Volkswagen Golf VII – Review
By Liam Bird
“What’s the best car you’ve ever driven?” Oh, if I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked that one. That and “What car do you do you drive yourself?”
The first question is always the hardest to answer. The truth is there is no real answer. The best car you’ve ever driven depends on your own taste, desires, needs, and where and when you drive it – a Transit van at Ikea when you need to bring a wardrobe home is infinitely better in that instance than a Mercedes SLK! Sadly of course, your budget dictates what’s best for you too. I’ve had some epic drives in all manner of bespoke sports-cars but their fuel consumption has brought me back to reality far quicker than their acceleration has ever got me to sixty.
So then, what about what I drive when I’m not driving other people’s cars? Well, that’s easy: I’ve got a Volkswagen Golf. I know it’s not the fastest thing I can buy; it’s possibly not the most entertaining either, and, some would argue, not even the best looking. But it’s hugely practical, it’s spacious enough (nearly) to carry everything or everyone I choose to travel with, the residuals are good, it’s reliable, I can afford the insurance, it’s built well… You get the idea.
It’s for those reasons and more, that since its launch more than 35 years ago nearly 30 million people have, like me, chosen to buy a Golf. And they’re the reasons why Volkswagen are pinning their hopes on people buying the new Golf VII too.
“So much more alert and agile”
On first impressions, the latest generation Golf looks like, well, a Golf. Why, after all, change a winning formula? Closer inspection though reveals some sharper creases, a lower roofline and a longer wheel base too. It’s all because of Volkswagen’s new MQB platform that will form the base of a whole host of new VW group products over the coming years. The clever thing about MQB is that unlike a monocoque construction it treats the chassis and the body as separate units thus allowing far more flexibility when it comes to design – hence its ability to be used on a wide variety of applications. It’s also nearly 100kg lighter too.
That weight saving can instantly be felt. Not only when it comes to fuel consumption – I regularly saw over 60mpg during a week of mixed driving spent with a 1.6 TDi SE – but also in the way the new Golf drives. Not only does it ride so much better – the ride now is on par with many an executive’s express – but it also feels so much more alert, agile even. The steering is sharper and feels more alive, the body roll reduced, and somehow there’s a new found eagerness to the way VW’s perennial hatch handles.
Slip inside, and the new Golf feels as comfy as an old pair of slippers, but slippers that overnight have been reconstructed from higher grade, plusher, materials. Everything is exactly where you left it: the headlamp switch still sits by the door pillar; the three dials that control the air-con are still only a hand-span away, but everything you touch feels somehow more engineered. The indicator and wiper stalks move with a new found damped precision, the gear-stick slides through its gate more easily, leather on the steering wheel feels softer.
“Classless day-to-day usability”
All the controls, in fact the whole interior, just feels better. A five inch info-tainment touchscreen is standard, as are Bluetooth, adaptive cruise control, and a digital radio too. And even if with the new brushed aluminium trim the Golf’s interior may not have quite the initial visual appeal as something from Audi or Mercedes it still feels equally as well constructed. It certainly makes you wonder why some are still happy to pay more for a car with a four-ringed badge or a three pointed star.
In mid-range SE spec, with a 105bhp the Golf VII is never going to set your hair on fire. But as it’s always done, the Golf mixes just about the right mix of everyday performance, economy, and classless day-to-day usability. Think about it: no-one regardless of age, class or creed ever looked out-of-place in a Golf.
The point I’m trying to make is the new Golf may not be the best car you’ll ever get the opportunity to drive, but it is by far one of the best cars available today that most people can actually afford.
Volkswagen Golf VII 1.6 TDi SE 105
Engine: 1598cc. 4 Cyl 16V Turbo-diesel
Transmission: 5 Manual front-wheel-drive
Power: 105 bhp @ 3000 – 4000rpm
Torque: 250 lbft @ 1500 – 2750rpm
0-62mph: 10.7 seconds
Max Speed: 119mph
Mpg: 74.3 (combined)
Price: from £20,500
Foot note: Since I wrote this article the Golf VII has been voted World Car of the Year. 30 million of us were right all along.