Miserable are the days when the likes of the 2017 Volkswagen Golf 110TSI arrives.
Certainly not for small car shoppers, mind, but rather for small car competitors that must brace for when an updated version of a class benchmark lands here. And nowhere is playing Golf’s game more difficult for rivals than at this entry-level end.
Only a decade ago the base Volkswagen was priced from $25,990 plus on-road costs, utilising only a weedy 1.6-litre non-turbo engine and wearing dreary hubcaps. Back then life was good for the rival $19,990 crowd.
In the following years the Golf started to swing in the marketplace, however, thanks to lower pricing and boosted equipment. The entry-level 110TSI now costs $23,990 driveaway, and Volkswagen has added more power, new infotainment, extra safety kit, while even hubcaps have been flicked for alloy wheels. Yes, its game is strong.
Vehicle Style: Small car
Price: $23,990 (driveaway)
Engine/trans: 110kW/250Nm 1.4 four-cylinder turbo petrol | six-speed manual
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.7 l/100km | Tested: 7.7 l/100km
The Golf 110TSI no longer looks entry-level with its handsome 16-inch alloy wheels, while inside a high-resolution 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity takes centre stage. A leather-wrapped steering wheel, auto-off headlights, and even vanity mirror lights further turn down the base, while autonomous emergency braking (AEB) covers safety technology admirably.
Buyers can then make the step to the Golf 110TSI Trendline at $24,990 (plus orc), or a permanent $25,490 driveaway, which further throws auto on/off headlights and wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, front and rear parking sensors, driver’s lumbar adjustment and a rear-seat centre armrest into the mix.
Sadly, however, that is the step-off point for manual buyers until the Golf GTI. To both 110TSI models a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic – dubbed DSG – adds $2500 to the price, at which point new-generation rivals are clamouring for attention.
Power for all 1.4-litre turbo four-cylinder models moves from 92kW to 110kW, with torque going from 200Nm to 250Nm, all for virtually no extra cost over the pre-facelift Mark 7 generation. From tee-off this Mark 7.5 appears ruthlessly competitive.
- Standard Equipment: Keyless entry, power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, manual air-conditioning, cloth trim, cruise control, leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshifter, and auto-off headlights.
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch colour touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB input, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring and eight speakers.
- Options Fitted: None.
- Cargo Volume: 380 litres.
While the Golf 110TSI looks holistically competitive, there are a couple of dips in the equipment detail.
A $20,950 (plus orc) – or about $23K driveaway – Hyundai i30 Active includes auto on/off headlights, a digital radio and integrated satellite navigation all missing in the Volkswagen, for example. But it all depends on what features an entry-level buyer prefers, because that rival conversely misses out on a leather wheel and AEB.
Meanwhile the $20,490 (plus orc) Mazda3 Neo scores AEB but lacks a touchscreen, while both the South Korean and Japanese rivals fall short on performance.
A buyer will need to spend a bit extra on the $22,740 (plus orc) Holden Astra R+ to score an equipment- and outputs-match, combined with near-equal torque (240Nm), while that rival further adds auto-park/lane-keep assistance and a blind-spot monitor.
If there is favourite equipment among that lot, though, then a buyer can’t go wrong with any of the above trio. What is indisputable beyond kit-counting, however, is that this Volkswagen continues to have the classiest cabin in the class.
The new touchscreen is brilliantly simple to use, with effortless sweep-and-swipe intuition just like a smartphone. And in this day and age, connecting via CarPlay and using its navigation – data and signal permitting – is easier than most nav systems.
It is a fine new complement for the superb, soft-touch surfaces across the doors and dashboard, the subtle white mood lighting throughout, and the tactility of all controls that continue to transcend the segment. They simply best every other base model.
There are little appointments, too, such as rear air-vents that are missing on every rival at this end. It gels with bigger-picture stuff such as quality cloth trim with nicely supportive seats front and rear, and competitive space in all directions.
