Golf VII, when changes come from the weight
"Volkswagen took a risk by redoing the Golf from scratch, but the maker has won its bet."
OLBIA, Italy - It is a weird feeling to be trying a car out and having to keep in mind that what is being tested might have nothing to do with what will be put on the market. It is exactly what happened during our recent, and quite brief, test of the Golf VII on the roads of Sardinia. It has been announced already; the car will cross the Atlantic in 18 months, give or take, and different versions will be made available.
But as we speak (or as I write and as you read), mechanical and trim-related specifications are scarce (no wonder, considering that it will hit the market as a 2014 or 2015 model), making our experience of the car partly obsolete.
However, it allowed me to observe the following: Volkswagen took a risk by redoing the Golf from scratch, but the maker has won its bet. The brand new Golf offers a level of style and refinement never seen before in the category.
At first glance, nobody will show any sign of surprise when you will say that you are driving a Golf. The overall appearance of the car is similar to the previous generation and remains true to the family. Maybe even a little too true. The front section shows obvious similarities with the Jetta, which might not please the connoisseur. As for the rear section, the changes are major but only to the trained eye.
When looking at the numbers, the Golf has been entirely reworked, building on a new platform and ending with new dimensions: a front overhang shorter by 1.5 cm, a longer wheelbase and a roof lower by 2.8 cm. Obviously, these changes make for a more dynamic silhouette.
The interior wins the honours when it comes to sophistication. The design is more efficient, the materials are well chosen and a GPS with a respectable format touchscreen, located at the center of the dashboard, is offered in option which ups the modernism. Our test version had a large, great, leather covered steering wheel that sadly I doubt we will ever get here.
For Volkswagen, the real challenge behind the remodelling of the Golf was the weight...and the price. For all the makers, the main goal is to decrease fuel consumption. Only so much can be accomplished on the mechanical level, so a lighter structure is a great option.
But because the budget also has a part to play, the car had to be made lighter without an increase in the production costs. The materials therefore had to be affordable, so no aluminum or carbon fiber. The final result is a car that shed 100kg (for the standard version), where all the components have been put through a severe diet (even the multimedia system!)
Without affecting the frame’s solidity and the driving experience.
Our test drive took place on the serpentine roads of Sardinia, behind the wheel of a car equipped of an engine set up that will not be made available in America, at least not in its actual shape.
The small 1.4 TSI engine of 140 hp with variable cylinder management has proven to be keen and pleasant, as for its TDI equivalent, the 2.0 TDI of 150 hp (that should find its way to us) offers a lot more torque.
The direction, not as sporty as the one on the previous Golf, remains precise and direct nonetheless. The car takes the turns with a disconcerting ease, proving the efficiency of the lightness-stiffness combination.
Because it is a European version, a long list of accessories equipped our test models (including an intelligent cruise control system) that will not be available overseas.
Despite a more bourgeois appearance, the Golf VII keeps it promises. The pleasure behind the wheel has been slightly decreased, but a higher level of refinement and precision makes up for it. And wait for the GTI version to show up, it should become even more efficient.
2014 Volkswagen Golf
MSRP range: not yet set
Configuration: Front engine/ front wheel drive
Engines available: 1.4L 4-cyl. (140 hp/) 2.0L turbodiesel 4-cyl. (150 hp/).
Transmissions: 6-spd manual; 6.spd. auto. with sequential shift
Fuel economy ratings (L/100km): Comb.: 4.7 (gasoline); 4.1 (TDI)
Warranties: Exp. 4 years/ 80,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 100,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Honda Civic; Mazda3; VW Jetta
Strengths: Light weight; well-balanced suspension; high level of refinement
Weaknesses: not as fun as it used to be; options packages unknown; price unknown