Tuesday – Golfing Technology


Jeremy I’m ticking off the hours until they pick up the Golf today. We are not quite on first name terms but a bond has been established between us. It’s like having your best mate on standby for every eventuality.

Instantly recognisable as VW‘s iconic hatchback, under the skin, this new Mk VII version is fully equipped with technology that would have been unrecognisable when the first model was launched almost 40 years ago. It helps make an already great car even more desirable.

The vehicle selected as World Car of the Year cossets the driver with every conceivable aid in GTD form. Electronic handbrake, stop/start engine, a range of engine modes for different types of driving, front and rear parking sensors – none of these would have been even dreamt of in 1974.

So, far from meddling with a successful product to create the Mk VII, VW designers have just raised the bar for all other hatchbacks to follow. Smoother, faster, lighter and better equipped, the new Golf is everything you would expect it to be. You just wonder what they will do with the Mk VIII…


Monday – The Fun of Golfing


Jessica Yesterday morning, as I drove through Stroud in my trusty 200,000-mile BMW, I passed the entrance to ‘Wheel Nuts 2013’. It’s a classic car rally where many beautifully preserved cars were trekking, with every owner happy and excited at the gate about the fun day ahead.

It got me thinking about how much we love old cars – cars that have character, cars that remind us of times and stages of our own. I think we love a design ethic to translate across the years and to find some nostalgia in a car that is available now. Somehow VW have managed this with the Golf.

If I think back many years to a pale blue Golf I had with go faster black stripes, I felt the ghost of the original as I started to drive CarCouture’s current Mark VII version. With all its modern features and no nonsense dashboard, it still has the fun, drivability and reliable feel that I remember  from my own Golf – just wrapped in a modern casing.

VW has developed the shape and embraced technological developments but the essence of this car, which has always existed in a special category of its own in terms of demographic uptake and no nonsense fun, is very much there.

It is sound on the road, corners well and the handling is excellent. So altogether, it is a  car you could take anywhere at any stage of your life and still have a little fun.

Sunday – Golf, Lights, Action…


Jeremy Eight months ago I went to buy a Mk VI Volkswagen Golf. I drove out of the dealership in a VW Beetle. Mid-life crisis? Maybe but in black, with a glass roof, cool wheels and the latest ‘squat’ look, I enjoyed a temporary moment of madness.

What really clinched the deal was the Beetle’s interior. Great seats, quality switchgear and illuminated door trim – neat lines of subtle light that ran along the length of the doors above the arm rests. A control on the dashboard could even change the colour ‘mood’ from blue, to red to white!

Last night, driving home in CarCouture’s Mk VII Golf was the first time I had taken the hatchback out in the dark. The cabin is a relaxed and refined place to be and VW has used the same door lighting fitted in the Beetle to brighten up the Golf interior.

Now, Golf drivers aren’t the sort of people who want to change their mood lighting at the flick of a switch – that would be a little racy for the benchmark hatchback. But the interior of the Golf is beautifully understated, supremely comfortable and, with features like the lighting system, you feel like you are travelling first class.



Saturday – Not Your Everyday Benchmark


Jeremy There’s nothing revolutionary about the design of the new, Mark VII Golf. Driving through Bath this morning, I followed a VII and a VI – tweaks to the light clusters, sharper angles and some minor moulding changes made them hard to separate.

VW has stuck to the philosophy of ‘if it ain’t broken, why fix it’ – an adage that has served them well for almost four decades with the Golf. The only problem for Volkswagen these days is that there are more rivals than ever looking to muscle in on the hatchback’s sales. The Kia Cee’d and the Hyundai i30 are but two…

What the Golf excels at is quality and refinement, blended with superb driving attributes and hassle-free mechanics. This is what has made the VW a benchmark for other hatchbacks to follow – the car against which all others are judged.

Sitting on the same platform as the brilliant Audi A3 and SEAT Leon, you know it will be an excellent drive. The diesel engine is noisy during hard acceleration and there is some body roll when the VW is turned hard into a corner. But as benchmarks go, this Golf is going to be hard to beat, for now at least…

Friday – Edging Towards 60


Jeremy The one and only time I ever got involved in a car economy drive was with a crazy driving instructor from Gloucester who took it far too seriously. It was 1992 and he insisted we use his new Nissan Micra for a 100-mile journey across Herefordshire.

