If Porsche built a hatch, it would probably feel a lot like the Golf 7.5
thoughtful design touches evident in the execution of the Civic’s packaging. The fabric parcel shelf roller blind is one, and the way the global closure on the key also shuts the sunroof is another. The HDMI port located in the nether regions of the fascia will be a head scratcher for some, but it’s used for smartphone mirroring via Hondalink apps.
Sorting these cars into some semblance of order is surprisingly easy. The Honda is the only car here with a glaring shortcoming. No, it’s not the styling. The CVT gearbox does it no favours whatsoever and masks what is a dynamically capable car. Add a decent auto and a lick more power and the Civic would be on the money or thereabouts. There’s work to be done here for the next refresh.
The Hyundai initially looked as if it would give the Golf a stern test and, in many regards, it fits the warm hatch brief best. Our money would go on a manual SR, a car that would have posed us a few more searching questions than this full-fruit auto SR Premium version, but the i30 has earned its spurs in some tough company.
The Astra came close. Initially unfancied in comparison to the more overt charms of the Golf and the i30, the RS-V inveigled its way into our affections the longer we drove it. It has a number of annoying detail glitches that ought to have been fixed early in the design process but the fundamentals are just so robust. The Holden feels bulletproof, Australia-proof even, in a way that none of the others, not even the imperious Volkswagen, can quite pull off. For that, it earns the runner-up spot.
It can’t topple the Golf, though, and, truth be told, it wouldn’t have bested Golf 7, let alone iteration 7.5. As a tester, you’re constantly asking whether you’re being gulled by Volkswagen’s polish, seduced by a superficial sheen of glitz, but no. There’s real substance to the Golf, showing the more powerful Hyundai and Honda a clean pair of heels on a challenging road and offering the cleanest ergonomics, the most mature design ethos, the sweetest consistency of control weights and, in almost every area, a greater depth of engineering. If Porsche built a hatch, it would probably feel a lot like the Golf 7.5.
That’s the result of years of continuity in the car’s development; Volkswagen’s nuanced understanding of what works and what doesn’t. Maybe Hyundai will develop that. Holden and Honda certainly haven’t, successive generations of Astra and Civic succumbing to a sort of developmental amnesia where the best aspects of predecessor models are inexplicably jettisoned in favour of a different look and feel. Volkswagen doesn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel with each generation of Golf. It just makes it incrementally better. And that’s why it wins.