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Car reviews - Volkswagen - Golf - Alltrack 132TSI

Our Opinion

We like
Spacious and user-friendly interior, cabin comfort and practicality, big car refinement, entertaining dynamics, supple ride on standard 17s
Room for improvement
Space-saver spare tyre, dozy DSG transmission, Sport mode steering unnecessarily tough

Gallery

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Volkswagen logo2 Nov 2017

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

Overview

UNLIKE the rest of the facelifted Golf ‘Mk 7.5’ range that received equipment boosts from entry level up, VW has instead opted to strip kit from the ruggedised-and-raised Alltrack wagon in return for a lower price.

The punchy petrol engine and dual-clutch automatic transmission remain under its bonnet and a Premium variant has been added that carries over the previous Golf Alltrack’s generous equipment list. A diesel option for long-haulers is also now available.

It’s a lot more choice for a variant that accounted for less than 4.4 per cent of all Golfs sold in 2016, suggesting VW Australia is seeking the Golf Alltrack’s sales sweet spot.

We spent a week with the base Alltrack – bereft of optional extras or even metallic paint – and there was a certain charm about its newfound simplicity.

Price and equipment

As mentioned in the overview, the Golf Alltrack wagon line-up has multiplied, going from a single variant before the facelift to three, including two engine choices.

We drove the new entry-level 132TSI that costs $34,490 before on-road costs, while the new Premium designation essentially carries over from the previous Alltrack spec for $38,490 (up $150). To cater for diesel die-hards and high-milers, there is now also a $40,990 135TDI that shares the petrol-only Premium’s standard equipment list.

From the base 110TSI hatchback variant upwards, the Golf Mk 7.5 range comes standard with autonomous emergency braking, driver fatigue detection, a reversing camera, LED tail-lights, LED daytime running lights, seven airbags and VW’s multi-collision brake function that automatically locks up the wheels after a crash to prevent the car rolling into other vehicles or obstacles.

Extended electronic differential lock (XDL) is also standard, and is designed to help keep the Golf tracking true through corners.

Every Golf Mk 7.5 has an all-new 8.0-inch capacitive touchscreen display providing broad smartphone connectivity options via Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink using the in-built USB port. It also has Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming, an SD memory card slot, and a CD player with sound delivered through an eight-speaker stereo.

The Alltrack specification is somewhere between the Trendline and Comfortline wagon, having dual-zone climate control with cabin air filtration, front and rear parking sensors, automatic headlights and wipers, keyless entry and start, LED ambient lighting, a self-dimming interior mirror, a leather-bound multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, heated electrically adjustable exterior mirrors, a 60/40 split-fold rear seat, a luggage area partition net, and electric windows.

In addition to the 20mm-higher suspension, off-roader-style unpainted plastic wheelarches and lower body mouldings plus matte silver faux scuff panels on bumpers and sills, features unique to the Alltrack comprise embroidered Summits cloth upholstery with suede-like seat bolsters, an Off Road mode in the driving profile selector and 17-inch alloy wheels in Valley design.

Upgrading to the Premium spec level adds ‘comfort sport’ heated front seats and Vienna leather upholstery, upgraded infotainment with satellite navigation including five years’ free map updates and a remote control feature accessed through VW’s smartphone app, LED headlights with dynamic cornering function, a colour multi-function trip computer in the instrument panel and carpet floor mats.

Any Golf Alltrack can be optioned with the $1800 Driver Assistance Package comprising a full digital dashboard with off-road display mode, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, automated parking and a ‘proactive occupant protection system’ that pre-tensions the seatbelts and closes windows and sunroof (if fitted) when an impending collision is detected.

Alltrack Premium variants are eligible for the $2900 Sport Luxury Package that includes a panoramic glass roof, paddle-shifters, electric driver’s seat adjustment – including lumbar – with memory, electric folding exterior mirrors, rear privacy glass and 18-inch Kalamata design alloys.

