The arrival of a new three and five-door Volkswagen Golf hatchbacks, and the sixth generation is now with us, is a newsworthy event in the motoring calendar. Even more so with the decline in the new car market and Volkswagen UK have already recalculated their sales expectations downwards for the newcomer, from 55,000 units this year to 45,000.
Although the new Golf looks similar to the outgoing design there are significant improvements in overall driving refinement and a much higher quality for the interior and the addition of a wider range of high-tech options. The aim is to continue to please current Golf owners and to capture the army of downsizers moving from D-segment 'upper-medium' models and more expensive premium brands.
Get a FREE quote on your next VOLKSWAGEN GOLF
Click below and save up to 30% on a new VOLKSWAGEN GOLF
With a marginal average 2% price increase current owners will be happy and downsizers will be impressed with the quality and refinement and money they will save on buying a C-segment 'quality' hatchback. Prices range from £12,875 to £20,537.
For the record the C-segment (lower medium) still accounts for one in every three new cars sold in the UK each year and the Golf competes for sales against the Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra. In 2008 the Golf was the fifth bestselling car in the UK with over 65,000 registrations of which 65% went to fleet and business customers.
The Golf has pretty much set the standard in recent years for the C-segment and it really is personal choice as to whether the Golf or the Focus is the best handling car. The Golf however, right through its history, has been the design icon and the must-have model for many UK people with nearly 1.5 million of their on our roads, many used by 'Sloane Rangers' and the 'upwardly mobile'.
The latest Golf is an evolution in design over the outgoing models. There are no drastic changes to the visual looks or dimensions and that will please current owners who do not wish to see their car dated overnight. The main change in design is the adoption of the new face created for the highly rated new Scirocco and the underpinnings are more or less the same as well so the handling and body control is superb and now sets a much higher standard for its sector. The new Golf is very agile, so precise in its handling and really very comfortable. Even the poorest of road surfaces fails to unsettle the ride.
A new level of quality is established in the Golf with the adoption of materials and equipment usually associated with a vehicle in a higher segment. High quality, soft touch plastics are integrated with tasteful aluminium and chrome highlights. The new look is combined with advances made by Volkswagen engineers in reducing wind noise, including a completely new design of door and window seal, a new sound-damping inter-layer within the laminated windscreen and a new engine mounting system. The result is new levels of acoustic damping to make the new Golf the quietest yet.
For the first time, Volkswagen's Adaptive Chassis Control (ACC) is offered on the Golf, allowing the driver to select from normal, comfort or sport modes to define the desired suspension, steering and accelerator response settings for any particular journey.
Automatic Distance Control will become available as an option in summer 2009; this monitors the area around the vehicle through a series of sensors and will automatically reduce, if necessary, the vehicle's speed to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front.
Building on the technical advances are new levels of safety equipment including the addition of a knee airbag for the driver to bring the total number of airbags fitted as standard to seven. A new head restraint system designed to reduce whiplash injuries and optional rear seatbelt detection sensors are joined by new, more advanced Electronic Stabilisation Programme (ESP) software.
Engines, performance and economy
There are advanced new Euro 5 petrol and common rail diesel engines. A new 2.0-litre TDI 110PS and a 2.0-litre TDI with 140PS are both available at launch. Other diesel variants will follow later in 2009, including a 1.6-litre with 90PS and a 2.0-litre with 170PS. Petrol engines comprise a 1.4-litre 80PS, 1.6-litre 102PS and two 1.4-litre TSI units with 122 or 160PS. Trim and equipment levels at launch are S, the best selling SE and GT. GTi, BlueMotion and Estate models will follow.
The main selling model will be the 2.0-litre TDI 110PS, five-speed, five-door turbodiesel priced at £16,911. This new engine produces 185lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm so it is flexible and responsive and it cruises without fuss at high motorway speeds. Top speed is 120mph and 0-62mph takes 10.7 seconds. The refined and hushed drive it provides mirrors the improved quality of the new car.
With CO2 emissions of 128g/km road tax costs £120 a year and the official 'Combined' cycle fuel economy is 57.6mpg. I couldn't achieve that figure or get anywhere near it, much to do with the Siberian cold weather conditions during this week's press launch, but the car returned a real-life competitive 43.1mpg. When the weather warms up I expect the fuel economy to improve.
For me the real star of the line-up however is the Golf 1.4-litre TSI 122PS petrol SE five-door, six-speed model. For retail buyers this will be the one to go for and the £15,962 on the road price is good value.
There is also the option of a new seven-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic transmission which further improves fuel economy and allows for lower CO2 emission. A classic example of how new technologies really are lowering emissions. It is just a shame the new auto gearbox costs an extra £1,370.
This engine for its size is remarkable and the best example of how modern turbocharged petrol engines are providing responsive turbodiesel driving characteristics. Power output is 122PS but it is the 148lb ft (200Nm) of torque available from only 1,500rpm which makes this engine a 'stunner'. It is quiet, really lively and responsive.
It copes with heavy in town traffic with ease and on the open road the turbocharger gives it stunning performance for its 1.4-litres. With its 144g/km of CO2 emissions this unit also gets a Band C VED rating with a road tax bill of £120. The official 'Combined' cycle fuel economy is 45.6mpg. In cold real life conditions this week my test car returned 34.3mpg.
Although it didn't win the official European Car of the Year 2009 title, at this early stage in the year the new Golf is going to take some beating for it not to be my car of the year.
Volkswagen Golf MILESTONES
Volkswagen Golf SE 2.0-litre TDI 110PS, 5-Speed, 5-Door(Main selling model)
Engine: New Euro 5, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, common-rail, turbocharged diesel, 110PS, 185lb ft (250Nm) of torque from 1,750rpm
Performance: 120mph, 0-62mph 10.7 seconds, 57.6mpg (43.1mpg actual in very cold weather), CO2 128g/km, VED road tax Band C £120
Insurance group: 6. For: The best in its sector just got better; sharper styling, improved interior quality and specification, more sophisticated body control, ride comfort and handling
Against: Is it different enough in styling terms to move existing Golf owners into a new model?