The new VW Golf, though an expensive package with all the extras, still totally seduced a reluctant Campbell Spray
I DIDN'T didn't really want to write about the new Volkswagen Golf this week. However, within a couple of minutes of beginning the test, I was absolutely seduced by it. Even the person who had delivered it was entranced. He went off with a hop and skip after telling me just how good the car was.
Of course, the seventh generation Golf should be good. VW has been producing it since 1974, churning out around 2,000 cars a day to make worldwide sales of about 29 million. Over here, some 200,000 have been sold and it is estimated that there are 81,000 Golfs still on the roads.
It is the very "foundation story of Volkswagen", says Simon Elliott, VW's personable boss in Ireland. It has been number one in its segment for some time and even increased its share to nearly 24 per cent in the most recent period with the outgoing model.
It is also almost impossible to prise Golf customers away from their loyalty to the model. I have been trying to get a colleague to try and assortment of different brands but the Golf bungee rope has him completely bound up. It never matters what marques he and his wife test, the end is always the same and a Golf will again adorn their drive.
The Golf doesn't come cheap but with such good residual values, it can claim to be worth it although I'm pleased to see that the warranty has been increased to three years. The entry price is €19,995 but that is just pretend stuff. VW, like all the German brands, really knows how to load on the extras. My test car was the 1.4 TSI 140HP model, with Highline trim and a pretty good standard spec, it came in at €26,745 before delivery and related charges. Yet by the time bigger alloys, navigation system, light-absorbing tinted rear windows, parking system and a number of other extras had been loaded on, the test car came to €33,642. A wonderful car indeed but now in a totally different price bracket.
It is an amazingly smooth and comfortable car. The Golf has never had the pure driveability of rivals like the Ford Focus but gives absolutely solid performance. The new model is longer, lower and lighter and nearly a quarter more efficient in fuel and emissions. The active cylinder technology disengages half the cylinders when full power isn't needed.
VW claims that my petrol test car could average nearly 60mpg. Its emissions of 112g/km put it into the A4 (€200) Road Tax Band. Even when packed with toys, the interior has a Teutonic austerity and functionality. The safety measures on board are now first class. There seems to be a bit more room all round and the boot is much more convenient with its moveable floor.
Of course, the Golf has never been much of a style merchant and the new model definitely won't set the world alight. But in many ways, it is the complete car, offering practicality and value. It is brilliantly quiet and has the relaxed manner of a champion. Once again, petrol engines continue their renaissance with the Golf. The 1.4 petrol engine in the test car was first class, perhaps even too fast for many of the Golf's very conservative owners. However, even they might find the cheapest petrol engines a bit weak. The well-tried VW diesel engines are available at a €1,950 premium and are only worthwhile if you do a lot mileage each year.
The new Golf was a delight to test and drive. Yet it is a very expensive package to have everything on board. Other cars like the Hyundai i30 and Kia C'eed give you brilliant quality, massive specs and longer warranty for less.
The Golf, though, has an indefinable but solid respectability about it. I'm sure millions on millions of buyers worldwide agree.