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

Launch Story

26 Feb 2009

VOLKSWAGEN’S sixth-generation Golf may look similar to the outgoing model, but new drivetrains, improved refinement, more features and increased safety mean the premium small-car stalwart continues to evolve after 35 years (33 in Australia) and 26 million-plus sales worldwide.

The leap forward is smaller than the clean-sheet redesign experienced from Golf IV (1998) to Golf V (2004), as Volkswagen has worked hard to make it more efficient (read: cheaper) to build as well as to run.

Leading the charge, literally, is a wholesale move to forced-induction systems across the petrol engine range, which – for the moment – is limited to being just 1.4 litres in capacity, while a completely redesigned 2.0-litre TDI is the sole turbo-diesel unit until an all-new 1.6-litre TDI model is due to arrive late this year or in early 2010.

Early next year will also see the release of the Golf VI GTI in Australia, but there will be enough stocks of the current (and still popular) fifth-generation GTI to see it through until then.

Indeed, seeing is not necessarily believing when assessing the so-called “all-new” model, since the A6 Golf (as it is officially known as) is really just a re-skin of the A5 generation.

The roof carries over from before, for instance, and the overall proportions are pretty much identical, with the model’s signature two-box shape, wide C-pillar, and large headlights enclosing a horizontal grille.

However, no other body panel is shared between old and new, as Volkswagen has worked diligently on the details to create a Golf that looks longer, lower, wider and cleaner than before, with “more precisely defined lines and edges”.

One of the Golf VI exterior designers, Frank Bruse, told GoAuto that the delicate lines that make up the ‘happy face’ of the car were his proudest achievement.

He is also fond of the new exterior mirrors that direct airflow-related dirt down to the lower flanks rather than up onto the side windows, thus improving visibility for the driver. They’re also quieter as a result, aiding refinement levels inside.

An acoustic film is now fitted to all Golf windscreens, cutting noise intrusion by up to 4dB, while 10 per cent thicker side glass, modified water drainage on the A-pillars, new sealing properties and a double-lip design on the window channels also do their bit to quieten the car.

Golf occupants are also likely to notice the palpably higher-quality materials, swathing a completely redesigned dashboard and other cabin architecture, while the slightly deeper side windows afforded by the “more 3D” shoulder line is a result of market research calling for better rear-seat vision for smaller children.

Cabin space levels remain the same, with the overall length, width, height and wheelbase measurements coming in at 4199mm, 1785mm,1479mm and 2574mm respectively. Luggage volume varies from 350 litres with all seats upright to 1305 litres with them folded down.

Aiding interior space is the Golf’s front-wheel drive layout, complete with a choice of several transverse-mounted EU IV emissions-rated four-cylinder engines, although for the first time ever no conventional torque-converter automatic gearbox is offered.

Instead, along with the standard six-speed manual, a DSG dual-clutch transmission in either six or seven-speed guises is optional.

The entry-level model is the 90TSI Trendline, powered by a turbo-charged 1390cc 1.4-litre direct-injection petrol four-cylinder engine producing 90kW of power from 5000rpm to 5500rpm, and 200Nm of torque between 1500 and 4000rpm. Its DSG is an all-new seven-speeder with a dual dry clutch and all-synchro set-up.

Replacing Volkswagen’s venerable 75kW/148Nm 1.6-litre petrol engine that was offered in five-speed manual and six-speed Tiptronic automatic, the 90TSI is 15 per cent more powerful and up to 25 per cent more economical.

Its official 0-100km/h-sprint time, fuel consumption, and carbon dioxide emissions figures are 9.5 seconds, 6.4L/100km for the manual (7DSG: 6.2) and 143gm/km of CO2 (7DSG: 143gm/km) respectively.

On the flipside, 98 RON ultra-premium unleaded petrol is necessary to achieve these results, although the 90TSI and its more powerful 118TSI sister can also run on 95 RON premium unleaded petrol.

Forget using 91 RON regular unleaded petrol in these cars.

Stepping up to the 118TSI Comfortline still nets you the 1390cc 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine, but this time there is a Roots type supercharger, raising power and torque to 118kW at 5900rpm and 240Nm from 1750 to 4500rpm.