To make the car lighter, he stripped out as much of the seating as possible, the rear parcel shelf and even the cigarette lighter went. Aerodynamics were a high on his agenda too – so off came a windscreen wiper, the aerial was pushed down and we drove at around 55mph in complete silence.

Last night I drove a winding route across the Cotswolds at around the same speed in our refined and beautifully built Golf TDI – not because I wanted to but because there was a rash of tractors on the road for some reason. VW say the 150bhp diesel can return 68.9mpg – I knew it would never achieve that in everyday driving conditions but I suddenly found myself back on an economy drive!

Calling petrolhead friends for advice and company along the way, I slipped the engine out of ‘sport’ and into ‘eco’ mode. The dashboard display on the TDI serves up economy driving tips – mostly saying change up a gear but the mpg read-out next to it was the real focus of my attention.

I was determined to hit 60mpg but only tickled 58.9 on one flat stretch. When I finally reached my destination, I was back down to 57.1. I don’t think I could have done much better on the roads I used but for a 150bhp engine, it’s still impressive.

I’m not going to bleat on about the consumption too much but this Sunday we are off to the launch of the new Kia Carens in Hampshire. If I don’t hit 60mpg on the way there on faster A-roads I’m going to remove a windscreen wiper and take out the back seat too…


Thursday – Driving With Duckface


Jeremy I found a little bit of the ocean in Wiltshire yesterday that almost outshone the Pacific blue paint job on our Golf. The sleepy village of Ashmore, near Salisbury, has been cleaning up it duckpond and as a result, the water has turned a lovely shade of Mediterranean blue. It was such a bright blue that I completely forgot to take a photo with the car beside it.

I spent the morning walking with Anna ChancellorDuckface from Four Weddings and a Funeral – for a feature for the Financial Times. We had a two-car convoy through sunny countryside, which ground to  halt as we came face-to-face with another Golf travelling towards us.

What happened next was fairly comical. The woman driver politely started reversing down the lane and kept going, and going and going! But her trajectory wasn’t in a straight line – it was up one bank, back onto the road and then up the other bank. Not surprisingly, her Golf had the scars of previous reversing operations, probably down the same lane…

What she needed, of course, was our new, Mk VII Golf because it’s equipped with VW‘s optional touchscreen sat ‘nag’ system (£1,135) and rear view camera (£165). The 8-inch screen projects what is behind the car when you engage reverse gear, with track lines showing where the car is heading. I have to say, it does take some getting used to but for narrow Wiltshire lanes and Waitrose car park, it’s invaluable.

I’m still loving the Golf. The TDI is still returning 51.3mpg for everyday driving, which includes being pushed quite hard on A-roads and  ‘sport’ mode being set on the gearbox. I can’t remember the last time I drove a car and achieved over 50mpg!

Wednesday – What Happened To Jackie Kenny?


Jeremy Nobody could claim the Golf is a pretty car. Even our gleaming new GT model has plain Jane styling, regular hatchback looks and a corporate VW nose. Despite all this, the Golf does come with some endearing qualities that make it hard to resist.

I can’t imagine falling for a Ford Focus, a Vauxhall Astra or a Skoda Octavia for example in the same way as I’ve already fallen for the Golf. And I certainly have fallen, judging by the number of times I have peeped out of the dining room window to check it is still on the driveway.

What is it about the Golf? Is it because it has been a constant in my life? When the Mk I was born in 1974, I was buying my first David Bowie record, chasing Jackie Kenny around the playground and cursing a device called a slide rule. My father was driving a Vauxhall Viva but I secretly longed for him to drop me off at school in a Golf.

I’ve never been one to give cars a name but the Volkswagen is already starting to feel like a friend. I know that it will be 100 per cent reliable, carry five adults and a decent amount of luggage in comfort, and it will hold its value better than the competition. My Golf won’t look out of fashion in five years time and the TDI engine will keep on performing until the bitter end, however hard I push it.

