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Volkswagen Golf SE 1.6 TDI 5-dr

Click to view picture galleryThe Golf is Volkswagens biggest
  selling model range so a new
  generation Golf is a big occasion,
  not just for VW but as the benchmark
  model in the C-segment where it
  competes against the Ford Focus
  and Vauxhall Astra...


NOW IN ITS SEVENTH GENERATION, the Golf will set the standard for others to match or better in every aspect from fuel efficiency, space, handling, comfort, specification, running costs, price and brand desirability.


And while that's good news for the potential 58,000 UK customers who buy a new Golf hatchback each year in the UK, it's bad news for the competition —
because the all-new Golf is not only the most refined, sophisticated and roomiest Golf to date; it is now the best overall product available in its sales sector when price and value for money is taken into account.

With prices more or less the same as the outgoing sixth generation Golf (16,285 rising to 24,880), the all-new platform gives an even more composed and compliant ride, the handling is sharper, the steering more responsive, the engines are more fuel and CO2 efficient and the specification across the board is higher.

“The all-new Golf platform gives an even more composed and compliant ride, the handling is sharper, the steering more responsive, the engines are more fuel and CO2 efficient and the specification across the board is higher...”
As for the styling, even though the dimensions have grown, the new Golf still looks like a Golf from the outside. At 4,255mm the new Golf is 56mm longer with a 59mm longer wheelbase giving more rear passenger legroom.

The front wheels are 43mm further forward giving more front interior space and the new model is 13mm wider at 1,799mm and 28mm lower at 1,452mm, so overall it looks longer and sportier with its lower roofline.

Happily rear seat headroom remains acceptable. The boot capacity is increased by 30 to 380 litres with the rear seats in use, and up to 1,270 litres with them folded down.

More good news: the blandness of the old model's interior has gone and there is much more specification and equipment as standard. The new Golf has a sporty cockpit-style fascia with the centre console angled towards the driver, making things easier to see at a glance.

All seventh-gen Golf models come with seven airbags (including a driver's knee bag), five three-point seatbelts and Isofix preparation for two rear child seats, ABS braking with ESP stability control and VW's XDS electronic differential lock.

The entry-level S version has a Composition Media system that includes a 5.8-inch colour touchscreen, DAB digital radio, a CD player, MDI interface (for connecting iPod or MP3 player), Bluetooth telephone preparation and audio streaming and eight speakers.

Standard too is semi-automatic air conditioning, electric front windows and electrically-operated and heated door mirrors, electronic parking brake with auto-hold, multifunction computer and 15-inch steel wheels with a space saver spare.

Moving up from S to SE trim brings Automatic Distance Control with Front Assist and City Emergency Braking (which can, if necessary, even bring the vehicle to a complete halt), a Driver Alert System, PreCrash preventative occupant protection, Driver Profile Selection, rain-sensitive wipers, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and dusk sensor (automatic driving lights), leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel and 16-inch alloy wheels plus a space-saver. Five-door models also get rear electric windows.

One of the most impressive features is the Driver Profile Selection which allows the driver to choose from four modes: Eco, Sport, Normal and Individual. With the Adaptive Chassis Control option, a Comfort setting is additionally available. This package really puts the new Golf into a higher class than before — very close to what can be found on premium brand models, and one of the many features that, for me, makes the new Golf the best car in its sector.

“The best Golf yet!
With more sophistication,
more refinement,
better specification,
more interior space,
more comfort,
classy and desirable
image, better fuel
economy, lower taxes.
And more or less the
same price as outgoing
versions
...”
The Golf GT wears 17-inch alloy and has a lowered sport suspension, front fog lights, 'Cherry Red' rear light clusters, heat-insulating dark-tinted rear glass, electrically-foldable door mirrors with puddle lights, and front and rear parking sensors with visual display.

Inside you'll find gloss black inserts, Alcantara and cloth sports seats, LED reading lights, ambient lighting and the Discover Navigation media system with 5.8-inch colour touchscreen.

With its larger wheels and lowered suspension, the GT's ride comfort is much firmer —
you could say sporty — so I can appreciate why the majority of customers will choose the more affordable and comfortable SE version.

The best selling new Golf will be the five-door 103bhp 1.6-litre TDI turbodiesel in SE spec. This costs 20,500 with a five-speed manual 'box (or 21,915 with the seven-speed DSG auto). Decent torque (184lb ft from 1,500rpm) makes it a responsive performer, flexible through low- to mid-range speeds and really fuel- and tax-efficient: top speed is 119mph; zero to 62mph takes 10.7 seconds; and the official fuel consumption is 74.3mpg —
56.5mpg on my test drive using country A roads.

The CO2 emissions of just 99g/km are very tax efficient so there is currently no VED road tax to pay. For company car drivers, Benefit-in-Kind tax is 13%.

Against: Not really an 'against' but some engine options are not available with all specification levels which would particularly appeal to retail customers — for instance, the highly-rated and excellent-to-drive 103bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine is not available with the best-selling SE specification.

For: The best Golf yet! With more sophistication, more refinement, better specification, more interior space, more comfort, classy and desirable image, better fuel economy, lower taxes. And more or less the same price as outgoing versions.

In every way the new seventh-generation lighter weight Golf is definitely no 'lightweight' when it comes meeting the demands of what today's motorists need from a family-sized modern car. Above all it's a Golf —
but an even better one! — David Miles

Volkswagen Golf SE 1.6 TDI 5-dr | 20,500
Maximum speed: 119mph | 0-62mph: 10.7 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 56.5mpg
Power: 103bhp | Torque: 184lb ft | CO2 99g/km