Ev­ery­one (al­most)

The orig­i­nal hatch­back is once more the cham­pion

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Cover Story - PAUL GOVER and PAUL POTTINGER carsguide.com.au

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

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