Pack on another level
line-up, with turbos on both the TSI petrol and TDI diesel power plants.
There is a six-speed manual on the starter car, but afterwards it’s seven-speed 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 options have stopstart 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 8.4sec. DESIGN It’s easy to walk past the new Golf in the VW headquarters carpark, which is loaded with all sorts of other Golfs, Tiguans and the classier new Beetle.
A Golf is always a Golf and always looks like a Golf. So the basics haven’t changed, with a two-box hatchback layout.
Golf 7 marks the change with sharper creases in the bodywork and a more el- egant and upmarket impact. It’s just that little classier in the bodywork, from the shape of the nose to the LED trinketing.
Inside, it’s more of the same, from the touch-andfeel 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 Gen Y 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 ‘‘multi-collision brake’’, that applies the brakes automatically to minimise the chances of knockon impacts.
Up the line the safety package includes parking radar at both ends, a rearview camera, and automatic wipers and headlamps.
For people who put safety first, the best deal is the Driver Assistance Package with adaptive cruise control, city emergency braking, top-level parking assist, automated reverse and parallel-parking and occupant protection. It’s 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’m convinced that it is the best of the bunch and has raised the playing field.
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 the 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 fully-loaded 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 VW owners and a source of lots of complaints to Carsguide, so we’re hoping the new Golf finally gets it right. I tried the toughest test of the double-clutch 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.
We’re planning a lot of extra rounds with Golf in coming weeks and months, but the initial impression has reinforced what we 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.
The new Golf’s safety can’t be faulted, with a sturdy body and a seven-airbag cabin