- MT Expert
VW on the road with latest models
It is that peak selling time of the year in the UK with the new 06 registration plate models ready and waiting for customers to come along and snap them up.
It is prime time for all UK manufacturers and importers to put their products in front of the public, either directly through advertising and marketing activities, dealer promotions or gaining valuable media coverage.
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Not wanting to miss a trick VW have been on the road around the UK visiting the media with their latest new and soon to be released models.
In 2005 Volkswagen sold 185,519 new cars in the UK and increase of 2 per cent even though the overall market was down 5 per cent. They also sold 22,445 light commercial vehicles again out performing the market with a 10 per cent increase in sales. So far this year their car sales are slightly down but performing better than the rest of the market and their light CV sales are up again.
Just to confirm VW's good performance they have just won the Fleet Manufacturer of the Year 2006 award. This is the fifth time they have been the top fleet manufacturer. For good measure the new Passat was also voted winner of the Upper Medium and overall Company Car of the year Awards. Not to be outdone in the light commercial vehicle sector the VW Transporter won the 2.2-2.8 Tonne Van accolade against very strong competition.
Currently VW overall has a very strong model line up with the Golf range continuing to be a top ten seller backed up by the relatively new Polo small hatchback and the award winning new Passat saloons and estates. The luxury Phaeton saloons, Touareq large 4x4, the Touran mid-sized MPV, the Sharan large MPV, the Beetle and Beetle Cabriolet and the Caravelle large mini-bus/MPV also contribute significantly to overall sales.
However there are three notable newcomers to the Volkswagen range that need special mention.
The Polo Dune.
To go on sale in the UK from 14 April the Dune is an addition to the Polo range and as you might gather from its name it is aimed at the younger buyer of trendy vehicles with an SUV theme. Although it has the appearance of a 4x4 it benefits from being a front wheel drive model so having much lower initial purchasing costs ands of course it is cheaper to run.
Aimed fairly and squarely at youngsters who want to give the impression they are driving a small 4x4 the five-door Dune comes in two forms. The first will be the most popular, the 1.4-litre petrol, 75PS petrol model with a relatively low 162-g/km CO2 figure and priced at £12,645. Fuel economy is quoted at 41.5 and my short test drive on B roads ended up with a very good 39mpg so the potential is there for thrifty motoring.
For an extra £850, higher mileage buyers could choose the three-cylinder diesel version with 1.4-litre unit, 70PS, 127-g/km unit. Both models have a five-speed transmission.The Dune has a good level of equipment as standard including anti-lock braking front and front side airbags, air conditioning, alarm and central locking, electric windows and door mirrors and a radio/CD player.
The Polo as we know is a very popular small car but lacking in street credibility for younger buyers. The Dune gets over that and it looks really neat and passes itself of nicely as an SUV look-alike.
The VW Jetta.
This model range is the saloon version of the best selling Golf hatchbacks. Its appeal will be to the company car market and a good sized alternative to the large Passat saloon. UK sales started in February and VW estimate they will sell around 8,000 Jettas in a full year in addition to the 65,000 Golfs they already sell annually.
The four door Jetta range comes with the option of 1.6 and 2.0-litre FSI direct injection petrol engine with several power outputs and 1.9 and 2.0-litre TDI direct injection turbocharged diesel engines, again with different levels of power output. Prices start at £14,635 and rise up to a hefty £19,240 for the Sport TDI 2.0-litre with 140bhp and fitted with the 6-speed auto DSG transmission.
The Jetta is roomy with a large family sized boot and it looks like a scaled down version of the Passat saloon from the outside. The interior is well equipped but a bit bland, some may say boring. Still it drives really well as we would expect as it is based on the excellent Golf models.
The VW California.
Remember the Volkswagen Combi and Caravanettes of the 60s and 70s; well the California is the modern day equivalent. It is based upon the Caravelle and was revealed at the end of last year. With spring hopefully not too far away perhaps we need to be thinking about holidays, camping trips or weekends away. That is just the market the California is aimed at.
Now the California is very different to other campers on the market. For a start it is the only purpose built camper van from a manufacturer, it is not a product from one of the many converters who produce similar vehicles. This means it is the only camper van on sale with full European Type Approval and it comes with a 100,000-mile warranty, the same as other VW light commercial vehicles.
The only problem is you will not be able to nip down to your local VW dealer to try or buy one. They are being sold through six UK specialist camper van/caravan/motorhome specialists. In fairness it is such as specialised market that VW car dealerships are not going to be able to expertly sell to specialist niche customers and take other camper vans back in part exchange. Best to leave it to the experts in this case.
The California sleeps four people at a push and the recreational equipment includes clothes cupboard, curtains, kitchen worktop, cutlery drawer, gas cooker and even the kitchen sink. There is also a fridge, fresh water container with pump, parking and auxiliary heaters and double glazing for the living area. Additional light alloy chairs, outside table and awning are included. A wide range of extra cost options is also available. Prices start at £34,000 for the 130PS TDI 2.5-litre model and rise up to £37,900 for the 174PS 2.5-litre 4Motion variant. For that price of course you can buy a very well equipped six berth motorhome but camper users love this size of vehicle because the driveability is so good and it is reasonably compact so it can be used as day to day transport as well as for weekends away or holidays.
My brief test drive took me around some country lanes where the five-cylinder 2.5-litre 174PS engine was lively and very flexible yet returned 33.9mpg so there is the potential to get even better mpg on longer runs. For a tallish vehicle it handles well and unlike the original air-cooled 1.6-litre Combi models it was easy to drive - almost car like in fact.