Pack on an­other level

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE -

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

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