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Car reviews - Volkswagen - Golf - 110 TDI Highline

Our Opinion

We like
Torquey diesel engine, lively handling, smooth steering, quality dash display, night lighting, fuel economy
Room for improvement
Ride a touch noisy on broken surfaces, no cylinder de-activation on Australian versions

Volkswagen logo16 May 2013

By DANIEL GARDNER

Price and equipment

THE Highline version we tested sits at the top of the new Golf range – at least until the new GTI, GTD and R hot versions arrive.

THE car we tested had metallic paint and an anti-theft alarm fitted as the only optional extras, on top of standard features including 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, cruise control with speed limiter, parking sensors, rear-view camera, a fatigue detector, 5.8-inch display with satellite navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio and USB connectivity.

Adding a touch of class are ambient LED cabin lights, glossy black inlays, well-bolstered ‘sports’ seats clad in faux-suede alcantara (leather is a $2950 option).

At $35,590 plus on-roads, it’s on a par with a high-end diesel Peugeot 308, Alfa Romeo Giulietta or top spec Ford Focus, and a little more than a diesel Opel Astra. The cheapest Mercedes A-Class diesel is $40,900.

Splashing a little extra cash can option a sunroof ($1850), Bi-xenon headlights ($2150), and a driver assistance package with numerous active safety features (more on that later) for $1300.

Interior

FIRST contact with the Golf cabin reveals the typically German approach of understated but contemporary design and liberal use of dark, conservative colours.

All contact surfaces have a good quality feel with soft-touch materials used extensively throughout. The result is a very pleasant place to be, that offers an air of prestige without being pretentious.

Even at night the cabin continues to feel special. Night-running lights prevent the dark colours making occupants feel as though they have been plunged in to a black-hole. Subtle white down-lights in the footwells, roof lining and door trims match the dash illumination and feel comforting and classy.

The leather steering wheel is a particular point of ergonomic excellence being comfortable to handle and having well positioned switchgear.

Information and entertainment systems are intuitive and well laid out. Data is particularly well presented on the dash pod display (positioned between speedometer and tachometer) and the menu is easy to browse from the steering wheel controls.

Altering both media volume and cruise control speed was mildly irritating due to the widely spaced increments of adjustment. One firm click on the speed control button translated as an almost 10kph difference in road speed, for instance.

Leather seats are an option on the Highline but the standard covering of half fabric/half alcantara has a high quality feel and will be preferable to many buyers over the $2950 alternative. Finding a comfortable seating position is easy with adjustability in all the right places and firm padding provided good support all-round.

A reversing camera is fitted as standard and is cleverly concealed in the boot-badge, emerging when reverse gear is selected. This innovative feature keeps the back of the Golf visually uncluttered but if the ignition was left on after parking (if something had to be quickly unloaded from the boot) the camera had a habit of staying out after parking, making it impossible to open the hatch.

Engine and transmission

VOLKSWAGEN has been turning out accomplished diesels for years (even the Mk 1 was available with one) and the Golf range simply wouldn’t be complete without an oil-burner.

With each incarnation the diesel gains even more torque while consuming even less fuel. Official figures for the 110 TDI are 4.9 litres/100km combined, 5.8 urban and 4.5 extra urban. We managed a very respectable combined consumption of 5.5litres/100km.

Unfortunately the fuel-saving cylinder deactivation technology that is available in Europe isn’t fitted to Australian versions of the Golf – VGA deems it too expensive. There is an idle-stop system, however.

The latter system senses when the vehicle is stationary with the foot-brake applied and shuts down the engine. When the brake pedal is released the engine restarts and the driver can pull away as normal. While it does account for a significant fuel saving in urban driving, some users may find the engine shut-down disconcerting to begin with especially as steering assistance also ceases.

A manual override switch allows the driver to cancel the system in situations where instant response from the engine is required such as crossing intersections. We feel a system like this would be better suited as an opt-in rather than an opt-out basis.

Much has been written about Volkswagen’s DSG dual-clutch transmission, in terms of its longevity and at-times snatchy behaviour in urban surrounds. But we reckon it pairs very well with the grunty diesel in more ways than not.

