2013 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Five-door hatchback
Price: $31,990 (driveaway)
Engine/transmission: 1.4 litre petrol/7sp DSG
Fuel Economy (listed): 5.2l/100km | (tested): 7.8l/100km
The Volkswagen TV campaign featuring a parade of supposedly rival car dealers saying, “...just like a Golf,” became perhaps one of the more ironic advertisements on TV this year.
Hubris like this was certainly leading with the chin.
But notwithstanding some recent tarnishing to the badge, the VW Golf is a very good drive.
So nicely balanced in fact that it should be on every keen driver's must-drive 'long list'. In this, it sits beside cars like the Porsche 911, the 3 Series and, in Australia at least, the Commodore SS-V.
We’ve already driven the 90TSI, so we spent a week with the more powerful 103TSI to see where the extra outlay in cashola goes.
Quality: Being a Volkswagen Group car, the interior is beautifully put together. In this Highline trim, the seats are covered in a better-than-it-sounds combination of cloth and Alcantara, which is grippy and comfortable.
Everything fits pretty much perfectly and there’s nothing that feels second-rate to the touch.
Comfort: The front seats are supportive in the back, if a little bit flat in seat, but the Alcantara trimming makes up for that. The front driver’s seat is height adjustable and the steering wheel for rake and reach.
The rear seats are very comfortable for two and perfectly acceptable for three, as long as the middle occupant is narrow. The cabin benefits from the rear wheels positioned at the corners and from the long straight roofline.
Equipment: The Highline has a reasonably long list of standard features. Dual-zone climate control, cruise control, speed limiter, parking sensors, reverse camera, parking assist, 5.8-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, 8 speaker stereo with smartphone connectivity (proprietary USB and Bluetooth), electric power steering, height-adjustable leather steering wheel, power windows all around and full trip computer.
The driver’s assist package fitted adds cruise control, city emergency braking, park assist 2 (ie. self-parking) and occupant protection.
Externally, the Highline is relatively unadorned but does have a set of attractive 17-inch alloy wheels, supplemented by a space saver wheel. The Dalek eye in the front bumper is part of the 'driver assist' option.
Storage: The Golf’s boot looks small but when you check the figures, is class-competitive at 380 litres. It loses out on floor space a touch but is slightly taller than others. Dropping the rear 60/40 split fold seats adds a further 890 litres to take the total to 1270.
The rear armrest has two adjustable cupholders and there are door bins in the front. A central console and a closable coin tray underneath the stereo join the cooled glove box.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: One of the Golf’s defining features is its excellent road manners. In 103kW tune, the 1.4 litre TSI engine delivers 250Nm of torque (25 percent more than the 90TSI), endowing the Golf with a very sprightly demeanour from just 1500rpm.
There’s no real lag, you can just point the car at the gap, the seven-speed DSG clicks down a gear (or three) and you’re away. Overtaking at highway speeds, even with a load up, is a breeze.
The key, as with any turbocharged small capacity engine, is the torque it puts underfoot as well as the instant reaction of the twin-clutch DSG.
The optional package in our tester included a choice of driving modes. There's a 'sport' mode, but we found it most happy in 'comfort'; 'sport' has the DSG holding gears longer than is comfortable.
Carving through the bends, the Golf is a lot of fun.
The electronic diff (XDL) maximises front grip and quells understeer by using the ABS sensors to detect wheelspin and then damp it down, a kind of poor-man’s limited slip-diff.
Refinement: The noise suppression in the Golf is nothing short of amazing. The engine and tyres are so well-damped that the rustling of wind around the wing mirrors is about the only genuine fault we could find.
The stop-start system could be a touch quicker waking up and only responds to your foot coming off the brake, rather than other inputs like the Mazda6 where a twitch on the wheel will restart the engine. The DSG can sometimes be caught off-guard though on restart.
Suspension: The Golf’s sure-footedness comes from its MacPherson strut front-end and independent rear. It pays dividends with an excellent ride and also 'close-to-hot-hatch' handling.
Braking: As always with the Golf, and almost any German car you care to name, the brakes are excellent.
The pedal feel is good and the weighting is just right for the mixed capabilities of the car - it’s good for grinding along in traffic or belting down a country road.
ANCAP rating: 5 Stars
Safety features: Seven airbags (dual front, side and curtain, driver’s knee), ABS with brake assist and brake force distribution, pre-tensioned front seatbelts, ISOFIX child seat mountings, vehicle stability and traction control, multi-collision braking.
As part of the Driver Assist Package, our car had adaptive cruise control which will brake the car to a stop,city emergency braking and 'proactive occupant protection' where the windows and sunroof (if fitted) are closed and front seatbelts tightened when a potential collision is detected.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: A three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty covers the car, a five-year/150,000km warranty covers the transmission. Paint is also covered for a period of three years.
Service costs: VW’s capped price servicing costs between $292 and $499 per visit for the first six services.
Servicing is every 15,000km or twelve months, so six years of servicing costs $2112 not including brake fluid (every two years, $127) and pollen filters (every two years, $47). This pricing is identical to the DSG-equipped 90TSI and $259 cheaper than the diesel.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Hyundai i30 Elite ($30,190) - The i30 keeps getting better but it’s still some distance away from the VW on the technology, handling and refinement fronts.
It does, however, have a lot of standard gear, a six-speed automatic, a longer warranty and cheaper capped-price servicing package. (see i30 reviews)
Toyota Corolla Levin ZR ($30,490) - The ZR matches the VW for number of gears, but that’s because it’s a stepped CVT.
Its 1.8 litre engine has the same power output but is a long way down on torque and is short on standard equipment, narrowing the gap on price. Like the Hyundai, its servicing is cheaper and its warranty longer. (see Corolla reviews)
Ford Focus Titanium ($32,990) - The Euro-designed Focus comes with a 2.0 litre engine with more power than the Golf (125kW) but less torque (202Nm).
It does drink standard ULP, however, and also features a standard twin-clutch transmission (although it’s “only” a 6-speed). It handles very well, is cheap to run and is probably the Golf’s closest competition. (see Focus reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
On top of that, VW’s pricing now makes more sense. The $31,990 asking for the Highline is terrific value for such a crushingly competent car when pointed at a road, any road.
Everyone who came for a ride was stunned by how good the Golf is. We think you will be too.
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