On top of that is the $2300 Infotainment Package with the digital dash, top-spec 9.2-inch infotainment unit with gesture and voice control with sounds piped through a 400W Dynaudio premium audio system.

VW offers a substantial $1800 discount when the Sport Luxury and Infotainment packages are combined, offering them together for $3400.

Although the 18-inch alloys look great and raise the vehicle’s ground clearance by a further 10mm to 185mm, experience with the pre-facelift Alltrack on big wheels revealed a significant deterioration in ride comfort and elevated levels of road noise. VW advises us no changes to the suspension have been made for this update, so spec the big wheels with caution.

Metallic or pearlescent paint is an extra $500.

Interior

Compared with the plusher Premium Alltrack variant that carries over the pre-facelift car’s equipment and more, the $4000 more affordable entry-level Alltrack tested here certainly feels a bit less special inside, despite the fancy new glass-fronted 8.0-inch touchscreen. It still looks good at night, though, with the crisp LED ambient light strips beneath metal trim strips in the doors.

Suede-like seat bolsters on the attractive ‘Alltrack’ embroidered seats also look like a dirt magnet compared with the Premium’s leather, which might not be ideal for those intending to take advantages of the Alltrack’s abilities in dust and mud or people with chocolate-spilling, motion-sick children.

In addition to the special upholstery, there is a stylish Alltrack decal on the lid of a storage slot in front of the gear selector, and when prodding the driving profile button on the centre console, an extra ‘off-road’ option is available in addition to Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual.

But the cabin is otherwise identical to a mainstream Golf wagon in terms of looks and usability. That is to say, comfortable and spacious with some thoughtful practical touches nestled among Volkswagen’s typically conservative and oh-so-logical layout.

The new infotainment system is easy to use, responsive and has crisp graphics.

Frequently used functions are quickly found, but there is quite a depth to its functionality that can be discovered by drilling down through various submenus.

We thought the standard audio system’s sound quality was pretty good, too.

Similarly, the trip computer provides plenty of information, usually providing the ability to simultaneously display the kind of readouts we wanted. This includes a digital speedometer that is a must-have given the zealously zero tolerance enforcement of speed in many parts of Australia.

We managed to get a false alarm out of the forward collision warning once, which flashed a warning on the dash and beeped, but the system quickly realised it had misinterpreted cars using a mid-corner turning lane as a hazard. Better safe than sorry.

Making the most of the big new screen is the excellent reversing camera with proximity visual for the front and rear parking sensors to go with the beeping.

Compared with a Golf hatch, Alltrack’s long glass sides enhance visibility no end, helped by the model’s deep, square windows.

The tightly upholstered leather seats of some Golfs can feel a bit perch-like, but the new cloth and suede-like trim of the base Alltrack gave us a sensation of suppleness. They were also easy to adjust for a comfortable driving position and easy to restore following driver changes.

Also, there’s still something special about VW’s thin-rimmed and fine-leather-trimmed steering wheel that is so tactile and expensive feeling.

Getting this major touch point so right does a lot to elevate the feeling of the car.

The rear bench is pretty comfortable, too, and Isofix points with plastic guides plus sensibly located top tether points – apart from the very low-set central one – made securing infant capsules and child seats a breeze. A marginal 20mm ride height difference over a standard Golf was not a discernible stoop-saver when loading and securing youngsters into the Alltrack.

Six-foot adults can comfortably sit in tandem, all three rear seat positions provided plenty of headroom – including the slightly raised central position – and there is just about enough room for three slim adults to sit across the rear row.

Even better, the Alltrack is one of very few small cars – and even mid-size SUVs – in which a tall adult can comfortably sit in front of a bulky rear-facing infant capsule. As such we’d happily recommend the Golf Alltrack to families with children of any age.

Storage is another plus point. Up front there are useful drawers beneath the two front seats, a decent-sized glovebox, a large bin beneath the central armrest and a miniature glovebox by the driver’s right knee.