As with the last model, diesels get a six-ratio unit compared to the petrol’s seven-speeder, but this is made up for by the oiler’s wider torque band.

Gear changes are dealt with seamlessly, although an eagerness to hold on to gears high in to the rev range (especially in Sport mode) seems to waste the low-down torque. Changes can be made manually too, but the direction one needs to push the lever is counter-intuitive (forward for up-shift and back for down-shift), and the absence of steering-wheel paddle-shifters is a shame.

Ride and handling

THE Golf has always been marketed as a fun car to live with – and a ‘semi-premium’ one to boot. While one or two previous incarnations may have missed the mark slightly, the last version (Golf 6) was certainly on the right road in terms of feel-behind-the-wheel.

The new Golf 7 happily continues in that direction.

Understeer in front-wheel-drives is often exacerbated by a heavy diesel engine over the front axle, but the Golf is surprisingly neutral and lacking in body roll when pushed through corners. The traction control has also been tempered and now intervenes less severely than previous generations.

Where earlier systems would abruptly interrupt power delivery to the wheels, the Golf 7 system intervenes less severely allowing a more variable delivery of power. On wet surfaces or exiting tight bends ESC responds quickly with minimal power metering but no more than a slap on the wrist and a flash from the ESC light if one is overly enthusiastic with the loud-pedal.

Limited body roll comes at a cost of a little firmness in the ride but it is still comfortable. The only noticeable downside to the sprightly chassis is more noise transmitted from the road – especially when negotiating rough surfaces or poorly maintained roads. This may also be partly due to the low profile tyres on 17-inch alloy wheels fitted as standard on the Highline.

Low speed manoeuvring is made a pleasure by super smooth electric steering.

Safety and servicing

MULTI-COLLISION braking is a new feature to the Golf. The system automatically applies the brakes after an initial impact and prevents the vehicle rolling further thereby avoiding another collision.

Standard safety systems available on the new Golf comprise of ABS, EBD and brake assist. ESP, Electronic diff-lock and anti-slip regulation are all incorporated in to the traction control system.

A medley of airbags (seven all up) include driver and passenger front and side, curtain airbags front and rear and drivers knee airbags. The Golf scores a five-star ANCAP rating.

City emergency braking can be optioned and prevents rear end collisions if the driver does not respond quickly enough to avoid an impact. This feature comes with the $1300 Drive Assistance package, which also adds adaptive cruise control and automated Park Assist 2.

The package also adds proactive occupant protection – a system that closes any open windows or sunroof when a stability management system activates.

Verdict

THE Golf has some tough competition from European, Korean and Japanese manufacturers but its innovative touches, even sharper dynamics and – more importantly – sharper value have pushed the Golf further ahead of all comers.

Some rivals may match the Golf in a few areas, by the Volkswagen is the complete package of styling and desirability, ensuring that, for now at least, it still defines the class.

Rivals

FORD Focus 2.0-litre diesel Titanium (a) $36,490.
A punchy engine and transmission combo and a tech-laden cabin make the Ford one of the segment’s best. Still not quite on the Golf’s level, though.

Opel Astra CDTi Select (a) $33,990.
The return of a famous nameplate, only this affixed to GM’s Euro brand Opel. A strong diesel and decent pricing make this a worthy contender.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class A200 CDI (a) $40,900.
Another German, albeit a properly premium one, which has of late taken the segment by storm.

Laden with gear and full of tech – plus that badge – it’s a hard car to look past. Is $5000 more than the VW, though.

Data

MAKE/MODEL: Volkswagen Golf 110 TDI Highline

ENGINE: 2.0-litre direct injection diesel

LAYOUT: Front transverse

POWER: 110kW

TORQUE: 320Nm

TRANSMISSION: Six-speed DSG

0-100km: 8.6s

FUEL: 4.9L/100km combined

CO2: 129g/km

L/W/H/W’BASE: 4349/1799/1491/2620mm

WEIGHT: 1326kg

SUSPENSION: Front independent, MacPherson struts with lower A-arms and anti-roll bar. Rear independent, four-link with coil springs. Anti-roll bar

STEERING: Electro-mechanical power assisted rack & pinion steering

BRAKES f/r: Ventilated discs

PRICE: $35,590 plus on-road costs

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