2013 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Small hatch
Engine/Trans: 110kW/320Nm 4cyl diesel | 6spd DSG auto
Price: $34,490 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.9l/100km | tested: 6.7l/100km
A new generation Golf is always big news.
Volkswagen’s small car is as iconic as the original Beetle it replaced and battles it out alongside the Ford Focus and Toyota Corolla as one of the world's top selling cars. (Of course, there is some disagreement on that).
That means getting the balance of comfort, features, style and price is crucial to the continued success of the nearly forty-year-old Golf name.
As expected, with the arrival of the Golf VII, there’s been no big visual departure from the model it replaces.
And, as we discovered, its on-road behaviour and handling remains a benchmark.
Quality: Once again Volkswagen’s interior presentation shows the world how things are done. Finely grained soft-touch surfaces abound across the dash and doors, and even the hard plastic sections lower down are perfectly texture matched.
To these eyes the three-coloured seat trims would be better off without the cheaper looking grey bolster fabric, but with not a ruck or pucker to be seen there’s not much else to fault.
Comfort: Don’t be fooled by first impressions - the firm and flat cushioned seats might seem a little modest at first sitting, but after a day on the road front seat passengers had little to complain about.
The driving position feels to be a bit ‘perched over the pedals’ but plenty of steering reach adjustment and lots of seat height variance see this easily overcome.
The rear seat offers good views and room in all directions too, but the high centre tunnel takes some versatility away from the middle perch.
Equipment: The 110TDI is offered solely in Highline specification which means plenty of trinkets come standard, such as dual zone climate control, cruise control with speed limiter, multi-function leather wrapped steering wheel, trip computer and tyre pressure monitoring.
There's also front and rear park sensors, electric park brake, heat insulating glass, 17-inch alloy wheels, exterior chrome package, automatic lights and wipers, rear seat ventilation outlets and LED interior lighting.
Infotainment is provided by an impressive 5.8-inch touchscreen, which operates just like a tablet computer or smartphone. The menu design is clear and intuitive and response times are snappy.
The system even senses when your hand is near and expands menus, and allows you to zoom. Navigation, Bluetooth, two SD card slots (and digital file playback), USB input and radio functions are all handled by the system, and there's a CD slot in the glove box.
Storage: Rear storage starts at 380 litres and grows to 1270 litres with the split folding rear seats stowed. Inside the cabin the glovebox, centre console and front door pockets are all generously sized.
In the centre stack there’s also a lidded compartment and a roll-top cover for the two cupholders, although the nifty divider/bottle opener of previous generations had been omitted.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Mark 7 Golf boasts an array of new engines. In the case of the 2.0 litre 110TDI diesel there’s 110kW of power between 3500-4000rpm and a grunty 320Nm of torque served up from 1750-3000rpm.
The sole transmission is a six-speed DSG. Once rolling, the dual-clutch box is able to disguise gear changes so effectively that only the change in engine pitch gives away the shift point.
City commuting however can be tedious, there’s a lurch from the drivetrain as you step off the brake and onto the throttle.
In stop-start traffic this is amplified by the power cut when braking to a standstill, resulting in plenty of head-bobbing from occupants.
There were numerous occasions where the DSG would stubbornly hold second gear from a rolling stop or just after takeoff and force the otherwise strong engine to labour through traffic.
Out of town though, the constant torque delivery and quick-thinking downshifts mean that no mountain could stand in the way of strong rolling acceleration and effortless overtaking.
Refinement: Curiously for a newly developed engine, the 110TDI doesn’t feel greatly advance over its predecessor. From cold starts it can be vibey, at idle it feels lumpy and the auto-start system is often slow to react and far from subtle.
Yet again, take it out of the city and there’s a marked improvement.
Noise levels are low across the board, with only a few coarse-chip tarmac road sections causing a stir. There’s a faint ringing from the engine at 110km/h but you’ll only hear it with the radio off.
Suspension: There’s a firmly planted feel on the road that the Korean and Japanese manufacturers are yet to emulate.
A rear multilink suspension (still somewhat rare in this market sector) and MacPherson front front end are tuned to be taut, but not unforgiving.
The ride improves with extra bodies on board, and the handling is secure, resisting both bodyroll and understeer when being pushed along with vigour.
Braking: The pedal can be a little twitchy, but brake response from the ventilated front and solid rear discs is both strong and instantaneous.
ANCAP rating: Five stars.
Safety features: There are seven airbags (two front, two front side, two full-length curtain, plus a driver’s knee bag), as well as stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist.
All seats have adjustable head restraints and three-point seat belts. Front seats have height adjustable seatbelts with pretensioners and load limiters, the rear seat features ISOFIX child restraint mounting points.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres with three years roadside assist.
Service costs: Volkwagen’s capped price servicing scheme sees the cost of a standard service range from $272 to $791. Service intervals are every 12 months/15,000km and the program runs for six years/90,000km.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Opel Astra Select CDTi ($33,990) - If you can't get a good deal on an Opel at the moment, give the game away. With a more powerful engine, and slightly larger dimensions the Astra offers plenty of metal for the money, though fuel consumption suffers.
Holden will likely take over warranty and servicing, but, with the brand exiting the market, residual values will take a hit. (see Astra reviews)
Renault Megane Privilege dCi ($32,490) - Renault’s recently revamped Megane range provides better value for lower spec models, but the Privilege still struggles for equipment next to the strongly featured Golf.
Inside, although the interior is lightly improved, it still doesn’t match the others for quality. Refinement is behind the pack and with the lowest engine output, getting the best out of the Megane can be hard work. (see Megane reviews)
Hyundai i30 Premium CRDi ($32,790) - Think of Europe when you think of small diesels? Think again, Hyundai is now up to its second generation of diesel hatchback and the combination of striking design and quality interior is compelling.
On the road the i30 gives ground to the Golf dynamically, but offers a strong equipment list as compensation. (see i30 reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Volkswagen’s steady evolution of the Golf means there are no surprises for anyone used to previous generations. Its a car that kind of creeps up on you, the more time you spend with it, the more there is to like.
The quality and presentation of the interior is by far the headline act.
The DSG transmission is not as user-friendly in crushing peak-hour traffic, but more than compensates on the open road.
If a Diesel hatch is on your mind, why not see if the Golf fits your needs?
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