All doors have big bottle-holding door bins, while two well-designed and secure cup holders are located beneath a roll-away hatch in the centre console. The rear central armrest has both an adjustable cup-holder recess and a load-through ski hatch. Rear passengers get a pair of air-con vents as well.

Behind the bench is a big 605-litre wagon boot that is easily and instantly expandable to its full 1620L capacity via a pair of remote seat folding handles. For comparison, the VW Tiguan SUV achieves 615L of boot space with the rear bench slid forward and not reclined (520L with them slid back and reclined), opening up to 1655L with them folded.

Four handy hooks of two varieties are supplied in the boot to help secure the shopping bags, while recesses at the far edges of the boot floor are handy for storing shoes or other small items you don’t want rolling about.

Both the cargo blind and load area partition net can be installed and removed easily using well-designed mechanisms, and stashed under the boot floor when not in use. They are of high-quality construction and the cargo blind has a two-stage opening mechanism to save users from having to reach right to the back of the boot when only removing a few small items.

The net-like extendible net partition works like a fabric barrier separating luggage from the passenger compartment and could probably be used as a dog guard for very well-trained pooches. When using the Alltrack’s full load-carrying it can also extend to create a full-height cargo barrier immediately behind the front seats.

For the Alltrack’s 7.5 update we hoped VW would have added a full-size spare wheel beneath the boot floor, as there is more than enough room here for both a full-size spare and a capacity-expanding false floor setup. To us this is a no-brainer for increased practicality and additional confidence for those regularly departing sealed roads.

Of course, your VW dealer will happily relieve you of some additional hard-earned for a matching alloy spare and anyone handy with a jigsaw could rustle up some form of boot basement.

More happily, road noise and ride comfort issues we reported from an optioned-up, pre-facelift Alltrack appear to be entirely related to that car’s larger 18-inch alloy wheels. Tempted by big hoops? Don’t do it!With its standard 17s, the Alltrack remans comfortable regardless of surface and is quiet even on coarse-chip country lanes and crunchy gravel tracks. To nit-pick, some surfaces create a little interior boominess that we put down to the wagon shape’s acoustics but it was never enough to annoy us.

Few cars can shrug off the shudder and sound from the diverse array of awful roads we test them on with as much success as the Alltrack, which provides a level of isolation far above anything else in its segment, the next size up and, for that matter, pretty much any small or medium SUV including those from premium brands.

It’s certainly quieter and comfier than that Tiguan you might also be considering in the VW showroom. And the Alltrack has comfier seats, too.

Engine and transmission

The Alltrack 132TSI is powered by a 132kW/280Nm 1.8-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder – the most powerful petrol engine available in a non-GTI or R Golf in Australia. Similarly, the 135kW/380Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel in the pricier 135TDI is the most powerful diesel engine ever used in Australian-delivered Golf.

After passing through a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, drive reaches a Haldex coupling that distributes continuously variable amounts of torque to all four wheels based on available traction and driving conditions.

Compared with a 1600kg Tiguan that feels sprightly enough using the same engine, transmission and all-wheel-drive setup, the 1491kg Alltrack positively zips along.

Like most VW petrol four-cylinder engines, this is a smooth, refined and free-breathing unit that happily revs out before the transmission or the driver selects another ratio. It’s a pleasure to use and never feels or sounds strained.

Peak torque comes in at just 1350rpm and lasts all the way to 4500rpm, where peak power is developed and is sustained until 6200rpm. This is one flexible and responsive little engine, which made our vehicle’s particularly dozy and hesitant transmission – particularly from standing start – all the more distracting because it undermined the engine’s elastic, point-and-squirt potential in urban and suburban traffic.

With time we learnt to anticipate and drive around its quirks, but we are becoming weary of inconsistent, unintuitive dual-clutch technology in everyday passenger cars and its potentially high maintenance costs. If you drive a lot in urban hilly areas or have a steep driveway, almost any dual-clutcher will drive you nuts.

