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Volkswagen Golf Estate SE 1.6 TDI (105PS) BlueMotion

Click to view picture gallery“Driving in real-life conditions
  in fast-flowing as well as snail’s
  pace traffic, the 1.6-litre Golf Estate
  BlueMotion we’ve been using all
  week consistently hit 60mpg+...”

FOR ALL THOSE DOUBTING THOMASES out there, officially the combined cycle claims 72.4mpg for the Golf Estate. However, everybody knows that these EU-enforced, lab-obtained, rolling road figures are often impossible to replicate on roads that don't roll. So our overall average of 64.7mpg was fine no complaints with that. And longer motorway journeys should stretch that figure even further.

Technophobes will be happy to learn that there's no hybrid technology involved, and no comfort sacrifices or performance compromises called for on the driver's part to achieve this satisfying level of economy.

Everybody knows the Golf; not so many are aware of the Golf Estate. We'll keep it short the Estate is a Golf hatchback with an estate tail! It also benefits from the same understated, clean-cut looks, the same classy cabin and the same desirable Volkswagen badge.

“With eight-speed
double-clutch gearboxes
becoming commonplace
it seems surprising —
on paper, at least —
to have just five gears.
But five is all this
BlueMotion Golf Estate
needs to return
The BlueMotion version we've been driving for the past week comes with a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel in its engine bay. Other powerplant choices are 1.2 and 1.4-litre TSI petrol engines as well as 1.6 and 2.0-litre TDI diesel units. And the three trim levels are S, SE and GT.

The BlueMotion is partnered with a five-speed manual gearbox with a pleasingly slick change action. With eight-speed double-clutch gearboxes becoming commonplace it seems surprising on paper, at least to make do with 'only' five gears. But five is all this Golf Estate needs to return 60mpg+. Incidentally, emissions are as low as the miles-per-gallon figure is high: a tax-cheating 102g/km.

As they say, "it's good to 'torque'" and the 1.6 has a decent amount of it: 184lb ft between 1,500 and 2,750rpm. Which equals an ample sufficiency to lug whatever it is you need to carry in the 1,620-litre loadbay. Together with an able 103bhp (105PS) the 1.6 gets off the line to pass 62mph in 11.2 seconds and on to a maximum of 120mph. All of which is perfectly fine for a family-friendly estate.

Talking of the boot, you open it by pushing on the high lifting tailgate's VW badge (which helps keep your fingers clean in dirty weather) and even with passengers in the rear seat its substantial 605 litres will accommodate a family-size set of suitcases or four-legged family members with ease. If you've only loaded to below the window line then access is made easier by the practical roller blind luggage cover.

Tilt the end flap and the cover automatically retracts, initially to the halfway point; repeat the action and it retracts all the way back. Also well thought-out is the two level boot floor in its higher setting the floor is level with the knee-height load sill, which makes light work when loading heavy or bulky items.

And for those times when you really only need to carry a small amount (or need to separate different types of things) then the segmented folding boot floor can be refolded to create separate partitions across the metre-wide boot. An unexpected feature that comes in very handy!

Converting the boot into a 1,620-litre cargo bay couldn't be easier: just pull the levers (one each side, close to the tailgate) and the 60:40-split rear seatbacks spring forward to fold flat. That's it you now have a long, wide, seamless loadbay floor that's level with the bumper. The load cover cassette conveniently stores away under the boot floor, where you'll also find a space-saver spare wheel and some extra storage room.

“Converting the boot into
a 1,620-litre cargo bay
couldn’t be easier:
pull the levers (one each
side of the tailgate) and
the 60:40-split
seatbacks automatically
fold flat to create a
long, wide, seamless
loadbay floor that’s level
with the bumper...
More good news the seatbelts are arranged so they don't get caught up when you lift and lock the backrests back in their 'passenger' position. Finally, a large load-through hatch allows for skis and the like to be carried at the same time as a pair of adults in the back seats. Now if all that's not seriously family-friendly, then we don't know what is!

Back in the front, large door openings designed for big adult bodies ensure there's no head banging getting in or out. Settle back in the supportive, nicely bolstered fabric-covered seat behind the smart flat-bottomed multifunction steering wheel and you feel calm, composed and totally at home.

There's oodles of personal room in all directions, especially above your head, even for six-footers. At the other end, foot room is big enough for you to drive wearing hiking or work boots. Smooth, fast manual seat and wheel adjustment guarantees a first-rate driving position in seconds. Wide outer armrests on the doors and a wide, height-adjustable centre armrest, lumbar support, and height-adjustable front belts and chairs all boost comfort.

Build quality is typical VW, with excellent attention to detail; trim materials are executive quality items including the smart 'brushed' dark silver finish to the centre stack, instrument pack, gearlever surround, and doors. Switchgear ergonomics are spot-on. A touchscreen inset top centre of the dash links you directly into the infotainment and navigation features; on-screen menus are clear and logical, helped by shortcut buttons either side of the display. Should you prefer, just about everything can be operated using the steering wheel-mounted buttons or your voice.

