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Car reviews - Volkswagen - Golf - range

Our Opinion

We like
More standard gear across the range, impressive dynamics, lively powertrains, high-quality cabin and fit and finish
Room for improvement
Slightly sensitive brakes, minimal styling changes over outgoing model

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Volkswagen logo4 Jul 2017

IT’S difficult to pick, but the perennially popular Golf has been given a makeover.

It might not be dramatic – the visual changes are limited to new bumpers and head- and tail-lights – but the changes to the Golf’s specification list, and improvements under the skin, have had an impact.

Volkswagen’s Golf has been a top pick among motoring writers for years, particularly with the launch of the Mk7 Golf, while more and more buyers have put their hard earned down for the impressive German since its launch in 2013.

You could argue that not much needed to be done for its mid-life facelift, but Volkswagen understands that things don’t stand still for long in Australia’s small-car segment, and the competition is now much tougher than when the Golf arrived four years ago.

Hyundai’s new i30, Honda’s Civic, the popular Mazda3, Holden’s Astra and Subaru’s improved Impreza are now among the top picks in the segment.

The Golf has traditionally been the driver’s pick, and Volkswagen Group Australia intends to keep it that way.

Pricing has increased, and so have specification levels across the board. A VGA spokesperson told GoAuto that the spec of the base $23,990 plus on-roads 110TSI base hatch is equivalent to the outgoing Comfortline, while that variant is now as well equipped as the previous top-spec Highline.

Even at base level the value is strong. It’s no $19,990 driveaway bargain, but VW says it will never play in that space.

From this grade up, the Golf features autonomous emergency braking, 16-inch alloy wheels, a reversing camera and a new and improved 8.0-inch capacitive touchscreen that sits flush with the centre stack to provide a modern look for the cabin.

There is enough kit in the entry car to satisfy buyers, and if the equipment list doesn’t win you over, the zippy performance should.

Not many people will buy the 110TSI with the six-speed manual gearbox – VW predicts that one in four will opt for the mid-to-upper-spec Comfortline – which is a shame because it is one of the most enjoyable non-performance Golf variants on offer.

All petrol Golf hatches and wagons – excluding the performance-focused R and GTI and the jacked-up Alltrack – are now powered by the 110TSI 110kW/250Nm 1.4-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine, with VW ditching the 92kW unit for the 7.5 update.

The base variant feels light on the road and the slick six-speed manual is a joy to use.

As with all the Golfs we sampled – performance variants including the GTI and R will have to wait until August media launch – the base car’s steering is sharp and direct, and the twisty roads of Victoria’s Yarra Valley provided the perfect location to test its dynamic abilities.

The nimble Golf 110TSI cuts through tight corners and larger sweeping bends with ease, with the taut chassis ensuring a flat ride and zero bodyroll.

While the brakes are a touch on the sensitive side, they pull the hatch up in good time when required.

The Golf’s engine comes alive when pushed hard and offers solid, if not brutal, acceleration. In the case of the 110TSI, 0-100km/h time is 8.2 seconds.

In Comfortline guise, the cabin takes on a more premium feel, with the ‘comfort’ cloth seats a step up from the basic cloth of the base variant.

There is a $5000 price hike from the base manual (the auto is $26,490) to the Comfortline dual-clutch auto, but the standard spec list increases significantly with larger wheels, a more premium audio and sat-nav system and dual-zone climate control just some of the extra touches.

Not much differentiates the drive experience of the 110TSI and the Comfortline, but the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is a smooth shifting unit and despite some slight turbo lag on take-off, the powertrain is still impressive.

VW has not detailed any improvements to the noise, vibration and harshness levels of the 7.5 Golf over its predecessor, but the cabin is super quiet and well insulated enough to keep out intrusive noises, even on harsher road surfaces.

In this respect the Golf has to be the class leader. It is more refined and has the highest quality fit and finish of any of the mainstream small-car competitors.

Next up was a brief stint in the Highline wagon which was fitted with the optional $2500 R-Line package that adds sporty flourishes to the exterior and interior, bigger 18-inch wheels and sports suspension.

We felt no obvious difference in the suspension setup compared with other non-R-Line Golfs we sampled, but that might require more time behind the wheel.

Switching from Normal to Sport mode in the Driving Profile Selection system ups the excitement factor, noticeably enhancing acceleration, steering and the dual-clutch transmission.

A brief stint as a passenger in the 110TDI turbo-diesel Highline again highlighted the Golf’s high levels of refinement. It is difficult to tell there is an oil-burner under the bonnet, although the turbo lag gives it away.

One of the surprise packages in the new Golf range is the high-riding Alltrack wagon which is now offered in three spec levels, including a new flagship 135kW/380Nm 135TDI Premium turbo-diesel costing $40,990.

We did not get time to sample the top-spec diesel, but we took the new entry-level $34,490 132 TSI for a spin.

Inside, it gains classy ‘Summits’ cloth seats that provide excellent support, along with the new 8.0-inch screen and all it offers, and a high level of standard specification.

Like all Golf wagons, it offers excellent all-round visibility and a number of handy storage compartments, some of which are covered for security.

Headroom is abundant in both rows, and the rear-seat legroom is more than adequate for a tall adult. It also has rear-seat air vents.

Cargo space in the load-lugger is impressive at 605 litres – more than Subaru’s bigger Outback (512L).

Under the bonnet of the Alltrack is VW’s 132kW/280Nm 1.8-litre four cylinder, offering engaging and sporty performance.

The drive route included some unsealed roads that were muddy after an overnight downpour, but, thanks to the 4Motion all-wheel-drive system, the Alltrack maintained its composure, even on the most slippery section that was dotted with innumerable potholes.

The Alltrack sits in an appealing niche between a traditional family wagon and a mid-size SUV, and we think it is one of the picks of the range.

All of the small changes to the Golf have added up, resulting in an even more impressive package than when it was launched back in 2013.

While the competition has improved considerably since then, the Golf remains the best-rounded small car on offer in Australia.

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