Road Test: Volkswagen Golf SV 1.6 TDI SE
Sector: Compact MPV Price: £22,585 Fuel: 72.4mpg CO2: 101g/km
The Golf SV is one of those odd segment-busting models which perhaps might have made more sense with a Skoda badge on the grille. And that's a good thing, because modern Skodas are brilliant functional cars.
Replacing the Golf Plus, it's essentially a Golf hatchback stretched upwards, rather than backwards like an estate. So it’s positioned somewhere between the Golf Estate and the seven-seat Touran. But it's neither a hatch, estate or MPV.
That's quite a hard thing to get your head around until you see it in the metal. The proportions are quite unusual. It’s tall, like a small MPV, but surprisingly compact in length and width like the hatchback.
However, it's still a car that's likely to appear on driver wish lists alongside the Ford C-Max, Citroen C4 Picasso, Renault Scenic and – in higher trims – perhaps the premium C-Class and 2 Series Active Tourer, rather than an estate. That’s an often tricky segment in the UK, which tends to prefer the flexibility and extra load space of an occasional seven-seater.
Whether this suits drivers better than an estate comes down to personal tastes and requirements. The SV's cabin feels considerably roomier, due to the cathedral-like headroom, but the tall boot space and short boot floor don't lend themselves as easily to baby paraphernalia as an estate. Or a larger MPV, for that matter.
But the more you play with the seating, the more you come to appreciate it. Should you need extra space, the rear bench slides forward by 180mm to extend the boot, or drops flat and flush with the floor of the luggage compartment, which has a storage space underneath for the parcel shelf or to extend the capacity by a few inches. Clever stuff.
Unlike the Golf Plus, the flexibility of the Volkswagen Group’s new modular platform means there’s now an extra 48mm between the axles, compared to a Golf. So, slide the rear bench back, and rear seat passengers have considerably more head and leg room than the exterior dimensions give away. While the most likely rear occupants are children, it’s almost wasted on anyone other than adults.
And in the front, the cabin is unique to the SV. It's an ultra-conservative flat expanse of soft plastics with brushed metal effect on the inserts and a storage box on top. There's an intuitive touch screen infotainment system on the SE versions, as tested here, but it doesn't get sat nav as standard.
The big-selling engine for business use is likely to be this 1.6-litre diesel, which offers 5bhp extra over the hatch's 103bhp, with CO2 emissions of 101g/km. It's a quiet engine which is happiest when not rushed, and returns mid-50s to the gallon with ease. That's good going for a car only five gears, and a good fit in a model which feels happiest when driven smoothly.
But this a bit of a niche for Volkswagen, which already has five-door and estate versions of the Golf, as well as the only slightly larger Touran. It's a clever and functional car behind unremarkable styling, but fills a small gap in Volkswagen’s range. A gap far smaller than it could’ve filled as an Octavia SV in the MPV-less Skoda range. Just a thought.
Think of this as the best bits of an estate and an MPV, packaged into the footprint of a hatchback. A bit of an inbetweener, but it works really well.