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Car reviews - Volkswagen - Golf - 77TDI 5-dr hatch

Launch Story

Volkswagen logo14 Dec 2009

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

ON paper the Golf 77TDI could be every car you are ever likely to need.

Super-frugal (4.9L/100km) with low CO2 emissions (129g/km) and a slick-shifting five-speed manual or well-endowed seven-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission, the smaller of the two turbo-diesel Golfs on sale today has the high eco cred to challenge even the ever-growing numbers of hybrids out there.

And let’s not forget the 250Nm of torque that accompanies the 77kW power tap, to give the VW some real verve – particularly when you consider that the previous-generation Golf’s 1.9-litre TDI turbo-diesel delivered the same outputs from 300cc more engine.

How could you go wrong?

Well … in fact, you can’t really – not when you add impeccable German build quality, a superbly refined and amply spacious interior, hatchback practicality, incredibly high resale value and a dynamic chassis to the mix.

The latter is a revelation, blessing the thoroughly engineered Golf with steering, handling and ride qualities that would make many cars costing at least twice as much blush with embarrassment.

But the 77TDI is merely very good – and not great like its 103kW/320Nm 103TDI turbo-diesel sibling – because the dinkier of the diesel duo fails to elevate the Golf beyond its class borders like the larger car does.

The 103TDI is in some ways better than an Audi A4, Volvo S80 or BMW 5 Series in its eerie ability to present both sumptuous comfort and involving driving pleasure in an affordable and spirited package.

In contrast, the revvy, eager, and oh-so-smooth 77TDI – though deceptively quick on a long flat road – soon runs out of breath when you need some instant overtaking performance.

We also have reservations about how that busy 7DSG gearbox would behave in the stop-start stress of big-city peak hour traffic, since the drive route that VW conjured up for us only included a mountainous mix of rural roads. Now there’s a missed opportunity …

The 77TDI also lacks some essential standard items expected in a $30,000-plus car, like cruise control and decent-looking wheels. There’s no way the base Trendline can be considered good value as a result. And going for the Comfort Pack adds a hefty $2K to the Golf’s already premium pricing.

And somehow that chrome-less grille seems incomplete.

Plus, since desirable options only serve to bump the price up, you might soon find yourself within only a couple of thousand dollars of a base (but far better equipped) 103TDI Comfortline – a car that surely lacks for nothing.

The fact that it is only fractionally less economical and emissions-friendly hardly matters when you realise that you have to really work the smaller diesel hard with your right foot to get anywhere in a hurry, further closing the gap between baby and big brother Golf.

So where does this all leave us?

In isolation the sweet and slick 77TDI makes for an intriguing and appealing alternative to the petrol-powered Golf 90TSI – and we’re sure you will have years of pleasure if you decide to go for that.

It is also a damn sight better all-rounder than virtually every other diesel small car – with the exception of the underrated Ford Focus TDCi.

But the Golf 103TDI Comfortline is bigger hearted and broader in scope as well as capability, and so worth every cent more over its smaller diesel sibling.

There’s nothing like an on-road experience to put what looks great on paper in black and white perspective!

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