Even in high performance applications we are beginning to see a move away from this style of transmission, such as the new Audi RS4 weapons-grade wagon having an eight-speed torque converter unit. Still, the transmission is not a deal-breaker as the rest of the Alltrack is so good.

Our on-test average fuel consumption was 8.3 litres of 95 RON premium unleaded per 100 kilometres, including motorway driving, suburban errand-running, a twisty country road thrash and navigating a few gravel tracks. The official combined-cycle figure is 6.7L/100km, yet we were close to the official urban cycle figure of 8.4L/100km.

Narrowing down to suburban driving followed by our dynamic test racked up a thirsty 13.0L/100km with the air-conditioning working hard to overcome 28 degrees and high humidity while a 90km stretch of motorway returned 6.0L/100km, almost matching the official highway figure of 5.9L/100km.

Rifling through the touchscreen’s fuel consumption records we could find our test vehicle’s entire 3300km lifespan had averaged 9.1L/100km.

So the Alltrack we had on test was not exactly a fuel miser, and while 95 RON is becoming an increasingly common requirement of modern petrol engines, we are finding more and more petrol stations offering either 91 RON or the vastly more expensive 98 RON that is usually only required for serious performance machinery, with no 95 in sight.

Ride and handling

In the Interior section we mentioned the vast improvement to ride and road noise attributed to our test vehicle keeping with the standard 17-inch alloys instead of the 18-inch items with slim 45-section sidewalls offered as an ‘upgrade’.

Obviously, those regularly exploiting the Alltrack’s enhanced ability on unsealed roads would be better off with smaller wheels anyway, but we defy anyone to be unimpressed by how well this vehicle soaks up road imperfections of any type.

As with its imperious isolation from noise and vibration, the way the Alltrack separates occupants from the indifference of road maintenance authorities means this car does a great impression of something much larger and more expensive.

We’d go so far as to say it is superior in this sense to many cars that are larger and more expensive.

Somehow, none of this comes at the expense of driving pleasure when faced with twisting country roads. It is no sportscar but there are many rewards for the keen driver.

With an all-wheel-drive system related to that of high-performance Golf R – also now permanently available as a wagon – and VW’s excellent electronic differential lock, the Alltrack rewards the driver for setting up their corner entry speed and immediately getting back on the throttle with a positive feel of the nose being pulled through the bend that is all the more satisfying given the fact it doesn’t hang onto corners anywhere near as hard as the R hot hatch.

That thin-rimmed steering wheel also allows many messages from the tyres to filter through to the fingertips when the driver wants and needs it, aiding predictability and therefore confidence without being exhaustingly effusive when just punting about.

A well-judged rack ratio, high levels of accuracy and effortlessly smooth action make twirling the steering wheel more fun than the Alltrack’s looks and intended purpose would suggest.

We’d avoid selecting Sport mode, which makes the steering weight tougher than an over-cooked steak, and instead set up Individual mode to have the steering set to Comfort and the driveline set to Sport for spirited driving purposes – and to use when that laggy dual-clutch auto is doing your head in.

Pleasantly surprising levels of body control and plenty of grip enable sweeping roads to be dispatched briskly without heroics, but also mean passengers are not thrown around uncomfortably when simply covering challenging terrain on the way to somewhere else.

The big-wheeled pre-facelift Alltrack could start to sway on lower grip surface, but the squishier sidewalls enabled by smaller rims on the car tested here appeared to contribute to this effect being less pronounced. In this environment, staying on the driver’s intended course benefits greatly from constant throttle application, especially given the gentler throttle map courtesy of off-road mode, which also activates hill descent control and fine-tunes stability control and anti-lock brake settings for loose surfaces.

But that wagon tail is more than happy to swing out when provoked, providing some opposite-lock playfulness if you’re up for it. And the Alltrack feels eminently calm and non-intimidating when this happens.

