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…
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.
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.
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…
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…
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 Chancellor – Duckface 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!
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.