And the 2013 Oscar goes to . . .
Driving the new Golf 7 is like meeting Daniel Day-lewis or Meryl Streep, says DAVE MOORE.
Just as Mr Day-Lewis and Ms Streep manage to do in their fields of endeavour, Volkswagen’s Golf appears to trawl-in all the trophies in its own automotive theatre. It scooped up the European Car of the Year for the second time just last week, to go with the World car of the Year it won a couple of years ago and along with everyone else’s automotive, statuette, globe or chrome-plated sculpture on the way. The car even took that most sensible of gongs: Top Gear’s ’Most Car You’ll Ever Need’ gong for 2013, while the momentous taking of this newspaper’s Car of the Year gong a few years back still resounds in the company’s Wolfsburg corridors. Since the first Golf was launched in 1974, Volkswagen has made and sold more than 29 million of them through seven generations and every generation has been a finalist in the European Car of the Year rankings. VWnotes that 29 million owners can’t be wrong, but even if you count a few cars out due to natural – and unnatural – attrition, the majority of those Golfs also found second and even third owners, so the number of owners is probably closer to 50 million. So perhaps so many gongs should not be such a surprise, Volkswagen is getting quite good at making family hatchbacks it seems.
The simplest way to describe the new Golf 7 over its very visually similar Golf 6 predecessor is that it’s longer, wider, lower, safer, greener, and more fuel-efficient. Familiar though the new Golf 7 may be, it proportions have changed in this iteration of the car, with a shorter front overhang and forward shifted passenger cab, thus there’s an increase in interior space especially for rear passengers, with more leg, shoulder and elbow room. The overall length is up by 56mm, with the wheelbase measuring 59mm more than the Golf 6’s. As you can’t measure or weigh a car in the street or immediately assess its performance and functionality, the best way to tell the 7 from the 6 is by way of the sharper-edged lights front and rear, the crisper waistline and the subtle crease that runs from the front wheel arch rearwards. Viewed from the front, the most obvious telltale is that the 7 has distinct ridges that run up each side of the bonnet from the inner edges of the new wrapround headlamps and up to the windscreen base. I should probably have added ‘‘cheaper’’ to that list of differences too, as the new Comfortline petrol model starts at $32,250, and that model shows absolutely no signs of having been built down to a price. The Golf 6 starting price was $38,500 for the 1.4-litre turbocharged 90kW TSi with DSG automatic. The new car starts with a six- speed manual with the same 90kW output, adding $2500 for the automatic, which still makes it $3750 less expensive than the previous car. More markedly, the car is a grand cheaper than the base Corolla, despite having alloy wheels to the Toyota’s steel items. And that’s despite the fact that every diesel and petrol engine in the range gets Volkswagen’s BlueMotion Technologies with a Stop/Start system and battery regeneration mode which conspire with the car’s improved aerodynamics and lighter weight to pull down fuel consumption and emissions by up to 19 per cent. Other standard items include a new multicollision brake system, which reduces the severity of secondary collisions, while there’s an optional proactive occupant protection system which helps detect a potential accident situation and react accordingly. Inside, the Golfs have a new generation of radio and radio/ navigation systems with Bluetooth connectivity which all models have the ability to handle media streaming and phone calls on two devices at the same time. But the star of the show is something you can’t see. It’s Volkswagen’s new Modular Transverse Matrix platform which shortens toMQBfrom the original German ‘‘Modularer Querbaukasten’’. SoMQBit is, then. With theMQBplatform the distance from the front axle to the pedal box remains the sole fixed dimension. Everything else is modular, capable of being snapped into place almost like a Lego kit and eventually as new models come to be, theMQBwill be the base for everything from the Polo to the Passat (and all the coupes, hatches, sedans and people carriers associated with them). MQBmeans thatVWwill have one platform where it previously had five. Every car in theVWgroup with a transverse front power unit from Audi, Seat and Skoda as well asVWwill have their cost and speed of development benefit from such rationalising. That’s part of the reason why the Golf is cheaper than it was before. The other reason is that the New Zealand dollar is buying a lot more car for you than it did when the previous model was being developed. TheMQBwill be used in the group’s European, South American, Asian and Chinese plants to the tune of more than 3.5 million units a year within five years, or roughly 35 per cent of VWGroup’s entire global sales. For the purpose of this test, ‘‘my’’ Golf is the one likely to be most popular model in the new lineup. It’s a Comfortline 90kW model with DSG automatic, or the model that’s most accessible to our typical two-pedal market. I have no problem with that. I don’t mind a gearbox as slick and quick at shifting as VW’s DSG, because when you waggle the lever yourself and dance around on the clutch and throttle pedals, not only do you use more gas, even a wise and experienced racedriver couldn’t slam-dunk the shifts as well as the DSG Golf can. There’s another so-called Highline 1.4 turbocharged petrol Golf available with 103kW on tap and DSG for $5000, which as well as more power adds 17 inch wheels instead of the base car’s 16s, parking sensors, reversing cameras, and satellite navigation. Two turbodiesels are featured: a 90kW 1.6-litre and a 110kW 2.0-litre, again in Comfortline and Highline specifications respectively, at $37,250 and $43,750. So how does it go? Uncannily quietly as it happens, with a quality of ride that is almost ethereal in its composure over the usual surface imperfections, enhanced perhaps by the fact that the standard Comfortline alloys aren’t low-profile sporty items, and offer a lot more rubber and air between the road and the rim, resulting in an astonishing lack of raw, hard-edged reactions even to the zit-like protruding manhole covers and other earthquakegenerated foibles in Christchurch. Fortunately the cosy wheel and tyre combination still offers oodles of grip, though it has to be said that their small diameter do make the champion hatch look a little under shod. What the heck, if I’m behind the wheel, I can’t see what tyres and wheels I have anyway and once the car is moving neither can anyone else.
Volkswagen Golf Seven: The difference between this and earlier models visually is in the detail.
New materials: Along with redesigned cabin architecture it adds up to a very classy interior.