The SatNav is straightforward with 3D displays (including full postcode destination input) and directs you with total accuracy thanks to concise spoken directions and supporting graphic prompts on the smaller driver's info screen between the speedo and rev-counter. A nice touch: as your finger approaches the touchscreen, it's 'sensed' and the various functions appear ready to be pressed. Very helpful too, and potentially licence-saving, is the road speed limit displayed in the top corner of the map.

Golf Estate owners don't go short of kit: there's 2Zone AirCon, electric windows (all one-shot up/down), heated power-adjustable door mirrors, Driver Profile Selection (five different driving modes), Bluetooth hands-free, auto-dimming rearview mirror, auto lights, Adaptive Cruise Control with Front Assist and City Emergency Braking, a speed limiter, a no-nonsense electric handbrake (with auto hold for smooth pull-aways on hills), DAB digital radio, tyre pressure monitoring, Driver Alert (advises you when you need to take a break), stop-start, and a set of alloy wheels.

“Contributing further to
the agreeable cabin
ambiance is the excellent
soundproofing — no
wind noise or road noise
in here. Even the diesel
engine is reluctant to
Windows are large and deep and along with the light-coloured upholstery, door trims and lower dashboard, keep the interior feeling fresh and airy. Contributing further to the agreeable cabin ambiance is the excellent soundproofing no wind noise or road noise in here. Even the diesel engine is reluctant to intrude...

Keeping personal 'stuff' organised is made easy by the number of cubbies and bins: large chilled glovebox (lit, lined and lockable), drop-down sunglasses holder, big bottle-holding door pockets, twin cupholders, large coin/oddments box in the lower fascia, and a slide-out drawer in the base of the front passenger seat.

Three headrests and three belts confirm three adults can be accommodated in the rear cabin. Not surprisingly, drop down the wide centre armrest and relax back against the semi-reclined seatback and two will come over all selfish. But even if they let a third sit between them he or she will still, like them, have a fist of space above their head.

The large open storage bin incorporated into the drop-down rear armrest doubles as a customisable cupholder for instance; thanks to simple lift-out, repositionable sections you can, in seconds, have a large and a small cupholder side-by-side.

Well-placed overhead reading lights, magazine pockets, dedicated rear air vents, loads of knee room and decent foot room, and wide outer armrests all improve life for rear seat passengers. They also enjoy uninterrupted views out, even to the front through the large gap between the front seatbacks.

If you family travels in your car you'll want to be sure that it has all the best proactive safety features. The Golf Estate will put your mind at rest as it's fitted with seven airbags, including one for the driver's knee. You can also depend on its traction and stability control system to help out unobtrusively in tricky situations plus there's a city emergency braking system that will stop the car for you if you're not reacting to its audible and flashing alarms warning of an imminent collision. And should all else fail there's a pre-crash occupant protection system.

Convenience features such as the adaptive cruise control also help safety, as does the driver alert system that can spot if you're tiring, and even Park Assist helps avoid parking dings and kerb-scuffed alloys.

“The steering is
responsive and turn-in
is crisp — on the open
road the Estate feels
satisfyingly agile and
holds its line
reassuringly, even
through a series of
quick bends...
The parking sensors cover not only the nose and tail but also the sides particularly useful when squeezing over on narrow country lanes or up close to walls and there's a graphic display on the screen.

Making easy work of driving the Golf is its fine all-round visibility, even rearwards through the wide back screen. So parking is a breeze even if you don't press the button to call up the onboard electronic parking jockey.

The steering is responsive and turn-in is crisp, and while it's light enough for prolonged town use it firms-up well at speed on the open road where it feels satisfyingly agile (particularly in Sport mode) and stays composed, holding its line in corners and, reassuringly, through a series of quick bends.

Underpinning the Estate's pleasing driving experience is the Volkswagen group's new MQB platform (it provides extra strength allied to lighter weight) along with Driver Profile Selection that offers a choice of five driving modes at the press of a button: Comfort, Normal, Sport and Eco, as well as Individual for which the driver can pick 'n' mix their preferred dynamics from a menu on the infotainment screen.

VW's engineers have fettled a good balance between handling and ride for the Estate. The ride is composed and it's good at soaking up the miles as well as urban bumps and humps; it's also adept at cruising motorways. The 16-inch alloys wear 205/55 rubber and don't compromise the ride quality while still looking right in the wheel arches.

A good-looking, versatile estate with a huge boot for real-world families along with real-life 60mpg economy, the Golf Estate is also easy and pleasant to drive, whether you're popping down to the shops or holidaying en famille. A fine long-term buy; like a puppy, a Golf Estate is not just for Christmas, but for life.

Volkswagen Golf Estate SE 1.6 TDI (105PS) BlueMotion | 22,655
Maximum speed: 120mph | 0-62mph: 11.2 seconds | Test Average: 64.7mpg
Power: 103bhp | Torque: 184lb ft | CO2 102g/km