Tuesday 24 April 2018

Engulfed with real smugness

Look past a self-satisfied air, high price and the garish colour and you have an ideal family car

Top class: The Golf Mk 7.5 is even more polished than its predecessor
Top class: The Golf Mk 7.5 is even more polished than its predecessor
Campbell Spray

Campbell Spray

Sometimes there is such smugness about a Volkswagen Golf that it could incite you to violence.

But you are civilised and don't even rise to the bait when the car is dressed in a metallic "turmeric yellow". The car just sits there not even bothering to apologise but knowing that 33 million Golfs have been sold to people who have loved, lived and felt a certain middle-class content in the Golf since it dared to take over from the iconic Beetle in 1974 as truly a car of the people. It is the bestselling car in Europe, the bestselling VW worldwide and the bestselling VW here.

After being in so many SUVs and Crossovers these days you are struck by how small and inconsequential the Golf is when first approached. You sit in it and just want to start criticising.

But where to start? The easy one is the price. The Highline version with the gutsy one-litre 110hp petrol engine I was driving has an on-the-road price of €28,070, although prices do start around €21,500. Put on the 171 pack of rear-view camera, winter pack and Discover Media Navigation system, that metallic paint plus 18-inch special alloy wheels, and you are at €30,211.

Now that does seem a lot for a relatively small car that is really only suitable for carrying two people in the back and would struggle to take a family's luggage on holiday. But there again the spec was brilliant and really how often is a car full and what are roof-boxes for anyway?

Unless people using the front seats are of a certain height, I would not go for the front sports seats that were in the test model. They were just too long for those with shorter legs. But here we are beginning to flay about looking for downsides as the style, build and quietness of the cabin is first-class in its own conservative way which suits the target audience. It does everything it should in a confident manner.

The one-litre engine which performed so well in the Skoda Octavia - a much bigger car - is really fun here and should send the Golf diesel offerings, which hitherto were the most popular, to the back of the class. We have seen a number of really impressive engines the same size this year across a number of marques. Look for them.

The thing about Golfs is their great resale value and the massive range of cars to suit all tastes, including the iconic GTi, electric, impressive estate, hybrid and, of course all those diesels - boo!

Even a certain J Clarkson drives one.

In the UK, the Golf is compared to the plusher and more premium BMW I Series and Audi A3. Over here we see it more as a Ford Focus, Hyundai i30, Toyotas Auris and Opel Astra competitor. In truth, it falls between both camps. There's a new Golf being launched later this year but this 7.5 generation model will still woo customers. It's all families will need, although they will do themselves a disservice if they don't look at other options, especially the Koreans with the Kia Cee'd and Hyundai i30, and the Toyotas and Hondas from Japan. The Golf is very safe - financially and practically - but doesn't dominate the way it once did. Maybe the turmeric colour is trying to say that it is now different and its owners are funkier. Neither is true.

The petrol engine in the test model will give 50mpg - not diesel economy, but enough. The car grips well and the steering is good. It's not as agile as a Ford but during my week's test I warmed to the car, although rear access isn't as good as it should be for a car popular with seniors. Even Sam's ramp was awkward to use.

The car is amazingly quiet and well-built. If buying, go for the highest level you can and keep it until the electric momentum engulfs you. The smugness of the car and many of the owners still annoys me, but I can see their point.

Sunday Independent

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