Volkswagen continues its steady evolution of the Golf. A recipe that has proven fairly successful for the brand so far.
There’s also a certain European superiority to the Golf. Compare it to most of its competitors from countries like Japan and South Korea and the Golf feels more solid and more high-tech although in recent times that gap is rapidly closing.
In Australia’s massively competitive small car market the Golf holds its own, though it can't match the sheer sales volumes of fleet favourites like the Toyota Corolla and Hyundai i30, but compared to its Euro competitors, cars like the Holden Astra and Renault Megane, the Golf is still a firm favourite.
Vehicle Style: Small hatch
Price: $27,490 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 110kW/250Nm 1.4-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 7spd automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.4 l/100km | Tested: 6.4 l/100km
As a step up from the basic Golf, the Trendline model turns on the charm with a few extra features including a standard automatic transmission, auto lights and wipers, and front and rear park sensors.
That probably doesn't sound like much but for day-to-day usage, but private buyers will find a just-right mix of features in the Trendline at a price that puts Euro-refinement within accessible reach.
Starting at $27,490 plus on-road costs the Trendline is an even $1000 more than the base Golf with an auto in a range that can stretch all the way to $34,490 for a petrol hatch without exploring the massive range of options with wagon, diesel, or performance variants that can lift the price even higher.
For the Mark 7.5 update that arrived earlier this year Volkswagen freshened the styling slightly, added a more powerful base model engine, and included safety tech like autonomous braking across the range.
- Standard Equipment: Fabric seat trim, manual air conditioning, leather trimmed steering wheel, front seat lumbar adjustment, cruise control with speed limiter, auto headlights and wipers, rear armrest with cup holders, 16-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch touchscreen, AM/FM radio, CD player, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, Aux, USB, and SD card inputs, Bluetooth connectivity, eight-speaker audio
- Cargo Volume: 380 litres to rear seats, 1270 litres to front seats
The design certainly won’t ruffle too many feathers thanks to its somewhat conservative layout, but the interior of the Golf still stands out against other small cars thanks to excellent fit, finish and materials.
Pride of place inside the Golf Trendline is an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system that not only includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, but also happens to be one of the best systems of its kind thanks to lag-free operation and a clear and legible layout.
There’s still a sense of humility to the grey fabric interior trim, but even in the lower-spec Trendline there’s no sense of missing out on anything, with the same soft-touch plastics for the dash and doors as any other model in the range.
Interior space is also right where it should be, although in an interesting quirk of Volkswagen’s MQB chassis architecture (the same as used on a variety of models in the VW range) taller occupants may find the front passenger footwell a little too short to stretch out in fully.
In the rear there’s no such problems. Legroom is sufficient for most travellers, the upright rear pillar ensures good headroom and easy entry and egress, and the firmly padded seats hold up for comfort over time.
The boot can hold 380 litres worth of cargo, and features a dual-floor to added versatility.
Inside the cabin deep carpet-lined door bins will hold a bottle of almost any size (to test the theory we even managed to secure a bottle of prosecco to give as a gift for a friend’s birthday), plus lidded cupholders, and a covered centre console bin allow smaller items to be hidden from sight when parked.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol, 110kW @5000-6000rpm, 250Nm @1500-3500rpm
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link independent rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs
- Steering: Electric power steering
- Towing Capacity: 1500kg braked, 640kg unbraked, 80kg towball load
Another noticeable step-up in specification for the Golf 7.5 over its predecessor is the engine. In this instance a more powerful turbocharged 1.4-litre engine taking the place of a less enthusiastic non-turbo 1.6.
The same engine appears across the mainstream Golf range and is good for 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque. The latter figure is particularly strong for a base engine in the small car class.
It’s also a very smooth and quiet engine. Peak torque arrives very low in the rev range (from 1400 to 4000rpm meaning there’s no need to work it hard for decent acceleration either.
That’s quite handy as the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic tends to settle in the highest gear it can for the sake of efficiency which would otherwise curtail acceleration.
The transmission changes up gears with a seamless ease and but is more reluctant to kickdown unless sternly prompted, plus a Sport mode helps keep things lively, and unlike Volkswagen’s previous sport setting won’t hold gears to redline when the pace drops off.
Overall refinement also scores high marks. Wind and tyre noise are respectably low, something not every small hatch can boast.
While suburban duties will see the Golf Trendline feeling right at home thanks to light and nimble steering, it hardly feels out of place on the open road either.
A stable feeling at speed and ride quality that is supple enough to deal with rough roads, yet with firmer undertones inspire confidence and ensures that weekends away are just as effortless and comfortable as the usual work commute would be.
ANCAP Rating: 5/5 Stars - the Volkswagen Golf scored 35.92 out of 37 possible points when tested in 2013 based on data obtained by Euro NCAP.
Safety Features: The Golf Trendline comes standard with seven airbags (dual front, front seat side, full-length curtain, and driver’s knee), electronic stability and traction control, ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and multi-collision brake, front seatbelt pretensioners, autonomous emergency braking, and driver fatigue detection.
An optional driver assistance package adds adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, semi-autonomous self parking, and proactive occupant protection.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Volkswagen capped price servicing sets the price of the first five dealership visits at $318, $507, $398, $719, and $318 for each successive visit. Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km (whichever occurs first) some terms and conditions apply, your Volkswagen dealer can provide more information.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Mazda3 might not be brand new, but it still has a nicely premium feel, even in base model trims. Safety spec is high with standard AEB across the range, but infotainment lags behind the Golf and rear seat space is tight.
Ignore the Holden badge on the front, the Astra is a European product from Opel and it shows with high quality and a more premium feel than some of Holden's past efforts. Similar money buys the more powerful RS too, which boosts standard specification.
Hyundai is bearing down on the quality and feel of Volkswagen, and applying its budget pricing in the process. Base model cars get by with a torsion beam suspension and aspirated engine but step up the range and there’s Gold-like turbo engines and great handling independent rear suspension.
When only a European car will do, the Peugeot 308 fits the bill. A recent upgrade means a slight restyle and specification tweak, but value isn't as strong with a less powerful engine and critically no Autonomous Emergency braking.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Every moment spent with the Golf Trendline reveals a small hatch that really does lead the pack in terms of solidity. From the well kitted interior to the confident driving feel, the Golf feels more substantial than so many small cars at a similar price.
Competitors are catching on. The new Hyundai i30 is a prime example of imitation as a form of flattery, but even it still could do with a leg-in in a few small areas.
That’s why Volkswagen has pushed itself further yet again, with improvements to engines, safety, and infotainment technology to maintain a competitive edge that keeps itself ahead of the pack, if only by a nose.
MORE: Volkswagen News and Reviews
VISIT THE SHOWROOM: Volkswagen Golf - Prices, Features, and Specifications