2013 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF 7 REVIEW
What’s Hot: New low pricing, new edgier style, new engines, more features.
What’s Not: Not greatly differentiated visually from Golf 6.
X-Factor: Classy German elegance in an affordable small car, plus brisk on-road performance.
For Volkswagen, that Golf badge is surely priceless – instantly recognisable, fashionable, youthful, accessible and, yes, desired.
So there’s a lot at stake, a lot of ‘brand value’ to protect when a new model is in the offing.
Like, you wouldn’t want to get it wrong. Especially not with Ford’s Focus hitting its straps, fast improving challengers from Korea, and Japanese giant Toyota hatching a good one with the new Corolla.
So here’s Volkswagen’s new Golf – the Golf 7. How much better is it than the Golf 6? Is it better, or is it just different?
It certainly doesn’t look greatly different: a little sharper, bigger wheels, nice blistered wheel arches, a bit more ‘tuck’ to the rear, a more-steeply raked nose and a little less slab to the sides.
But that’s what you’d expect with such a recognisable brand to protect. If it was yours, you’d want it to be recognised - the ‘proven product’ that everyone knows so well - but newer and fresher, and thus even more desirable.
Underneath though, the Golf 7 is different. It’s sitting on an all-new platform; a bigger and better one, as we discovered, but lighter and leaner; and the underpinnings – they’re also better.
And the engine choices, they’re new. The capacities are familiar, but the ‘twin-charging’ has gone, and outputs are both up, and down.
We drove three models over the day of the launch – the new entry level 90TSI petrol, the 103TSI and the 110TDI.
And we like what we found. Quiet, comfortable, sporty and fun, every model in the range: how many cars offer that as a baseline?
So, yes, better in nearly every way.
Even in style. The new Golf 7 does look better, it’s certainly more sporty, and the style differences become more obvious and the subtleties more apparent the more familiar you become with it.
With a $21,490 entry point for the 90TSI (or $23,990 with DSG), which lacks for nothing in verve and dynamics, the new Golf range is surprisingly good buying value.
It is also – with VW’s fixed price servicing offer – not going to break the bank in ownership costs.
And crikey it’s a good drive.
It might be the sauerkraut, or maybe the accordions, jolly songs and thigh slapping, but there is something in the German character that makes them masterful interior designers.
This interior is so beautifully understated, so cleanly executed and just so pleasing to the eye that, in this segment, it’s surely the benchmark.
The driving position is nicely square, everything precisely to hand, and a near perfect relationship between pedals, wheel and controls.
There is a cockpit feel to the interior; at the workbench, everything is angled slightly to the driver – the screen, controls and centre stack.
The new multi-function steering wheel, flat on the bottom, feels slightly narrower. But is direct and comfortable, and reach and rake adjustable.
For surface textures, trim and material quality, the interior of the new Golf is as good as you’ll find.
Everything fits snugly, the tactile surfaces, controls and switchgear feel right, and everything is beautifully aligned.
The seats seem a little thinner than the previous model. The Highline and Comfortline models get more upmarket trims, but across the three-model range they’re nicely shaped with a wide base, deep bolsters and firmly supportive.
There is also nothing stingy about the feature list in any model.
The entry 90TSI gets a brushed alloy centre stack and garnishes; move up to the Comfortline and you get a better-looking polished metal throughout; and piano black and carbon-fibre in the top-dog Highline.
But once upon a time, and not so long ago, when you bought a German car you accepted that it had the creature comforts of a roller skate.
There was no shortage of available features, but you had to pay for everything.
But we’ve had a GFC since then, and now everyone is trying harder to win customers, even the Germans. So now the Golf comes with a feature-list to rival any in the segment… and mostly all standard.
Like a touchscreen that senses your movement to it, and pops up a menu under your fingers. Like Bluetooth, USB and aux-input, cruise control, air-con, electric park-brake, stop/start, pre-crash system, city emergency braking, driver alert system, and a whole host more.
Click through to our Golf 7 product information piece for a full list of features across the model range.
ON THE ROAD
Engines choices are what we expected them to be: petrol and diesel, and mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or DSG.
And they're all-new, with only the 82mm cylinder spacing of the 'old' engines maintained in the new mills.
The 90TSI, with 1.4 litres, replaces the previous 77TSI 1.2 litre. It’s bigger and more powerful but uses less fuel.
And it is, as we found, delightfully responsive. In fact, except in rolling acceleration, you’d barely pick it from the more powerful 103TSI.
The 103TSI replaces the discontinued twin-charged 118TSI.
It too is a beautifully crisp unit; perfectly mated to the DSG, it pulls eagerly from any speed, and makes a nice brattish rasp when at work.
With a sublimely balanced chassis underneath, either of these engines puts ample verve under the toe to make the new Golf a hoot on a twisty road.
The 110TDI diesel is possibly among the best small diesels I’ve driven. With integrated contra-rotating balance shafts, it will happily spin its head off without a tremor of complaint.
Smooth? Only the deeper diesel groan under hard acceleration is the giveaway that there’s an oiler under the snout. And strong? Its 320Nm come on like a stream for effortless overtaking, and it simply swallows hills.
The MacPherson strut front end, and multi-link rear - lighter front and back - a longer wheelbase and wider track, provide exceptional handling and control.
And, thanks to a lighter unsprung weight, and the larger footprint on the road, it is noticeably more compliant and comfortable on road.
Neither of the models we drove were at all troubled by the varying surfaces on the looping runs we did around the Yarra Valley and into the surrounding hills.
At speed, the nose tucks in eagerly, there is no bump-steer when cornering nor jitteriness on broken surfaces, and, even when pressing on, the new Golf sits tenaciously flat.
Impressed? How could we not be? The new car is yet another step-up from one of the best handling small hatches in the segment. (Or any segment for that matter.)
And it’s also quiet; even with the bigger 17-inch alloys road roar is nicely muted and wind-noise all-but absent.
Yes, the company that gets it right has got it right again. Any manufacturer would give their eye-teeth for a badge with the recognised qualities of the Golf.
It has not done that reputation any harm with the Golf 7. Every model we drove – from the entry 90TSI, to the Highline 110TDI – had us scratching our heads: how does Volkswagen do this so consistently?
This is one very fine car. And with VW fixed-price servicing ($2112 for the petrol models over 72 months, or $2371 for the diesel over 72 months), and a pricing spread beginning from the low ‘twenties’, it’s got one heck of a proposition to put to buyers.
Should you have a look? Of course you should.
Your only difficulty will be choosing between them. And I reckon you’ll be most surprised by the 90TSI.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
- 2013 Golf 90TSI 6 Speed Manual - $21,490
- 2013 Golf 90TSI 7 Speed DSG - $23,990
- 2013 Golf 90TSI Comfortline 6 Speed Manual - $24,990
- 2013 Golf 90TSI Comfortline 7 Speed DSG - $27,490
- 2013 Golf 103TSI Highline 7 Speed DSG - $31,990
- 2013 Golf 110TDI Highline 6 Speed DSG - $34,490
- Metallic / Pearl Effect paint - $500
- Driver assistance package - Comfortline & Highline - $1300
- Discover Media satellite navigation system - Comfortline (Std Highline) $950
- Panoramic electric glass sunroof - Highline - $1,850
- Bi-Xenon headlights with LED daytime driving lights - Highline - $2,150
- Vienna leather appointed upholstery - Highline - $2,950
- Anti-theft alarm system - Comfortline & Highline - $600