nothing major by way of visual change. That is half praise and half criticism by the way.

After I'd sat behind the wheel for a few moments I knew it was different. I looked around. Nothing spectacular. A clean, straightforward dash, easy to manage touch-screen, better quality materials to look at and touch. Noticeably more room at the back even from where I was sitting.

These Volkswagen people don't do dramatics. They do evolution. And they probably do it better than anyone. It was a much different car when I started to drive it. I noticed how well they had set up the suspension.

Not so remote that I lost the feel of the road. I think the word used most was 'composed'. It was much better than before on handling and ride. However, it is still quite a bit behind the excellent Ford Focus on real driver appeal.

And I think you have to look closely at how quickly the cost adds up when you add in bits and pieces. That is an area everyone needs to keep an eye on this year, not just with Volkswagen. It is so easy to add a few thousand to the price of a new car when that 'buying spirit' hits you.

Maybe you should remember ACT and realise that sometimes you can get by with a good deal less than you think.

ecunningham@independent.ie

Indo Motoring

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