2013 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small five-door hatchback
Price: $27,490 (plus on-roads)
Engine/transmission: 1.4 litre petrol turbo/seven-speed DSG automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.4 l/100km | tested: 7.7 l/100km
We were mightily impressed by the seventh-generation Golf at launch, lauding it for not only its interior, handling and willing engines, but also for its keener pricing.
We’ve now had a chance to live for a week with the mid-grade Golf 90 TSI DSG.
Despite Volkswagen having a bit of work to do to reassure customers that it has solved reliability issues with the DSG, this is a very enjoyable and dynamic car from behind the wheel.
So, yes, we’re more than happy to heap praise upon its interior finish, style and handling. On the road, the only downside exposed by our testing regimen is a snatchy driveline that’s less than happy in a slow traffic jam.
Quality: It’s an impeccably-built interior, and easily one of the most impressive in the small car segment - we reckon only the Audi A3 has a finer cabin finish.
Besides the all-new switchgear, there are lots of soft-touch plastics and upholstered surfaces and everything joins up together superbly. Top marks for quality.
Comfort: The Golf’s manually-adjusted seats are nicely sculpted for support and comfort. There’s a wide range of adjustment to the front seats and steering column, so getting settled behind the wheel is no challenge.
There’s also a footrest for your right foot, a handy feature for long highway stints.
Thanks to a stretch in its wheelbase length, the Golf’s back seat now rates as one of the more comfortable rear benches in the segment.
Although not wide enough for three adults, the outboard seats are shaped for good back and thigh support, and headroom is plentiful. Rear air-outlets are also standard, a rarity in this segment.
Equipment: The Golf 90 TSI Comfortline has a healthy list of standard equipment.
Among the usual features of power windows and auto-on headlamps, there’s dual-zone climate control, automatic wipers, cruise control, trip computer, speed limiter, front and rear parking sensors plus reversing camera.
The wing mirrors are also heated (handy during Melbourne’s recent spell of frosty weather).
Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming is standard, and controlled via a slick 5.8-inch touchscreen. Sat-nav is offered for an extra $950 on the Comfortline model grade.
There’s also a USB audio input in the centre console, and the audio headunit is fully iPod integrated..
Storage: The boot has grown 30 litres over the previous generation, measuring in at 380 litres with the rear seats up.
The Golf’s two-position boot floor can be lowered to accept taller items, or raised to make the floor flush with the loading lip (and provide a useful storage area beneath).
Rear seats down, you get 1270 litres of cargo room.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Golf 90 TSI’s 1.4 litre inline four produces just 90kW of power, well below the output of most of its larger-engined competitors.
However, thanks to a turbocharger, it also produces 200Nm of torque, which is above average for a small car and quite a handy number for a car weighing a little over 1200kg.
Torque equals tractability, and the Golf 90 TSI doesn’t need its neck wrung to deliver decent pace.
Our tester had the optional seven-speed DSG twin-clutch auto. While it’s a slick-shifting unit when the car is underway, it’s much less smooth when moving away from standstill (a familiar gripe).
It also lacks driveline refinement when crawling through heavy traffic. Alternating between the brake and accelerator at speeds less than 5km/h confuses the transmission, with the result being jerky progress.
We also didn’t get anywhere near close to the Golf’s claimed fuel consumption figure.
Volkswagen claims the 90 TSI DSG will average 5.4 l/100km, but the best we got after a week of motoring was 7.6 l/100km.
Refinement: Beyond some road noise from the tyres on coarse bitumen, the Golf’s interior is ultra quiet. However, the start-stop system is sometimes a tad slow to re-light the engine.
Suspension: The Golf 90 TSI achieves that fine balance between comfort and cornering capability, with a suspension that is neither too firm nor too floppy - Goldilocks would surely approve.
Grip is reassuring, and, when pushed, the Golf corners crisply and with gusto (no ploughing-on understeer here). It also rides smoothly over average suburban roads and is unruffled by potholes.
The electrically-assisted steering doesn’t offer too much in the way of tactile feedback, but the rack is direct and accurate.
Braking: The brakes are strong, but the pedal is quite grabby near the top of its travel. A typical Volkswagen trait.
ANCAP rating: Five stars. The Golf 7 Scored 35.92 points out of a possible 37.
Safety features: Standard safety kit includes stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist.
There’s seven airbags in total (dual front, dual front side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee), while all occupants get three-point seatbelts and adjustable headrests. The rear bench is also equipped with two ISOFIX anchorages.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometres.
Service costs: Under VW’s capped price servicing scheme, the cost of a standard service ranges from $292 to $499. Service intervals are every 12 months/15,000km.
The capped price scheme applies to all new Golfs for the first six years or 90,000km of ownership.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Ford Focus Sport Powershift ($28,190) - The Focus has razor-sharp steering and exceptional handling, but isn’t quite as spacious in the back as the Volkswagen.
Its interior, while smart, lacks the refined style of the Golf, but the Focus’ 2.0 litre naturally aspirated engine has a more muscular 125kW and 202Nm to call upon. (see Focus reviews)
Opel Astra hatch 1.4 ($23,990) - The Astra develops a stout 103kW and 200Nm from its 1.4 litre turbo four, giving it a slight edge in performance.
However, in base petrol form the Astra hatch is only available as a manual, which hurts its appeal when most buyers opt automatics. It also feels dated inside compared to the better-finished Golf. (see Astra reviews)
Toyota Corolla Levin SX auto ($25,990) - The Corolla lags the Golf for interior finish and overall refinement. It’s not as torquey either, although the Corolla’s peak power of 103kW does trump the Golf’s 90kW.
The Corolla’s key advantage is in value for money and a bullet-proof reputation. Not only is it cheaper by $1.5k, but it also comes standard with sat-nav and 17-inch alloys. (see Corolla reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
I don’t think I’ve ever awarded a car five stars for its interior before, but boy does the Golf 7 deserve it.
Even in mid-grade models, the Golf’s cabin exudes quality. It is surely the new benchmark for small cars under $40,000.
The Golf’s handling and ride comfort also impressed greatly. Again, the Golf has defined what a truly “sorted” suspension should feel like.
But unfortunately, the DSG automatic’s low-speed refinement spoils this pretty picture. It’s simply too abrupt and at times too indecisive for a commuter car.
The Golf has lost a lot of ground in recent months, mostly it would seem to the robust Ford Focus - that's what a question mark over long term reliability will do.
But dealers will be prepared 'to talk' at the moment - you should be able to swing some decent savings your way - and there are lots of good reasons to keep the Golf on your radar: an army of loyal enthusiast owners being one of them.
If you can deal with the small premium over most of its competitors, the Golf 7 90 TSI demands your attention.
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