Even the two-tier boot is cavernous for the class at 380 litres. Attempt to find an area where Volkswagen may have cut a corner, and hard plastics on the rear doors plus a lack of rear-seat map pockets are about it. This remains the class benchmark inside.
- Engine: 110kW/250Nm 1.4 4cyl turbo petrol
- Transmission: six-speed manual, FWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and independent rear
- Brake: ventilated front and rear disc brakes
- Steering: electrically assisted mechanical steering
In the four years since the Mark 7 generation launched, competitors have caught up with the Golf’s standard on the road. For circa-$26,000 (plus orc) the 1.6-litre turbocharged duo of 147kW/300Nm Astra RS and 150kW/265Nm i30 SR offer a sporty-chic nowhere to be found for under $30,000 in Volkswagen showrooms.
So let’s be clear from the off: if performance, steering and handling are priorities, spend the extra and pick either the equally excellent Holden or Hyundai.
If refinement, smoothness and luxury are priorities for the driving experience, however, then read on because the Golf 110TSI absolutely nails such virtues.
The 1.4-litre turbo suffers from only a fraction of lag from right at the lower reaches of the tachometer, while conversely it starts to sound harsher than expected when wound out to the tachometer’s redline. Fortunately, anywhere above 1200rpm there is surplus response, and the 8.2-second 0-100km/h claim feels entirely realistic.
Add a quick-throw and decisive manual into the experience, and there’s some subtle sportiness to be enjoyed as well. Plus it’s really quite frugal.
While loftier Golfs with broader tyres can suffer from some road noise, which is particularly notable on coarse-chip roads, the 110TSI uses its modest Continental footprint to its great advantage. It’s comfortably the most hushed in the segment.
And so the class-leading roll-call continues. Nothing rides more beautifully than the entry-level Volkswagen for anywhere near this pricetag, either, and even more impressive is that the suspension manages to be both soothing and controlled. Nowhere does it lack compliance, and never does it feel spongey.
The steering could benefit from the sportier set-up reserved for the R-Line and GTI, which could help erase the slightly soft and vacant on-centre response. However everywhere else the Golf’s steering is immaculately direct and responsive.
The same could be said for the handling, which might lack the fun and joie de vivre of an Astra RS – or the Honda Civic and Peugeot 308 that form the top trio in the class for steering and handling – but it’s reassuringly tight and stable through bends.
There’s an imperviousness, and even luxuriousness, about the way the Golf 110TSI goes about its business across all roads that, as with the cabin detailing, is simply unmatched at this level.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars – the Volkswagen Golf scored 35.92 out of 37 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2013.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee airbags, ABS and ESC, rear-view camera, and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Annual or 15,000km servicing comes at an above-average capped-price cost of $318/$507/$398/$737/$318 for the first five scheduled checks respectively.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
It’s Astra R+ all the way for value and dynamics, while the 308 is a match for the latter but starts from a hefty $27,990 plus on-road costs.
The Civic comes closest to matching the Golf for cabin and ride quality, if not refinement thanks to an old engine.
The i30 Active offers top-class infotainment, but the i30 SR is worth the stretch. Meanwhile moving from a Mazda3 Neo to the $22,890 (plus on-road costs) Maxx adds more kit than any other competitor for the price – including this Volkswagen.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Volkswagen Golf 110TSI remains brilliant at base level because it offers the engine response, ride quality, refinement, safety technology and cabin appointments that some can match individually, but none can master across the board at this price.
There is no shortage of options in the burgeoning small car class, and a good deal on a Mazda3 Maxx – it’s only $1100 cheaper than this Golf 110TSI, though on-road costs must be added – would almost have us swayed for its equipment alone. Similarly, an Astra R+ is more fun to drive, while offering even more safety kit.
Once again, however, it’s all about trading virtues away for others that this Volkswagen is only slightly inferior at. In its own way it’s still pleasurable to drive – if lacking outright sportiness – while feeling suitably upscale and upmarket.
At $23,990 driveaway this Golf almost scores a perfect hole-in-one in the small car game.
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