With just 175mm of ground clearance, we weren’t game to try the Alltrack on anything more extreme than a slightly washed-out gravel road that had been damaged by recent heavy rains that reminded us that permanent all-wheel drive has many advantages on greasy wet bitumen.

Great care was required to ensure we avoided grounding out the stylish bumpers when channels carved by rushing rainwater had to be crossed, but the Alltrack’s great visibility, impressive traction and ease of control – especially in off-road mode – meant we raised the odd eyebrow but never a sweat.

As we take it, the point of this car is to add a layer or two of additional versatility to an already accomplished small wagon. VW seems to have succeeded.

Safety and servicing

All front-drive Golf variants have a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, scoring an almost-perfect 15.92 out of 16 for the frontal offset test, 16 out of 16 in the side impact test, two out of two in the pole test and with whiplash protection deemed ‘good’. Pedestrian protection was ‘acceptable’.

Overall it achieved a respectable 35.92 out of 37.

Low- and high-speed autonomous emergency braking have become standard since the Mk 7.5 launched, to go with the dual frontal, side chest, side curtain airbags and a driver’s knee bag, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and electronic stability control. There is also a manual speed limiter and VW’s secondary collision avoidance tech.

Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000 kilometres, with VW’s capped-price servicing website quoting between $369 and $1133 for scheduled maintenance over the first six years, depending on whether minor or major service intervals.

Volkswagen’s new car warranty lasts three years with unlimited kilometres.

Verdict

The Volkswagen Golf does a lot of things very well, and the Alltrack just adds to that repertoire with this new and more accessible base variant.

It’s a smart move that might make people think twice about trading up to a Tiguan and we applaud any way of putting a bit of reason in front of the SUV-shopping sheeple who buy heavier, taller, less aerodynamic and less efficient vehicles in their droves because it’s the in thing to do.

We had to really nit-pick to find the few flaws with this car identified above.

And we’re glad we confirmed that smaller wheels are the ticket to a much more pleasant life in the Golf Alltrack.

At the time of writing, VW was offering them for $35,990 drive-away. That’s just $1500 over the official before-on-roads price. So perhaps next year the Alltrack will account for more than 4.4 per cent of all Golf sales.

It certainly deserves to.

Rivals

Volkswagen Tiguan Trendline 2WD automatic $34,490Here because it is the same price and in the same showroom. It may have more storage options than a good pair of cargo pants, but the Golf Alltrack trounces the base Tiguan for engine performance and equipment. The Tiguan doesn’t even have all-wheel drive at this price point, is less comfy, has a jigglier ride, suffers more road noise and isn’t as much fun to drive. The luggage capacity isn’t much greater than the Alltrack’s either. It does, however, have 191mm of ground clearance, which is more than the Golf’s 175mm. While Tiguan is an excellent SUV compared with rivals, the Golf Alltrack is a far superior buy for the money.

Skoda Octavia Scout 110 TDI 4x4 ($33,290 plus on-road costs)Now Volkswagen has lowered the entry price of its Golf Alltrack, the $38,990 equivalent from Czech sub-brand Skoda starts to look a bit expensive and the manual-only grumbly diesel version becomes a price rival. Just spend more, whether you go for the VW or the Skoda! The Golf Alltrack has 4mm more ground clearance than the Octavia Scout, by the way, and a nicer interior.

Subaru Outback 2.5i ($35,990 plus on-road costs)The old-school 2.5-litre petrol and rev-flaring CVT transmission can’t really hold a candle to the downsized turbo/dual-clutch equipped VW but you get decades of proven toughness and rugged off-road cred (a healthy 213mm of ground clearance helps here). But it’s the next size up to the Golf, the advantage of which is felt in rear accommodation and seats-down cargo volume. While its infotainment is off the pace next to the German, there is some nice tech in here including EyeSight safety and driver assistance systems and overall equipment levels are similar to the newly price-reduced and de-contented Alltrack.

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