Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI GT

2 Jul, 2010 7:08pm

The reliable Golf has consistently set the benchmark for all family hatches, but how does it match up to the two newcomers?

No family car test would be complete without the Volkswagen Golf. The versatile hatchback is an Auto Express favourite, having scooped class honours in our prestigious New Car Awards 2009.

With its high-quality cabin, composed driving dynamics and excellent refinement, the Golf is the benchmark in this sector. Adding to its appeal is a line-up of small-capacity engines that promises big performance and tiny fuel bills.

VW’s excellent TSI units were among the first to serve up this winning combination, but now the firm is having to play catch-up. Even though it has a supercharger and a turbocharger, the 1.4-litre TSI in our GT-spec model delivers 158bhp – making the Golf the least powerful car of our trio.

Still, any disappointment at this shortfall is soon offset by the VW’s visual appeal. While it doesn’t have the Alfa’s flair or the Vauxhall’s freshness, the Golf is still desirable.

It’s handsome, well proportioned and a classy proposition. Sporty GT models ride lower to the road, and add eye-catching alloy wheels, plus a tailgate spoiler. The car in our pictures is a three-door, but the five-door example tested is equally appealing.

Climb aboard, and you will instantly be impressed by the quality on offer. Soft-touch plastics cover the dashboard, the switchgear operates with real precision and the white-backlit dials are smart and easy to read. As ever with the Golf, though, the details mark it out – whether it’s the leather-covered steering wheel, which is simply great to hold, or the excellent driving position.

Better still, it sets the standard here for versatility. There’s room for five adults and plenty of useful cubbyhole space, including deep door bins and a large glovebox. Swing open the tailgate, and you’ll discover a useful 350-litre load area – the capacity matches the Alfa’s and trails the Vauxhall’s by only one litre. Plus, when you fold the rear bench, it expands to a healthy 1,305 litres of space.

Performance is as important as practicality for this GT model, however. Even though it can’t match its rivals for power, the VW turned in a strong display at the test track.

It completed the benchmark sprint from 0-60mph in 8.3 seconds – that’s two-tenths faster than the 178bhp Vauxhall. Thanks to the low-rev punch of its supercharger, the Golf also proved stronger than the Astra during our in-gear assessments, although it trailed the lively Giulietta.

On the road, the excellence of the VW’s chassis shines through. Body control is superb, there’s plenty of grip and the steering is well weighted and precise. Yet these sporting responses don’t come at the expense of comfort and refinement, as the Golf’s suspension soaks up the worst bumps and noise levels are impressively low.

At £20,870, the VW costs £1,375 more than the Alfa, but it justifies this premium with its solid build quality, strong residuals and classy image. The question is whether it has done enough to retain its crown.


Chart position: 1
WHY: With a turbocharger and a supercharger, the 1.4 TSI punches above its weight – and the Golf is our class-leading family hatch.

Disqus - noscript

I'm just sick of reading how classy a Golf is. Volkswagen = "people's car". It does what it says on the tin. "The Vauxhall's silhouette is anonymous compared to the Golf". WHAT? The Golf is a very well built and engineered car just like a Neff dishwasher is a very well built and engineered dishwasher. Nothing more or less. If you want something distinctive, buy the Alfa. If you're not bothered about brand but want something stylish, get the Vauxhall. If you want the best engineering, get the VW.

"Still, any disappointment at this shortfall is soon offset by the VW’s visual appeal. While it doesn’t have the Alfa’s flair or the Vauxhall’s freshness, the Golf is still desirable."

As visuals go, this is one of the most bland uninspiring car on the market today, its typical german efficency, all fuction no form. A car for the elderly and those that have given up.

I think the golf is a very attractive car, its simple and sharp styling really does it for me, the car looks sophisticated and its styling will never date. why all the golf bashing? afterall, where styling is concerned, less, can often be more, in my own opinion.

We bought one last year and quite honestly it has been a nightmare. First of all, it had an engine fault where the engine would cut out momentarily, causing the car to lurch. It has taken over a year to sort out and I'm still not convinced.

Then there is the techy stuff - there is too much tech for tech sake. The rain sensing wipers come on in the dry and fail to start in the wet. Fog lights seem to come on randomly, one at a time. If you are going to do techy stuff, then either let it work, or alternatively let the customer switch it off and bring back a manual intermittent windscreen wiper so you can actually wipe the windscreen when it is wet! Manual lights. Fog lamps that come on both together. Not too much to ask is it?

Then there is the driving: for a car that is supposed to have sporty handling, it feels incredibly vague on the road. I have driven lots of sporty cars, but this is terrible. Yes, the suspension is hard, but there is absolutely no feel for the road through the steering - it is so bad I can drive my Land Rover faster round corners than this! You are encouraged to change gear way too low - and the gears seem to have such a close ratio - there is no need for 6 gears when 5 gears properly spaced would do.

The seats are hard and uncomfortable. The driver's seat cannot be raised high enough for me to see out of the front - and I am not abnormally short. Consequently I get to see the instrument binnacle a lot and the road very little.

The bodywork is intrusive on visibility when driving: the pillars make it hard to see cyclists and motorcyclists, and the door pillars make it hard to see when looking sideways when trying to pull out of a junction.

You cannot hear the engine: yes, it is nice to have a quiet car, but not so quiet that you cannot hear if the engine has actually stalled or not. It is quite fast. That is all. There is still turbo lag even with the supercharger.

Maybe we got a lemon. Maybe we got a Friday afternoon car. But quite honestly it is terrible. We have finally had enough. An expensive mistake, it is going back and we are getting something else, probably a BMW.

Key specs

Price: £20,870
Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl, 158bhp
0-60mph: 8.3 seconds
AE economy: 30.8mpg
Claimed CO2: 145g/km