The original hatchback is once more the champion
THE Volkswagen Golf Mark VII is Carsguide’s 2013 Car of the Year.
The shortest-priced favourite in the 17-year history of the COTY contest romps home ahead of a surprise runner-up, the Mazda6 diesel station wagon. The familyfocused Kia Rondo sevenseater completes the podium.
The landmark MercedesBenz A200 is fourth but the sentimental star, Holden’s Commodore, manages only sixth place in the 10-car line-up of new models released since December 2012.
The seventh-generation Golf was clearly on top through the intensive COTY judging, rating first in the field with seven of the 10 members of the voting panel.
It won us over with a combination of class and refinement, relaxed driving and the value of the $27,940 90 TSI Comfortline with DSG auto.
Never has a “small” car (the cabin space is equal to a big car of the 1990s) so seamlessly combined the verities of a suburban family vehicle and a long-distance tourer. Its 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine is as amiable and economical — or as spirited and responsive — as you could want.
Not that we have no misgivings after the massive recall of the previous-model Golf earlier this year because of DSG transmission problems and the ongoing questions about the Volkswagen support network.
“I love the Golf, but I would never own one beyond the warranty period,” says James Stanford, summing up the feelings of most. Likewise Joshua Dowling, News Corp’s national motoring editor, who says that the cost optional extended warranty is a must for longer term ownership.
There are no doubts about the back-up for the Mazda6, which emerges quickly from the ruck as the contenders are driven back-to-back over a testing loop on public roads around Mount Victoria and Lithgow west of Sydney.
The luxuriously appointed diesel Touring Wagon ($41,650) is nearly as big as an old-school Aussie family six but brings BMW-bettering finish and refinement — and arguably the world’s best four-cylinder turbo diesel.
“This is the reason people don’t buy Commodores and Falcons any more,” says Joshua Dowling.
“It’s European prestige styling and performance at a Japanese price,” says Craig Duff. Lisa Power asserts: “The Mazda6 had me at hello. It is classy, comfortable, safe and polished.”
Kia’s Rondo SLi diesel ($36,490) is another surprise packet, scoring because of its 5+2 cabin flexibility, strong 1.7-litre turbo diesel and the Australianisation work that goes into all Kias. It has limited boot space with seven seats in place but that’s the only flaw.
Otherwise its almost infinitely variable load and seating configurations make it a best friend for the suburban family prepared to look beyond the inevitable, but vastly less efficient, SUV.
“It’s a cross between a wagon and an SUV, which is a good thing. It’s a great advertisement
Golf prose: The judges deliberate