Volkswagen Golf 2013 - First Drive

The seventh-generation Golf manages the challenging balance between continuity and change

Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI GT ACT 5-door

Engine: 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-charged petrol with cylinder deactivation technology

Transmission: six-speed manual

Power: 140 PS between 4,500 and 6,000 rpm

Torque: 250 Nm between 1,500 and 3,500 rpm

Fuel consumption (combined cycle): 58.9 mpg

CO2 emissions: 112g/km

Top speed: 132 mph

Acceleration (0-62 mph): 8.4 seconds

Price: £22,705, new Golf range from £16,330

Replacing one of the world’s most successful cars is a hard job but with the new seventh-generation Golf, Volkswagen has managed to get the balance between continuity and change just right. It’s a car in which owners of older Golfs will immediately feel at home, but also one that incorporates a number of important improvements.

At first glance, the new car’s shape appears a little unadventurous. But look at little more closely and you can see that this Golf is subtly jazzier than its predecessor. The rear quarters, for example, with their sportily raked C-pillars, recall those of the Golf IV, one of the more handsome models in the series.

And under the skin, it’s all change, because the latest Golf uses Volkswagen’s MQB architecture, a system of sub-assemblies shared between cars that is more flexible and scalable than the previous “platform” concept. The Golf is only the second MQB-based car – the first was the latest Audi A3, introduced earlier this year, and the third, the new Seat Leon, appeared in public for the first time at this month’s Paris Motor Show. One achievement, which the new Golf shares with the A3, is a weight saving of about 100 kg compared with the sixth-generation model, an example of a trend towards lighter cars that is now gathering pace – the smaller Peugeot 208 and Renault Clio, for example, also weigh quite a bit less than the models that came before. That 100kg seems to be made up of lots of small savings made all over the car, rather than a single big breakthrough – the body is 23 kg lighter, for example, the seats up to 7 kg, the air conditioning 2.7 kg, and so on.

The engine line-up has a deceptively familiar look to it, with similar capacities to before and the usual TDI and TSI badging, but worthwhile improvements in power and economy – not least because Volkswagen has decided to offer fuel-saving stop/start technology across the range. There are two turbocharged 1.2-litre petrol engines, badged TSI, providing 85 and 105 PS, and two 1.4-litre TSI engines rated at 122 and 140 PS. The 140 PS engine also has a cylinder deactivation system (Active Cylinder Technology in Volkswagen jargon) that means it runs on just two cylinders under a light load, helping it to a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 58.9 mpg and emissions of 112g/km of CO2.

Diesels at launch are a 1.6 developing 105 PS and a 150 PS 2.0. Next year, an economy-oriented BlueMotion model will be added using what is described by Volkswagen as a “completely new” 110 PS diesel that promises to return 88.3 mpg and 85g.km. There’ll also be a sporty GTI version - previewed at this month’s Paris Motor Show – expected to deliver 220 PS from a two-litre TSI engine.

This latest Golf also incorporates a number of important safety features, chief of which is an interesting multi-collision braking system fitted as standard across the range. A significant number of accident casualties result from a secondary impact that follows an initial accident and the new system brakes the car in order to lessen the risks involved. Other (optional) safety features include adaptive cruise control, city emergency braking, a driver alert system and a lane-keeping assistance system.

The new car’s interior is excellent, and promises to become the benchmark for affordable cars in this class. The materials used and the standard of fit and finish wouldn’t look out of place in a car from any of the premium brands. The overall feel of the interior is familiar from past Golfs, but a few subtle changes have been made – the controls are angled slightly more towards the driver and the in-dash equipment has had a revamp with DAB radios, Bluetooth and USB connections.

I drove two versions – the two-litre 140 PS diesel with a six-speed self-shifting DSG transmission, and the 1.4-litre TSI with a manual transmission and the ACT cylinder deactivation technology – which were quite different in character. The diesel was a pleasant, relaxed wafter that didn’t really feel like it wanted to be hurried but the 1.4 TSI was something else. Eager, agile and economical (it achieves 58.9mpg in the combined cycle test) this petrol Golf edges towards the top of the class for driving enjoyment. If I had a quibble, it was with the driver profile selection system that will be fitted to most UK cars, which allows a driver to choose between four modes, Eco, Sport, Normal and Individual, each associated with a given combination of settings for engine mapping and other parameters. On the basis of fairly brief acquaintance, “Normal” seemed to be so well judged that there didn’t appear to be much point in bothering with the other modes. “Individual” allows a user to tinker with each of the system’s parameters individually but I can’t imagine even the geekiest test engineer or the subtlest of test drivers making full and frequent use of that facility. “Eco” influences the engine settings, air conditioning and other systems in the interests of fuel economy, though, so may prove worthwhile in the long run.

The new Golf seems sure to be another hit. Volkswagen will be taking orders from 18 October, and the first cars will reach customers in January next year.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Babysitter Katie and Paul have terse words in the park
tvReview: The strength of the writing keeps viewers glued to their seats even when they are confronted with the hard-hitting scenes
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Sport
England’s opening goalscorer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain battles with Scotland’s Charlie Mulgrew
FootballEngland must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Life and Style
Make-up artists prepare contestants for last year’s Miss World, held in Budapest
fashion
Sport
Wigan Athletic’s back-of-the shirt sponsor Premier Range has pulled out due to Malky Mackay’s arrival
Football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

    Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

    Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

    £30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

    Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

    Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

    Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

    Day In a Page

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

    Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

    You know that headache you’ve got?

    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

    Paul Scholes column

    England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

    Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
    Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

    Frank Warren column

    Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines