As I drive the new Golf (mark 7) down in picturesque Port Elizabeth and surrounds, I am reminded of all the bits that make a legend. Like the fact that Golf has never changed its name since the Mk1 went on sale in 1978. One name, one brand, one legend, one Golf. And how, the Golf 7 is here, and I’m behind the wheel.
I notice that everything is pretty familiar here. Familiarity is a good thing as it offers us some type of comfort that all is well, that we are “home”. I felt this way getting into the new Golf 7. Actually, since Golf 5, the car has had a very familiar look and feel, so much so that often the casual observer has difficulty telling Golf 5 from 6 and 6 from 7. Evolution apparently. Boring? Probably not. Because Golf is meant to straddle the thin line between familiar and boring. It’s the biggest-selling Volkswagen of all time, with over 29 million sold globally since Mk1. You don’t sell so many cars by dividing opinion.
So it makes sense that the design is quite similar to the outgoing model. Volkswagen Group Design Chief Walter Maria de Silva is not a big fan of fussy lines. He prefers the minimalistic look. According to him, a designer should never place a line unnecessarily. And so it is with Golf 7, which looks very mature, but at the same time, quite striking and sharp. From the bonnet the car looks like it is slicing through the air, as if it’s swishing past traffic, even when it’s standing still. Very dynamic.
The interior has grown up, featuring really solid build materials that welcome one into the cabin with open arms. Yes there are plastics everywhere; it’s the modern manufacturing process and will probably get “worse”. Yet these are plastics one can be proud of. They are soft and look quite durable. One of the items one notices upon entry is the electro-magnetic handbrake, a first for the segment. Some journalists are not too happy with that part, saying it takes away some of its expected sportiness. We don’t see a lot of handbrake turns anymore, especially for a front-wheel-driven car like the Golf so I don’t think that sentiment is justified. In fact, I think it’s quite progressive as it makes it easier for people to use the handbrake and move off from steep hills.
There’s a distinctive premium feel, from the dashboard, dials, to the multi-function steering wheel. One of my VW pet hates has somewhat been taken care of. The absence of a USB port, which is quite versatile these days, is no longer an absence, but uses a cable system and is located in a compartment that is not quickly visible. Also, it’s only available standard to Highline models. During my drive I didn’t get a chance to check out the Bluetooth function, which is new for Golf. Other than that, the new touchscreen is good, and is standard in 5-inches (12.7 cm) and on higher-specced models in 8-inches (20.3 cm).
Bravo to the product planners who decided to finally do away with the rather lazy (and subsequently thirsty) 1.6-litre naturally aspirated engine, and instead introduce the 1.2-litre TSI Trendline turbo! The new entry-level 1.2 is worth its mettle, delivering 77kW at 5600rpm, and top end torque of 175Nm between 1550rpm and 4100rpm. It emits 114g/km in C02s and comes with a 6-speed manual. Then we have the popular 1.4 TSI, with two different power outputs, the lowest being 90kW at 5000rpm and 200Nm between 1500rpm and 4000rpm. Trendline uses the 6-speed manual, while Comfortline has both manual and DSG options. The cars have an acceleration time of around 9.3 seconds from 0 – 100km/h, returning on average, about 5.1 litres per 100km. The same engine can be had for 103kW between 4500rpm and 6000rpm, and 250Nm between 1500rpm and 3500rpm. Lastly there is the 2.0-litre TDI doing 110kW between 3500rpm and 4000rpm, and max torque of 320Nm between 1750rpm and 3000rpm. At launch the 2.0 TDI is only coming with the DSG ‘box. VW says it will average 4.5 litres per 100km, giving it a tank (50 litres) range of roughly 1 100km.
Golf 7 measures 4.25 metres in length, 1.8m wide, 1.45m high and has a wheelbase of 2.6m. Lower range models come with 15-inch wheels, while mid-range ones will sport 16-inchers. The Highline models are standard with 17-inch wheels. While we are at it, we think the GTI will be fitted with 18-inch standard wheels, as it has been for the past two generations. Standard safety features across the board include front and side airbags, an immobiliser, ESP, ABS, ASR, EBD and auto-hold. A full-sized spare wheel is included, and from what we understand, the VW SA executives had to fight for that because in Europe they don’t put as much emphasis on this as we do. They seem to prefer either the thin (Marie biscuit) or the repair kit option. We may even see runflats making their way into Golf within the next two generations…
While it may not be quickly recognisable as such to the casual eye, the new Golf 7 is a brand new car, through and through. It ticks all the required boxes as far as driving dynamics, looks, features, safety and critically, pricing. VW cannot afford to be too expressive with the Golf as it is their bread and butter, so anyone who calls it “boring” may have a point, but the point itself has a point. Another excellent Golf comes to town.
Golf 7 Pricing
1.2 TSI with BlueMotion Technology Trendline (77 kW) 6-speed manual (R233 800)
1.4 TSI with BlueMotion Technology Trendline (90 kW) 6-speed manual (R246 700)
1.4 TSI with BlueMotion Technology Comfortline (90 kW) 6-speed manual (R264 900)
1.4 TSI with BlueMotion Technology Comfortline (90 kW) 7-speed DSG (R279 400)
2.0 TDI Comfortline (81kW) Manual 5-speed (R282 300)
1.4 TSI with BlueMotion Technology Highline (103 kW) 6-speed manual (R293 600)
2.0 TDI with BlueMotion Technology Highline (110 kW) 6-speed DSG (R334 800)