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Road Test: Volkswagen Golf SV

Volkswagen’s space-efficient compact MPV deserves wider recognition, reckons Alex Grant.

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SECTOR Compact MPV   PRICE £20,355-£28,675   FUEL 54.3-67.3mpg   CO2 110-122g/km

Majoring on space-efficient practicality, the Golf SV probably doesn’t appear on many drivers’ radars unless they’ve got a direct need for what it can offer. Which makes this clever compact MPV a bit of a hidden gem in the Volkswagen line-up.

In the UK, at least, that’s perhaps down to the way it’s marketed. Volkswagen sees this as a derivative of its best-selling nameplate, offering Golf Estate space within a Golf hatchback footprint. It’s a popular segment in its home market (150,000 Golf ‘SportVans’ have sold globally since 2014) but this hasn’t chimed with British drivers; of the 74,605 Golfs registered here last year, only 2,626 were SVs. This perhaps makes more sense sold as a five-seat Touran than a large Golf.

The packaging is brilliant. It’s hatchback-sized, so smaller than the five-seat C-Max, Scenic or C4 SpaceTourer, and price-positioned below BMW and Mercedes-Benz’s compact MPVs. Occupants sit higher and get larger windows than in a Golf, while rear legroom is closer to a Tiguan, with a bench that can also slide 180mm forwards to extend the boot capacity. It only has room for two ISOFIX seats in the second row (unlike the Touran), but the large door openings and raised seat height means it’s easy to get the kids on board. Boot capacity, if not load length, is in line with a Golf Estate.

Last year’s update was little more than a subtle nip-tuck of its understated styling, with a focus on new technology. So the cabin is typical high-quality, soft-touch Volkswagen fare, modernised with the new 8.0-inch infotainment systems featuring the usual connectivity features across the range. GT versions are the top of the pile, but add little more than upgraded fabrics, wheels and body styling to the otherwise well-appointed SE Nav.

However, it’s also the only trim to get the more powerful of the two 1.5-litre TSI petrol engines, as tested here. The 148bhp unit is a fantastic addition to the Golf SV line-up, too; it’s quiet, quick off the mark, lively enough for easy overtaking and offers almost 50mpg on the motorway, helped by the ability to freewheel and run on two cylinders when it’s not working hard.

That said, the 128bhp 1.5-litre and 108bhp 1.0-litre petrols are more than ample for a car which, despite being almost as sure-footed as the Golf hatch, isn’t intended to set pulses racing. Volkswagen also offers the familiar 108bhp 1.6-litre and 148bhp 2.0-litre diesels options, though neither offer significantly better economy than the equivalent petrol engines, and both carry higher company car tax.

The trouble is, the Touran does a lot of this better, without blending into the Golf line-up or being any less entertaining to live with than the SV. As clever as this might be for families of four needing big flexibility in a small footprint, that grey area positioning means it’s unlikely to get the recognition it deserves.

The Verdict

The SV is compact, clever and brilliant for small families. But British buyers want SUVs, and it’s fighting for a slice of a segment which just doesn’t exist here.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.