Sunday, September 9, 2007

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback

Volkswagen Golf Hatchback

With an excellent drive, roomy interior and a five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating, the VW Golf is one of the best hatchbacks around. It's improved in every area over the car it replaced, as it can carry four adults in comfort, is enjoyable and comfortable on the road and has most of the equipment you'll ever need. Plus there's an excellent range of engines that mix performance and economy. The best are the 1.4-litre TSI with 140 or 170bhp, or the excellent 2.0-litre TDI diesel, but all of them are more than up to the job. Hot hatch fans are especially well catered for with the 200bhp Golf GTi and 240bhp R32, both of which are covered in separate reviews.

You can adjust the steering wheel for height and for reach and the driver's seat is multi-adjustable, too, which makes for a comfortable driving position. As well as being attractive, the dashboard is functional, with large, easy-to-use buttons and - where fitted - an excellent sat nav system. All the controls are close to the driver for on-the-move adjustments and the screen is close enough so you don't have to squint. Plus directions (as well as average fuel consumption, radio station, time and ) are displayed in a panel in the instrument cluster, so you only have to momentarily take your eyes off the road.

Generous legroom in the back for two and there should be few problems for three children. Front passenger has good amount of leg, head and shoulder room. Seats are on the firm side, but supportive for longer trips. A very refined cabin, with wind, road and engine noise well suppressed. It feels more sophisticated at night than other small hatchback, with soothing blue backlit dials and displays.

Available in four trim levels: S, SE, Sport and GT TDI/GT FSI. All models come with ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, ESP, driver and front passenger front airbags, head airbags for front and rear passengers, three-point rear seatbelts, driver and front passenger's active head restraints, ISOFIX child seating, immobiliser and remote central locking, semi-automatic air conditioning, front electric windows, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, a CD player, height and reach adjustable steering column and driver's seat height adjustment. SE adds an alarm, rain sensor and automatic dimming rear view mirror, front seats with height and lumbar adjustment, cruise control, a multifunction computer and upgrades to 15-inch alloy wheels. Sport adds the following features to SE; sports suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels, body-coloured bumper strips and door handles, and a leather-trimmed steering wheel, gear knob, gaiter and handbrake grip. GT TDI/GT FSI also adds front fog lights, rear electric windows, and an automatic driving light over the Sport model, while 4MOTION versions additionally feature twin exhaust pipes and discreet 4MOTION chrome badges.

A standard 1.4 kicks off the range, but with only 75bhp on offer, it feels weedy and doesn't offer enough power for confident overtaking. The entry-level FSI is a 1.6. Volkswagen claims this petrol engine has diesel-like economy with petrol refinement, but in practice, you'll need a delicate right foot to get near the claimed figures. 1.4 TSI models were launched in summer 2006 and despite the small engine size, they're available with 140 and 170bhp. That's because they use VW's latest engine technology that combines a supercharger with a turbo. Both are excellent to drive, offering quick-off-the-mark performance, excellent response and power just when you need it - like overtaking. There's a smooth delivery of power, too, which means you don't need to change gear very often adding to a sporty feel. They're economical, too, as the fuel-hungry supercharging equipment cuts out when it's not needed - mainly at higher speeds. It's possible to get 38mpg and above in everyday driving, which makes the 1.4 TSI a faster, cheaper and quieter diesel alternative. But Golf's three diesels are superb, offering low fuel consumption, pace and power. The 2.0 SDI is a bit old fashioned, noisy and often hard work, so go for a 1.9 TDI or 2.0 TDI if you can - they're fast, torquey and fuel efficient. The 1.9 gets 105 or 115bhp, while the 2.0-litre is available with 140bhp and - from July 2006 - 170bhp. The cars come with either five or six-speed manuals and an excellent semi-automatic system called DSG. It lets you choose between manual and automatic, but is different from other similar 'boxes, as the gear you are about to select up to is already engaged for a near seamless change. It's simple and easy to use. The 200bhp 2.0-litre GTi and 240bhp V6-powered Golf R32 are covered in separate reviews.

Comfortable, assured, predictable. The faster diesel engines can overpower the steering in the wet, but otherwise, Golf is an easy car to drive on all types of road. The suspension uses a similar system to Ford's Focus. That basically means it's well controlled over most road surfaces. Gearchanges are quick and precise, the steering is light at low speeds (though weights up for quicker driving) and it feels nimble in town.

Boot space is generous and larger than before. It's more than capable with coping with everyday family life. Cupholders in all models and plenty of handy, well-thought-out storage space front and rear. A 'storage pack' is available too, with a flip-down sunglasses pouch, cupholder and bottle opener.

Golf is the first VW to achieve a top five-star Euro NCAP crash test result. In addition, every car has twin front airbags passenger, driver and front passenger side airbags, head airbag system for front and rear passengers, anti-whiplash protection, five three-point seatbelts and ISOFIX child-seat anchor points. All cars have an alarm, immobiliser and a stereo that's unique to the car, as well as a key that's difficult to copy.

Fuel economy is pretty good, especially on the 1.4 TSI and diesel models. The car works out when it needs to be serviced, so service intervals can be varied, depending on usage. Servicing costs themselves tend to be high in the VW dealer network due to high labour rates, though the costs of parts can be quite reasonable. Insurance starts at Group 4, which is good for this class of car; top models are in group 13.

A handful of minor teething problems, which have been cleared up under warranty. Aside from that, this Golf is proving to be very reliable.

Easy to find in car supermarkets, although the car may have been sourced from the continent and you may be limited in engine choice and specification. Incentives offered by VW sweeten the deal but aren't as generous as those offered by some other manufacturers offering similar-sized cars.

Not all engines were available from launch, so there's a more limited choice on 2004 models. Original engines are the 1.4, 1.6 and 2.0-litre petrol and 1.9-litre TDI, 2.0-litre SDI and 2.0-litre TDI diesels. 1.4-litre TSI engines with 140 and 170bhp arrived in summer 2006, as did the 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 170bp. The 4MOTION four-wheel-drive system arrived in 2005.

Buyers like to see a fully-stamped service book and prefer SE spec where available. The Golf is considered to be a cut-above hatches like the Focus and Astra and attracts a more aspirational buyer. Options like sat nav and leather upholstery will make you car more marketable to them.
Source: parkers

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