SIX OF THE BEST
No one should be surprised by the appearance of the new Volkswagen Golf, any more than they would have been surprised by the appearance of each evolution of the model since the second Golf in 1983. VW has used a simple formula each time – make sure there’s enough about the latest model to make it instantly recognisable as a Golf while working in enough change to signal “new model” – VW refers to it as “Historical DNA”.
So enter the Golf Mark VI, five years after its predecessor. Just as the 1991 Mk III seemed to make some distinct references to the then current Honda Civic, the Mark VI makes a nod eastwards in the direction of the latest Korean designs. Since many current European models from Korea are also designed in Europe, that shouldn’t be a surprise either. It’s the swage line at waist level, combined with the black finish for the side window frames that invites the Korean comparison and gives the car clean unembellished sides.
The new nose seems to be the way VW will be doing it for the foreseeable future. The company took the wraps off an even newer model than the new Golf recently. VW’s as-yet un-named entry into the one-tonne pickup truck sector shares a similar design, but we shall have to wait until 2010 before the Argentinean-built pick-up reaches Europe.
Back to the Golf, which is not bigger in every respect than its predecessor. VW says the Mk VI is five millimetres shorter at 4,199mm, the same height at 1,479mm, but 20mm wider at 1,779mm. This may be to accommodate the additional standard safety equipment fitted to the Golf and some of the noise reducing measures introduced with the car. These include front, side, curtain and driver’s knee airbags, reinforcements in the door areas and optional rear side airbags. Noise reducing measures include side windows that are 10 per cent thicker than before as well as new door and window seals.
The new Golf signals the biggest shake-up in the diesel engine line-up since the TDI was introduced in the Mk III. As far as the Golf is concerned, the venerable 1.9-litre engine has been laid to rest, along with the electronic unit injectors that VW has championed since the late 1990s. Quite simply, Volkswagen needs the additional control that common-rail can give over fuel injection to meet the Euro 5 standards next September. So to begin with, The Golf VI will be available with two diesels, both based on the two-litre TDI engine with common-rail injection. First is a new variant, delivering 109bhp at 4,200rpm and 184lb ft of torque between 1,500rpm and 2,500rpm. At 119g/km, carbon dioxide emissions match the current 103bhp Golf BlueMotion and the EU combined fuel consumption is given as 62.7mpg. The 138bhp variant has already been seen in a number of other VW group products. But the expected debut of the 1.6-litre diesel won’t be happening just yet. We were given a preview of the new BlueMotion Golf, which will be fitted with a 103bhp variant of the engine. This model offers an impressive 74.3mpg on the combined cycle with carbon dioxide emissions of 99g/km. Expect a re-jig of the diesel engine line-up once the 1.6-litre engine appears.
For the launch, both two-litre diesels where available, and fitted with the six-speed DSG gearbox. My first impressions were of better build quality than for the mk V – better finish and a solidly built interior. The test of VW’s extensive sound reducing measures would be the TDI engine, which even in common-rail form has not proved to be a model of refinement in the past. From inside there’s certainly less rattle from under the bonnet, which may help to make wind and road noise more audible. Even so it’s a quieter car all round.
ESP is standard equipment on this Golf – something we didn’t explore even on the worst of Icelandic roads during the launch. Safe, predictable handling is what you would expect and it’s what this Golf delivers. So VW seems to have done it again. A well engineered, safe family hatchback. The kind of car that won’t set your pulses racing but could make you feel that you made the right choice.
RIVALS: FORD FOCUS 2.0 TDCi, HONDA CIVIC 2.2 i-CTDi, VAUXHALL ASTRA 1.9 CDTi 16V
- Engine: 1968cc, 4 cylinder turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed DSG
- Max Power: 138bhp at 3,500rpm
- Max Torque: 236lb ft at 1,750 – 2,500rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 1,500kg
- Combined Consumption: 52.3mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 142g/km (C)
- 0-62mph: 9.3secs
- Max speed: 128mph
- Insurance Group: tba