The car in the image is the legend itself, Volkswagen’s highly regarded Golf Hatchback.
In this case the model tested is the base, but far from basic, five-door S model fitted with the 1.2L TSI BlueMotion 105PS petrol engine driving through a six-speed manual gearbox.
The TSI engine combines direct injection with turbo-charging to maximize power from a smaller displacement while limiting fuel consumption. Meanwhile torque seems to emanate from much lower revs and is maintained at most engine revolutions. This makes cars equipped with these engines more lively at lower revs, which in turn makes them more economical and cleaner.
Owners who regularly drive longer distances would probably be better served by the diesel options available for this car whilst keen drivers craving a spirited ride will need to look higher up the range; but for lower mileages and daily use around Swindon and its environs this modest version is hard to beat.
VW reckon that in the combined cycle the Golf S can achieve as much as 57 miles to the gallon from the diminutive petrol engine. DriveWrite didn’t see that (averaging 39mpg to be precise) but then I didn’t undertake any longer trips and the car was put through its paces on my extensive evaluation cycle. I’d hazard a guess that an overall average circa 50mpg is possible in the real world of motoring.
The traffic light charge to 62mph is achieved in an acceptably brisk 10.2 seconds and, if you were allowed to do so, the 1.2L Golf can keep going to 119mph, apparently. The basic price for this model is around £18500 although this particular car had some optional extras like alloy wheels – the car comes with steel hoops as standard but you really don’t want those – meaning the bottom line is about £20k.
For what you get this is good value although it remains a mystery to me why, in the 21st century, steel wheels can even be considered as acceptable.
On this version all the expected safety features known only by their initials – ABS, ESP, EDL etc – are all there in force and the price includes an excellent infotainment centre with Bluetooth, DAB, MP3, an SD card reader, a hidden CD player and much more. No satnav or reversing sensors at this price though. This doesn’t much matter because the shape of the car makes it easy to park and you can always buy a navigation device or use a smartphone app. Overall, the dashboard is tidy and functional.
Out on the road this classy car shows its quality. Performance is perfectly adequate – this car is designed for economy after all – and good progress can be made.
There’s a long third gear for ease of overtaking. The ride is, frankly, superb. Too soft for performance driving obviously, but very comfortable, as are the supportive seats.
I was particularly impressed by the steering. At low speeds it feels light but weights up as speed increases, as you‘d expect.
Much has been written about the mysterious ‘feel’ of a car’s steering. You get it with this car. I know it is a bit vague but there is a definite impression of what the front wheels are doing. I liked that very much. What I didn’t like was the steering wheel. For me it was too thin and too hard. I found it uncomfortable and grumbled about it for the whole week.
Another personal dislike is the electronic handbrake. To release it requires putting the right foot on the brake pedal thus having to lift off the throttle during, say, a hill hold. Because of this there is also a supplementary hill-hold function. I often wonder what is so wrong with an old-school, simple to fix, cable handbrake. I guess that a handily placed lever would upset the symmetry of the cascading dash.
The money could have been spent on a nicer steering wheel. As if to make up for this there’s a proper space-saver spare wheel tucked away in the generous boot.
As far as I am concerned there is only one fly in the ointment. Try as I might I simply could not get enthusiastic about this otherwise truly excellent car. What’s worse is that I can’t really tell you why. I realise it’s me because millions of happy Golf owners can’t be wrong. It is an excellent drive, it is very well made and so on but it left me a bit cold. Is there such a thing as a car that is too perfect? That has no quirks or foibles? Who can say?
If family motoring and usability matters more to you than performance or striking looks then there are few cars to rival the Volkswagen Golf. When you shut the doors it sounds just like a Golf and it looks like a Golf so it must be a Golf and for this money it doesn’t get much better.