Small car king

It’s a rare five-star rat­ing from Paul Gover for new Golf

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Cover Story -

SMALL-CAR shop­pers are spoilt for choice. The spoil­ing and the choice have just be­come even bet­ter thanks to the all-new Volk­swa­gen Golf.

The sev­enth-gen­er­a­tion Golf is more like a com­pact lux­ury car than any $19,990 bargain buy and will start favourite for this year’s Cars­guide Car of the Year award, even if Holden is about to un­leash its VF Com­modore.

We knew the new Golf was spe­cial in Sar­dinia dur­ing last year’s pre­view drive and it only takes 30 min­utes in Syd­ney to con­firm the qual­ity of the car. It’s a rip­per. Now, to put it in fo­cus. This year has al­ready brought the im­pres­sive new sub-$40K A-Class Mercedes-Benz. Mean­while, the Hyundai i30, Nis­san Pul­sar and Toy­ota Corolla have lifted the bar for value and qual­ity in af­ford­able small cars. So the Golf, the longterm pace­set­ter in the class, is caught in a pin­cer be­tween down­sized lux­ury cars and up­wardly-mo­bile price fight­ers.

That’s great for buy­ers, as VW has counter-punched by adding more safety, value and tech­nol­ogy while hold­ing the price line to a start­ing point be­low $22,000.

Golf 7 is loaded with safety stuff, has an im­pres­sive mul­ti­me­dia package, and buy­ing is eas­ier thanks to pre-pack­aged kits of equip­ment in place of the tick-the-box or­der­ing sys­tem for in­di­vid­ual items.

But it’s the ba­sics which pro­vide the bedrock.

The Golf sits on a new me­chan­i­cal plat­form that means more space in the back and boot, less noise in the cabin, and new en­gine choices.

VALUE

The Golf has never been the cheap­est car in the com­pact class and that does not change, even though the bot­tom line now starts be­low $22K and VW says you can get a full-loaded car ‘‘ short of gold plat­ing or sun­roof’’ for less than $35,000.

It’s also taken the pres­tige path on equip­ment, com­bin­ing the most pop­u­lar cus­tomer choices— in the same way as Benz and BMW— into packs.

Th­ese sit above the ba­sic car in ei­ther Com­fort­line or High­line lev­els, although the diesel car is avail­able only to High­line stan­dard.

Even the ba­sic Golf comes with cruise con­trol and air­con, as well as a 5.8-inch colour touch screen for the in­fo­tain­ment package. There’s a driver fa­tigue mon­i­tor and an ex­tended dif­fer­en­tial lock for bet­ter grip and safety.

The best things about step­ping up to Com­fort­line are the rear-view cam­era and au­to­matic park­ing sys­tem, as well as dual-zone air­con.

High­line brings sports seats, up­graded in­fo­tain­ment with sat­nav and more bling in the cabin, in­clud­ing an LED light­ing package.

But the starter car only has steel wheels and a space-saver spare— a deal-breaker for some buy­ers— is com­mon to all models.

As an off­set, very wel­come but long over­due, VW has added capped-price ser­vic­ing for the Golf that pro­vides a package for 90,000km or 72 months with an an­nual fee pegged as low as $272.

TECH­NOL­OGY

Ev­ery­thing about Golf 7 tracks back to VW’s new small-car plat­form, which pro­vides bet­ter sus­pen­sion de­sign, more space in the back seat and a qui­eter cabin, thanks partly to an ‘‘ acous­tic’’ wind­screen. There are also big weight sav­ings from the body through to the dash­board and air­con.

They’re the ba­sics. It’s the tech tweaks that are built up from the plat­form that make life bet­ter for buy­ers. That’s ev­ery­thing in­clud­ing an elec­tronic park­ing brake and lots of ex­tra safety equip­ment, such as au­to­matic brak­ing, blind-spot de­tec­tion, park­ing radar and a lot more. There is even an Eco Tip func­tion which gives ad­vice on sav­ing fuel while you drive.

The ar­rival of Golf 7 brings a dif­fer­ent en­gine line-up, with tur­bos all around on both the TSI petrol and TDI diesel power plants. There is a sixspeed man­ual on the starter car, but af­ter­wards it’s sev­en­speed DSG trans­mis­sions, or six for the diesel.

Power kicks off at 90kW on the ba­sic 1.4-litre petrol turbo, with 200Nm of torque and fuel econ­omy from 5.4 litres/ 100km, ris­ing to 103/250/5.2 for the next step from the same ca­pac­ity. Both have stop-start for fuel sav­ing.

