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FIRST DRIVE: GOLF SV bridges the gap between hatchback and people carrier, but it's pricey

With its little brother winning World, European and - for the first time in history - Japanese Car of The Year, you kinda knew the Golf SV wouldn't disappoint.

Replacing the old Golf Plus, it's rather crudely called the Sports Van in other markets but here it bridges the sizeable gap between hatchback and people carrier.

For me the old ad pretty much summed it up - a morbidly obese Japanese mummy's boy is picked up at the airport with his new wife who gets a severe dressing down from mum-in-law because her "poor baby is fading away". The blunt message is that the inside of the Plus is so big that even a miniature Sumo wrestler could look petite in there. Needless to say, it wasn't shown in Europe, and VW has since binned it, but the idea remains the same.

The SV is targeted at the typical family with 2.4 children who, like the fat lad, will inevitably grow up, but hopefully not as fast or as wide.

Although sitting on the same MBQ platform as its namesake, the SV gets an additional 48mm on the wheelbase, meaning greater cabin space all round.

Considering it was basically pulled and stretched in every direction - pushing the wheels into the four corners - it looks quite composed.

Sleek, flowing lines coupled with a chiselled front end and a well-rounded tush give it a unique but spacious look. In fact, it's bigger in the back than the Ford C-Max and the Renault Scenic. It's even more epic as a load-lugger, with 590 litres of boot space which more than triples to a massive 1,510 litres with the seats folded flat.

Larger door apertures mean climbing aboard is much easier for older folk, and the higher driving position is also a feature much preferred by mums.

The cabin is a familiar affair with pretty much the same equipment and layout as a regular Golf, albeit in far bigger and airier space.

Entry-level models will be powered by a 1.2-litre 85bhp petrol or you can opt for up to 150bhp in a 2.0-litre diesel.

Our test car was the workman-like 1.6-litre, 110bhp oil burner which had fantastic economy, returning over 70mpg (3.9 litres/100km) .

The Highline spec came loaded with goodies including 16-inch alloys, cruise control, Bluetooth, hill hold, driver fatigue alert and parking sensors.

Drive-wise, it's what you'd expect from the VW stable - comfortable, frugal and quiet. Just don't expect any real excitement.

But that's what the GTi or, indeed, the Golf R is for, so most customers will be looking at the reliability, build quality, and, above all, the resale value of the VW brand.

That said, the cash-conscious should keep an eye on price because the head-turning Highline we drove came in at a hefty €31,100.

The basic 1.2-litre petrol Trendline is pitched at €24,355. However, you'll have to do with steel wheels, with aircon and leather steering wheel thrown in.

You'll have to stomp up another €2,000 for the most popular Comfortline to get 15-inch alloys, Bluetooth and cruise control.