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Car reviews - Volkswagen - Golf - 5-dr hatch range

The Car

20 Aug 2004

ALMOST 30 years after first having a crack at selling a diesel Golf in Australia, Volkswagen is set to double up with the latest, fifth generation of the iconic hatchback.

In 1976, when the original Golf I arrived in Australia, it was the 37kW 1.5-litre GLD model that introduced Aussies to the concept of a small front-wheel drive oil-burner. It flopped.

Then came the 1.9-litre turbo-diesel GL TDi as part of the Golf III range in the 1990s. No big sales there either.

But now, after taking a hiatus from diesels during the lifespan of Golf IV, the local factory owned distributor, Volkswagen Group Australia, has dived in boots ’n’ all.

Joining the carry-over 1.6-litre and new 2.0-litre FSI petrol four-cylinder engines in the line-up are 1.9 and 2.0-litre turbo-diesels.

While they are close in terms of capacity, these two four-cylinder engines vary significantly in terms of output. The 1.9 produces 77kW at 4000rpm and 250Nm at 1900rpm. The 2.0 offers 103kW at 4000rpm and 320Nm from 1750rpm.

The variance in figures reflects the fact the 2.0 is the latest in design from Volkswagen Group with its double overhead camshafts, 24 valves and unit direct injection.

Originally, VGA had planned to bring in just the 1.9 but has been motivated by spiralling petrol prices to expand the diesel range. That’s understandable when the 1.9 returns a claimed 5.5L/100km and the 2.0 5.7L/100km as manuals.

By comparison, the petrol 1.6 offers 75kW at 5600rpm, 148Nm at 3800rpm and 7.5L/100km, while the new 2.0 FSI (Fuel Stratification Injection) produces 110kW at 6000rpm, 200Nm at 3500rpm and a fuel consumption average of 8.0L/100km.

Flip over to performance and the FSI is the leader with an 8.0-second 0-100km/h dash, followed by the 2.0 TDi (9.3), the 1.9 (11.1) and the 1.6 (11.4).

For all the hype though, VGA is not about to bet the farm on diesel, calculating the two engines will account for only seven per cent of Golf sales when the range goes on sale in September.

By contrast, the petrol 1.6 will command 52 per cent and the 2.0 FSI 41 per cent. It expects to sell 2300 Golf Vs in the final few months of 2004, then a record 7500 in 2005. VGA’s interest in diesel passenger cars will extend to the Bora and Passat as new generations appear over the next two years.

And it is not alone in seeing a future for the segment, with Audi Australia and MG Rover joining the trend recently, adding to stalwarts Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot and Citroen.

But in the case of Audi it’s more than the same thinking, it’s fundamentally the same car – entirely logical considering the VW Group actually owns Audi.

The second generation A3 launched here in June shares the two petrol engines with the Golf, as well as the 2.0 TDi. Not to forget some gearboxes, the new hydro-electric power steering system, revised MacPherson strut front and all-new multi-link rear suspension.

Indeed, the core platform that underpins both cars is the same.

It is styling – three-door A3 versus five-door Golf – and pricing where the two cars diverge most notably, reflecting the fact that VW is meant to be premium mass market versus Audi’s luxury positioning.

As the family photos show, Golf still looks the part, having evolved into a sleeker shape. It still has that pronounced C-pillar and latest dual-headlight incarnation. Unsurprisingly, it’s gone up in size and offers more interior space as a result.

Pricing is impressive when you consider Golf IV was over $4000 more expensive at launch in late 1998.

Back then, the mainstream choices were limited to 1.6 and 1.8-litre petrol engines (the latter soon replaced by a 2.0 with less power).

There’s more choice now but more complexity too, which rolls out beyond the engine bay.

First off, the 1.6 comes with the choice of five-speed manual or six-speed auto transmissions, the 2.0-litre FSI with either six-speed manual or auto, while the diesels have the choice of a different six-speed manual or the twin clutch DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox).

Then there’s the specifications, which now adopt European nomenclature, eschewing GL, GLE and the most recent local only ‘Generation’ tag.

The basic offering is Trendline which includes six airbags, ABS with EBD, active head restraints, remote central locking, power windows, six-speaker CD audio and standard air-conditioning.

It’s a serious step up to Comfortline which offers 15-inch alloys (all Golfs get a space-saver spare though), cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, gear knob and handbrake lever, 10-speaker audio, trip computer, velour seats and coming/leaving home function for the headlights.

Then there’s top-spec Sportline which backs up its name with firmer springs/dampers, reduced ride height and 16-inch alloy wheels.

It also includes dual-zone climate control, front foglights, sports front seats with cloth inserts and body colour-coded bumpers, side mouldings and door handles.

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Did you know?

Trendline and Comfortline are offered with the 1.6 petrol and 1.9 TDi, while the 2.0 FSI comes with Comfortline and Sportline, and the 2.0 TDi is offered with Comfortline only

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