Day 1: The Golf turns up. There are a few older Golfs that live on my street. At first the new one is hard to spot amongst them because it looks like a Golf. Stare harder at the styling, though, and it’s actually quite different to the old mkV and mkVI. The new car is wider and lower and has a longer wheelbase, all of which alters the proportions yet the designers seems to have gone to a great deal of trouble to disguise this and make it look like business as usual. The biggest difference, if you’re standing on the driver’s side, is that it now has a massive parallelogram for a fuel filler flap, just like an Austin Montego. Except it’s angled backwards rather than forwards. A crushing blow for Montego owners hoping for a ready supply of spare fuel filler flaps.
Day 2: This car is based on VW Group’s latest front-wheel drive box of bits which is brand spanking new. Yet the engineers have done the same thing as the designers and tried to make a new thing feel recognisable. It looks like a Golf and it drives like a Golf. You can spot some new bits though. The column stalks, for example, are a fresh design with a matt face but a glossy outer bit. I imagine it costs quite a lot to design, test and tool up for new column stalks but they can afford do it here because that spanky new indicator stalk will be used by drivers in millions of medium sized VWs, Skodas and SEATs and never used by drivers in millions of medium sized Audis.*
Day 3: The new Golf rides perfectly well and goes around corners in a perfectly acceptable manner. It’s not that much different to the last Golf, except maybe a bit quieter. The performance, however, seems disappointing. VW say the new Golf can be up to 100 kilos lighter than the old model but this 150 TDI is only 12 kilos thinner than same model of the last generation and it feels strangely sluggish. That is until you start dicking about with the ‘mode’ button by the gearlever. Normal mode is flat. Eco actually seems to squirt Tramadol into the cylinders. Sport perks things up nicely but makes the steering heavier for no real reason. There’s an individual setting where you can have things how you want. Normal steering and sport engine response make it much, much nicer. There’s an option in the set-up screen to change the radar cruise control to sport mode which sounds odd. It’s more interesting to note that radar cruise is standard in this mid-range Golf yet heated seats and sat-nav aren’t. I suspect more buyers would prefer these and get more use from them. On the plus side, with radar cruise you can scare the shit out of your friends by pulling into the inside lane just behind a lorry and making the car slam on its own brakes. Don’t try that at home. Which you wouldn’t, unless you lived on a motorway.
Day 4: It’s a very naggy car, this one. Every so often the screen between the dials gives you an ‘eco tip’ about using the stop-start or obeying the change-up indicator. Thankfully, you can turn off this wearying shit. Of more use, if you have your mobile hooked into the Bluetooth, when you switch off the engine the central screen flashes up a thoughtful reminder to not leave your phone behind.
Day 5: Left my phone in the car this morning. Damn.
Day 6: If this was a new Korean car we would be quick to criticise its lack of imagination. But because this is part of a long-running dynasty different rules apply. This is the Golf. VW’s job wasn’t to come up with a something radical. VW’s job was to not fuck it up. And, after six days of driving around enjoying its stout sensibleness, I’m pretty sure they haven’t.
Day 7: Trying to review a Golf is a bit like trying to review Coca-Cola. People who don’t want it still won’t be tempted. People who want it will still want it because it does its job very well. No one will think any more of you for buying one but nor will they think any less of you. You can park one on a sink estate and it probably won’t get keyed. You could use it to pull up outside an expensive country hotel and no one would ask you to move along. It’s not cheap but you’ll most likely get a decent chunk of your money back when you come to sell it. It’s probably cost-pared to buggery under the skin but on the surface it feels high-quality and sturdy. It’s not exciting but you couldn’t accuse its designer and engineers of not putting the effort in. If you want to know what the new Golf is like, the answer is simple – it’s a Golf.
This car was a VW Golf SE TDI 150PS with a 148 horsepower diesel engine. Volkswagen claim it will do 134mph and 0-62 in 8.6 seconds. This particular model costs £22,015.
* Cheap joke. The Audi A3 is based on this platform but for some reason gets a different design of stalk. So there.