So, driving my first few miles in the Golf, I can tell you that under that refined, and more sculpted new bodyshell, it’s just like the old Golf. And there couldn’t be a better recommendation than that.

Tuesday – Knickerbocker Glory


Jessica I know it isn’t all about colour or indeed size, however, a Range Rover in cherry red that looks like it should be proudly sitting on top of a Knickerbocker Glory is somewhat of an anomaly.

Colour does matter and how the colour ranges are put together for any car manufacturer is a mystery to me, colour has its own visual language and interpretations, it speaks volumes.

Driving around in a red Range Rover Evoque was a little disconcerting, I didn’t feel a proud moment when I met it for the first time at the station en route to (rainy) Cornwall, I wanted to get in quickly and drive away before anyone would stop and wonder what I had been thinking when I chose that colour for that car.

Colour aside what does the Evoque evoke, what is it trying to be, is what I found myself asking.

Well, it’s sporty in an urban, I want a four wheel drive way, the lines are stylish and it does say Range Rover on the bonnet!  The price tag suggests a deep pocket so I found myself wondering on the target demographic …
Too small to fit a family and their luggage, too urban to warrant having one if you lived in a rural area where winters are a problem.  So that leaves a school run car for a 2.2 family or a weekend run around for a professional person or professional couple who want to play at sporty country pursuits (not polo as you would have trouble fitting the kit in!) still not really sure as the week comes to a close.
Either way it leaves me wishing that the handling on the motorway was more refined, although it drives well in town and on B roads, but the exterior does not fit with the driving experience for me and I would be prepared to bet that professional sporty types might want a more refined motorway experience too.
There was a rather strange rubberised covering on the dash area and sorry to mention colour again but red perforated leather look seats (not matching the exterior colour ) which although comfortable were looking a little worse for wear after only one week of use.
Overall, because the Evoque looks good so I  was very much looking forward to a dash down to Cornwall, despite the colour,  but for the £40,000 I found this Range Rover a little disappointing.

Monday – Riding The Range

Jeremy The Range Rover Evoque may be packed with technology but there wasn’t much it could do when CarCouture ran out of signal to write our blog entry in Cornwall on Sunday.  Installed at an organic dairy farm, we had to turn our hands to making ice cream instead.

I did offer the Evoque for carry six churns from the milking parlour to ice cream unit but the boot is so small, we  could only hope to squeeze three churns in at at time.

The general feeling among the farming community around Tintagel is that this Range Rover is really best used by city folk. You certainly wouldn’t want to splatter the chrome wheels and leather interior with too much cow dung.

The Evoque did cope admirably with the farm track – and that was without touching the terrain settings button once. The farm staff thought that so much technology only meant that more was likely to go wrong. They may be right but I’ve enjoyed my week with the Evoque.

It does fidget a little on high speed motorway journeys and noise levels from the 20-inch wheels are high but Evoque does look fantastic, drives beautifully and has returned 31.2mpg during a week of hard driving. Not bad for a permanent 4×4 designed for city folk.

Saturday – Evoque Illuminations

front closer

Jeremy I’ve just returned from a horribly early, Saturday morning drop off at Bath railway station. It’s the first time I’ve driven the Evoque in the dark but two contrasting points have now surfaced.

The first is that I was flashed countless times on the trip by irate, oncoming drivers who though my headlights were on full beam. They were not but still worried that I might have my fogs on, I pulled over in the morning mist to check those too. If the wheels od the SD4 are blingtastic, wait until you see the lights! I feel like one of those juggernaut drivers who adorn the front of their cab with a spectacular display.

The second point is that the Evoque has the funkiest door tread plates I’ve seen in a long time. They illuminate in blue in the dark – brilliant!

And finally, have you ever seen larger door mirrors on a car? My neighbour’s young son has decided to call the Evoque  the ‘Range Rover Elephant’ because they look like giant ears. Not bad for a five-year-old.

CarCouture is heading off to Cornwall this afternoon, to an organic Dairy Ice Cream farm, near Tintagel. The lane to the farm should prove a good test for all those off-road buttons on the centre console…