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First Drive: Volkswagen Golf

By / 2 months ago / Road Test / No Comments

The Golf aims to lure buyers back to the brand after recent controversies. By Julian Kirk.

SECTOR Lower Medium   PRICE £17,625-£33,395   FUEL 37.7-72.4mpg*   CO2 102-180g/km*   *excludes GTE and e-Golf

On the face of it, new LED headlights and upgraded in-car technology for the Golf may not seem such a big deal. But in the context of post-Dieselgate Volkswagen, it’s a pretty important step towards rehabilitation.

And it’s apposite that the Golf is spearheading the new VW – a steadfast in the range for four decades and with more than 33 million sales across the globe.

So what does the Golf Mark 7.5 bring us? Firstly, some very subtle exterior tweaks, though you’d have to be an aficionado to notice. Some also gain a larger navigation system with gesture control, while online services have been enhanced and clever technology such as Traffic Jam Assist and Emergency Assist are sector firsts. There’s also the option to replace the traditional dials with a digital display.

And now to the oily bits… there’s a new family of 1.5 TSI ‘Evo’ petrol engines making their debut in the Golf. These replace the 1.4-litre units, offer active cylinder technology and, in the case of the forthcoming BlueMotion model, complete engine shut-down similar to the system from the hybrid GTE, which will disengage the engine for coasting. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Golf GTI with up to 242bhp if you specify the optional Performance pack, while a new seven-speed dual clutch DSG gearbox is offered on TDI engines (from 148bhp) and the top-spec TSI petrols.

Only a handful of models were available to drive on the international launch, but fittingly my first taste of the new Golf was a GTD hatchback – the biggest fleet seller in the line-up in the UK. While it is surprising that the most popular Golf among fleet buyers is a £27,000-plus performance version, a few miles spent in one reveals that it is money well spent.

This has the frugal hot hatch thing down to a tee – 60mpg-plus real-world fuel economy, more torque than a GTI and, when fitted with a DSG ‘box, simply effortless real-world driving performance. The fact that it also blends sharp handling with long distance comfort only adds to its talents. But there’s a downside; under the new testing regime at Volkswagen, stated consumption and emissions are more real-world, so CO2 has climbed from 114g/km to 125g/km with a four-band Benefit-in-Kind tax hike. Company car drivers can opt for the GTD Blueline at no extra cost, which features slightly smaller wheels and CO2 from 116g/km.

However, a motorway drive in a regular 2.0 TDI with DSG showed that, even away from the performance range-toppers, there is strength in depth in the Golf range. While lacking in excitement, the ubiquitous Golf TDI simply gets on with the job of getting you around in a safe, fuss-free and relaxed manner.

The majority of the new Golf range is available to order now, with a second tranche opening for order in March (1.0 TSI 85PS, GTE, e-Golf) and the tail-enders in May (1.5 TSI Evo and GTI Performance). A four-wheel drive R super-hatch, plus Alltrack models, will arrive later.

What we think

The Golf’s blend of talents is broad. Extra equipment and convenience, with realigned pricing, should help build a few bridges in the wake of Dieselgate.

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Julian Kirk

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