In the relatively short time that I have had the pleasure of working as a motoring journalist, I have a yet to come across a set of wheels worthy of a scorn. With any car comes a series of expectations of its quality and performance, which relates to its segment class and retail price. When it comes to features both internal and external, one needs to look to the brand and the competition to that brand’s offerings. The experience of driving a particular car is going to be unique to each individual, as is the reasoning behind them driving that car.
But if that’s the case, what exactly am I doing here? I like to believe that given a knowledge of the topic, as well as continuous experience of the profession, I can provide a certain insight into what car prospective buyers should focus. The trick is to approach it not necessarily as a critic and subsequent nitpicker, but rather as a fellow consumer. That way, the recommendation can come from a perspective that you, the reader, share, and can therefore take it to heart more easily than a rant from someone who has ridiculously high standards about where his air vents should be located.
However, there are, as can be expected, some very extreme exceptions to this approach.
Up to this point, my major problem with the Volkswagen Golf, as it is with all Volkswagens, was it’s price. There can no doubt that they are quality products, but in a time where lower prices are achievable for minor concessions not visible to the naked eye, they can be frustrating at times to justify, especially also when it came to the standard features list. But that being said, the biggest problem one could level against this car, a car which has become a defining legend for the German automaker during the last four decades, is that it’s…just a Golf. And that can summarize what I ultimately think about this car. It’s a just a Golf.
…but it’s VERY GOOD in being just a Golf.
Prices for the facelifted seventh-generation hatchback start at R289 900, with my test car being the base-model 1.0TSi Trendline. Competition includes the Renault Megane, Opel Astra, and the Ford Focus, the last two also sporting 1000cc powerplants. The engine in this car is the major headliner of the facelift, producing 81 kW and 200 Nm of torque. Expect this engine to also be available in the all-new Polo when it’s released next year. Along with the 1.0-liter, two other engines are currently available, the old 1.4-liter turbo-petrol good for 92 kW and 200 Nm, and the 2.0-liter 169 kW turbo-petrol found in the GTi. Two diesel variants for the GTi and Comfortline are expected at a later date, as well as a more powerful 2.0-liter petrol powerplant for the R-Line.
But back to the 1.0TSi. This engine is mysteriously good. This is not a small car, and for this small engine to be able to reach the red line this quickly is something to compliment. Fuel consumption is reported to be 4.8l/100km, but that will increase with the amount of luggage and people on board. But that being said, this is a very capable engine and is not to be underestimated. Having tested the 1.4TSi in the previous-gen Tiguan, I will contently say that that engine in this car will do a good job as well.
The steering, though very responsive, is quite sharp, which may take some getting used to. The same goes for this six-speed manual transmission and its ratios. Given the size of the powerplant you’ll be out of first and into second just moments after launch. The ratios are very close together and at the speed you can change between gears, one could forget which one you’re in (well, I did). The ride is excellent and up to standard.
On the outside, the design tweaks have been minimal, with the new Golf sporting some revised headlamps (with daytime running lights now standard) and fog lights, with the rear also having a new back bumper. It is the on inside however that the changes become more noticeable. The old touchscreen infotainment system has been ditched for a new glinting black 8-inch interface, complete with standard Bluetooth and app connectivity. Higher-up models one-up this with a Discover Navigation Pro, which boasts an 9.2-inch high definition screen, which also boasts gesture control.
This review runs a serious risk of sounding just like a marketing paragraph. But there is no reason why you wouldn’t buy a Golf right now. Volkswagen will remain the most difficult car brand to talk and write about. Given the love South Africans have for it, combined with the fact that they are legitimately good cars, they do set a particular standard. I will never own one, but that’s only because there are more interesting air vents out there. But for you, my dear readers, you’ll never be better off.
This article originally appeared in Grocott’s Mail on 19/05/2017, and has been featured on iafrica.com