It is a completely new car, sitting on a fresh platform and restyled – but you know immediately that it is a Golf. Continuity is the keynote that has seen the Golf sell 29 million units over 38 years.
This is the Mark 7 and easily the best and most sophisticated Golf. It is slightly bigger and has a larger boot than its rivals. The original was a compact family hatchback whilst the latest has all the feel and equipment of a little limousine.
The new look is more upmarket with neat lines that are familiar from more expensive brands. It is lighter and therefore more fuel efficient while the standard and optional safety features are impressive – starting with the standard seven air bags and electric systems to improve traction and stability.
My first drive at the UK launch is in the 1.6 TDI, which turns out to be so quiet and smooth that you would hardly know it was a diesel. The latest version of this 105PS engine is expected to be the top seller. When I tell you that it is reasonably quick but can do 74mpg on the Combined Cycle and emits just 99g/km, then you will understand why it will be so popular.
Inside the new Golf has a quality feel. A large colour touch-screen controls the sound system, trip computer and satellite navigation (where fitted). The steering is light and accurate. This model will cater well for the everyday motorist.
Next, I slip into a 2.0 TDI which now offers 150PS. This is a beefier though still subdued drive. Like the other powerful models, it benefits from an advanced rear suspension set up. This will please the demanding driver who likes to eat up the miles effortlessly.
Despite its extra grunt, the 2.0 TDI returns a creditable 68mpg Combined and has emissions of 106g/km.
Then I try the 1.4 TSI petrol with 140PS. This is a lively car and feels lighter on the bends than the diesels. A clever system turns off two of its four cylinders when not required – a dashboard light indicates when this is happening but otherwise the change over is almost imperceptible. This feature, plus the stop start system on all the new Golfs, helps to return 60mpg combined with emissions of 109g/km.
My final run is in a 2.0TDI GT with the excellent DSG twin clutch automatic gearbox – this makes fast and efficient changes and can be operated ‘manually’ by steering wheel flaps. It is a very impressive drive – fast, relaxed and grippy.
Prices start at £16,285 for a 1.2-litre turbo TSI petrol with 84bhp and run up to £24,880 for the 2.0 TDI with DSG. The 1.6 TDI starts from £18,910 in S trim. The other trims are SE which includes alloy wheels, city emergency braking and auto operation of lights and wipers. The GT models have 17-inch alloys, lower suspension and more comfortable front seats.
A long list of clever options is available including Park Assist, Driver Alert, Lane Assist, Distance Control and Infotainment Systems. These executive car features show just how far the Golf has evolved since the original plain little hatchback.
The Golf 7 range will grow over the months ahead to included a GTI, an 88mpg BlueMotion, an estate car and a larger Golf Plus.
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