The mark of a win­ner

Ex­te­rior changes are sub­tle but there is more kit and en­joy­ment in the Golf, writes

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - First Drive -

WHEN Volk­swa­gen de­cides to play the drive-away pric­ing card with a new Golf then you know things are tough. The Ger­man hatch is still the classy leader among small cars, with a raft of ex­tra safety and tech­nol­ogy in the Mark 7.5 up­date this week, but it’s play­ing in a league where value comes first.

De­spite con­sis­tent suc­cess in mo­tor­ing awards world­wide — in­clud­ing Cars­guide Car of the Year — the Volk­swa­gen badge needs pol­ish­ing af­ter the heavy hits of its DSG au­to­matic and Diesel­gate far­ra­gos. Tougher chal­lengers in­clude a fresher Mazda3 and new Hyundai i30.

So the Golf’s start­ing price is now $23,990 on-the-road for a 110TSI man­ual, a car that re­places the for­mer 92kW model and gains al­loy wheels and front as­sist with city emer­gency brak­ing. Top of the range is the $42,490 drive-away All­track 135TDI wagon, the only ad­di­tion to the 7.5 range and the first All­track with a diesel in Aus­tralia.

Volk­swa­gen Aus­tralia is not mak­ing any out­ra­geous sales pre­dic­tions for the lat­est Golf but be­lieves the car is solid in fourth place in class af­ter the Toy­ota Corolla, Mazda3 and i30. It’s re­ly­ing on a claimed $2000 value boost to win sales.

VW boss Michael Bartsch says the Golf will never be a $19,990 drive-away price fighter here. He makes no ex­cuses for a car that is al­most im­pos­si­ble to pick from the Mark 7 — there are tiny changes to the bumpers, grille and lamps in­clud­ing LEDs at the front.

“It’s a heart trans­plant, not Bo­tox. It’s typ­i­cally Ger­man, with evo­lu­tion not rev­o­lu­tion. But if you look at the tech­nol­ogy it’s a new model,” he says. “We (won’t) com­pete on price but we can com­pete on tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and emo­tion. It’s the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Korean cars are still a com­modi­tised trans­port cap­sule.”

The 110TSI gets an eight­inch in­fo­tain­ment screen, leather-wrapped steer­ing wheel, rear air vents and LED tail-lamps. The park­ing as­sis­tance can now han­dle par­al­lel and per­pen­dic­u­lar chores, with rear or front en­try.

On the safety side, city brak­ing joins seven airbags, rear cam­era and fa­tigue warn­ing.

VW Aus­tralia is hav­ing the 7.5 crashed again to ver­ify the top rank­ing for a car it now claims has “the most com­pelling safety pack­age in the class”.

Com­fort­line is the pick, as it’s ef­fec­tively the pack­age from the su­per­seded High­line flag­ship, with the eight-inch screen en­hanced by smart­phone touch tech, 17-inch al­loys and du­al­zone air­con. “We ex­pect one in four to choose a Com­fort­line,” says prod­uct mar­ket­ing man­ager Jeff Shafer.

VW keeps up the anti-SUV push with its wagon in front­drive and high-rid­ing All­track, fit­ted with roof racks and claim­ing 605L of lug­gage space.

Driver as­sis­tance adds $1500 and R-Line trim (main pic­ture) adds $2500. Com­ing per­for­mance mod­els in­clude the GTI, R and Wolfs­burg Edi­tion. ON THE ROAD Can I pick any dif­fer­ence driv­ing the 7.5? Nope. That’s not a bad thing, be­cause the Golf still sets the pace on quiet­ness, comfort and re­fine­ment. In mixed weather con­di­tions in Mel­bourne, from dry free­way to slushy for­est tracks, it is never less than good.

The ba­sic 110 has sharp per­for­mance with the sev­en­speed DSG auto, al­though it wants to cling to the high gears for econ­omy above 80km/h.

The All­track diesel, with its chunky feel on the road, pro­vides more proof that SUVs are not the only so­lu­tion for a fam­ily car. It’s roomy with a very big boot and gets along well with the se­cu­rity of on­de­mand all-wheel drive.

In­side, the in­fo­tain­ment screen is big­ger in each car than its pre­de­ces­sor — the top-line model’s truly im­pres­sive eight­inch job has in­cred­i­ble clar­ity and is easy to use.

The loaded All­track gets the ex­cel­lent dig­i­tal Active Info Dis­play that puts ev­ery­thing in­clud­ing maps in front of the driver.

Over­all, there is more to find and en­joy in the Golf 7.5, with a driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that’s as good as it gets. The bonus for savvy shop­pers is VW’s $2000 bonus for the out­go­ing Golf Mark 7 — that makes it the real bar­gain in the up­date for 2017.

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