In either six-speed manual or 7DSG mode, acceleration is cut to 8.0 seconds flat. The combined fuel consumption average edges up to 6.2L/100km (7DSG: 6.4), while the CO2 output rises to 150g/km (7DSG: 144). Nevertheless, economy improves nearly 25 per cent here compared to the 110kW/200Nm 2.0 FSI four-cylinder petrol engine in the old Golf.

However, as around half of the buyers of that model preferred the diesel, the new 2.0-litre direct-injection common rail four-cylinder TDI with DPF diesel particulate filter and twin balancer shafts is big news, particularly as it is now significantly quieter and more efficient.

Dubbed 103TDI and still espousing 1968cc, it delivers 103kW at 4200rpm and 320Nm between 1750 and 2500rpm, to help propel the Golf from standstill to 100km/h in 9.3s regardless of whether it is a six-speed manual or six-speed DSG (the 7DSG has a maximum torque rating of only 250Nm – 100Nm down on the older 6DSG).

The combined fuel consumption figures of 5.3 and 5.6 for the 6DSG equates to a fall of seven and eight per cent respectively, while the CO2 figures are also much lower at between 139 and 147gm/km.

As with the old Golf, a MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension system is employed, albeit extensively modified for this application.

Steering is via an electro-mechanical power-assisted rack and pinion design, while the brakes have ventilated discs up front and a solid pair in the rear.

As part of a class-leading level of active and passive safety, the five-star Euro and Australian NCAP-rated Golf VI comes standard with ABS anti-lock brakes with EBD Electronic Brake-force Distribution, and BA Brake Assist, while there is also are revised ESP Electronic Stability program and ASR traction control systems.

There are now seven airbags in all models, with a knee airbag joining in, while anti-whiplash head restraints join the Golf club.

Equipment levels on the base 90TSI Trendline include all of the safety gear above, as well as semi-climate control air-conditioning, remote central locking, power windows, daytime running lights, a multi-function trip computer display and a driver’s seat height adjuster.

For an extra $2200 Trendline buyers can choose the Comfort Pack, which includes alloy wheels, cruise control, auto-off headlights and rain-sensing wipers, while the Comfortline models can be had with the $2000 Sportline Pack that brings larger alloy wheels, firmer suspension and racier trim.

The new car also introduces the option of Adaptive Chassis Control which allows the driver to alter the damping levels to suit the dynamic behaviour and/or ride comfort of the car. Front and rear parking sensors are also available, as is a rear view camera.

For folk prepared to pay extra for the perfect parallel park, Park Assist takes over the steering when sensors find a desired spot. The driver need only operate the accelerator, clutch and brakes.

Other options include leather upholstery, satellite navigation, a 300w audio upgrade, sunroof and fog lights with a cornering function.

Weight levels have stabilised despite the increase in equipment levels, with the Golf rating between 1270kg (90TSI manual) to 1380kg (103TDI 6DSG), while towing capacity is 640kg with an unbraked trailer on a 12 per cent incline to 1300kg when towing with a brake trailer.

Unlike the previous Golf, which was predominantly sourced from South Africa, all of the new versions are assembled at Wolfsburg and Model, in Germany.

Golf sales in Australia have almost doubled since the fifth-generation model debuted in August 2004, from 5920 units that year to 11,632.

Yet while it represented about 75 per cent of all Volkswagen volume five years ago, last year the Golf accounted for only 45 per cent, driven by the success of other models such as the (very closely related underneath) Tiguan and Eos.

And while diesel often accounted for over half of all sales, this time around Volkswagen hopes the more attractively presented base petrol version – the 90TSI – will help bring incremental volume increases to the range from cheaper small car offerings such as the Mazda3, Mitsubishi Lancer and Ford Focus.

Aiding an expected increase in petrol-powered Golf sales are significant fuel economy and low emissions gains that are more on-par with diesel models, according to Volkswagen, along with the absence of a suitable replacement for the old 77kW/250Nm 1.9-litre TDI.

Nevertheless, the aforementioned 1.6-litre TDI model – thought to be dubbed 77TDI – will help redress the diesel shortfall by early 2010.

As it stands, achieving about 1000 sales per month is Volkswagen’s target, with the TSI to TDI ratio running at 60:40.

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