The 2.0-litre diesel makes 110kW/320Nm for econ­omy of 4.9 litres/100km, and its 0-100km/h time of 8.6 sec­onds is only marginally be­hind the bet­ter petrol mo­tor at 8.4.

DE­SIGN

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AGo al­ways l ba­sics h two-box since th

Golf 7 with sha bodywo and upm that littl bodywo the nose

In­sid andmo

Ny to walk past the new theVW­head­quar­ters k, which is loaded with s of other Golfs, Tiguans e classier new Bee­tle. olf is al­ways a Golf and looks like a Golf. So the haven’t changed, with a x hatch­back lay­out, he ’ 70s. 7 marks the change arper creases in the ork and a more ele­gant mar­ket im­pact. It’s just tle classier in the ork, from the shape of se to the LED trin­ket­ing. de, it’s more of the same ore with the same, from the touch-and-feel plas­tics through to the way it all fits to­gether. It’s more like a Benz than a Hyundai, let’s say.

The high­light is the new in­fo­tain­ment package, which will sat­isfy even a tech-savvy GenY driver.

SAFETY

Golf 7 wins a five-star crash safety rat­ing thanks to the strength of the ba­sic body, a seven-airbag cabin and stan­dard safety equip­ment that runs to ABS, ESP sta­bil­ity con­trol, the tricky dif­fer­en­tial, fa­tigue de­tec­tion and what Volk­swa­gen calls ‘‘ mul­ti­col­li­sion brake’’, that ap­plies the brakes au­to­mat­i­cally to min­imise the chances of knock-on im­pacts.

Up the line the safety package in­cludes park­ing radar at both ends, a rear-view cam­era, and au­to­matic wipers and head­lamps.

For peo­ple who put safety first, the best deal is the Driver As­sis­tance Package that bun­dles adap­tive cruise con­trol, city emer­gency brak­ing, toplevel park­ing as­sist, au­to­mated re­verse and par­al­lel-park­ing and proac­tive oc­cu­pant pro­tec­tion. It costs more and is not avail­able on the ba­sic Golf.

DRIV­ING

If you were pick­ing a small car to drive be­tween cap­i­tal cities you would take the Golf ev­ery time. It’s qui­eter and more cos­set­ing than any­thing else in the class, in­clud­ing the Benz A at the top end and the new Pul­sar at the bot­tom.

And you could rely on the anti-fa­tigue sys­tem and punchier new in­fo­tain­ment to keep you go­ing on the bor­ing in­ter­state bum­ble while driv­ing a car that is more than ca­pa­ble and com­fort­able at a 140km/h mo­tor­way cruise in Europe.

Af­ter driv­ing all the Golf’s ri­vals, I’mcon­vinced that it is the best of the bunch and has raised the play­ing field to a new level. The A-Class has a classier badge. You can get a Korean car with more for less. But the Benz is too harsh for our roads and the Kore­ans don’t have fi­nesse and re­fine­ment of VW.

The 90 TSI gets along well for al­most any­one short of a Golf GTI fa­natic and the 103 doesn’t bring much more.

The diesel will be best for long-dis­tance drivers or peo­ple who need the torque for a ful­ly­loaded cabin.

The most en­joy­able thing about Golf 7 is the all-round ex­pe­ri­ence. It doesn’t have much vis­ual im­pact, but once you’re in­side you can see and feel the added class.

On the road, the sus­pen­sion is con­trolled as well as com­pli­ant, a rare com­bi­na­tion in a small car. So it ab­sorbs bumps and keeps noise down, but doesn’t flop or wal­low in cor­ners.

DSG trans­mis­sions have been a sore point with many VWown­ers and a source of lots of com­plaints to Cars­g­suide, so we’re hop­ing the new Golf fi­nally gets it right. I tried the tough­est test of the dou­ble­clutch con­trols— hold­ing it with the ac­cel­er­a­tor on a very steep grade. It held with­out giv­ing up the way we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced in ear­lier cars.

I wasn’t tempted to trial the safety sys­tems, but it’s good to know they’re keep­ing a watch­ful eye. Es­pe­cially for emer­gency brak­ing.

We’re plan­ning a lot of ex­tra rounds with Golf in coming weeks and months, but the ini­tial im­pres­sion in Aus­tralia has just re­in­forced what we al­ready knew.

Seven is a lucky num­ber, es­pe­cially for peo­ple who want the best in a small car.

VER­DICT

Have we found our Car of the Year cham­pion for 2013? Al­most def­i­nitely.

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