FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE VOLKSWAGEN’S revered Golf finds itself at a definitive fork in the road.
Does this midlife update offer an opportunity to sharpen the price and prime the model to do battle with likeable French, Japanese and South Korean contenders in the affordable small-car arena?
Or does its compelling blend of quality, driving dynamics and style place it at the edge of the premium German and European rivals? Which way to turn?
Volkswagen has made the deliberate move to the latter with an update that has increased the entry level price a little, but boosted the value proposition by a lot, with new features and options that make it an alternative to lower-level premium offerings.
Unlike other brands that lure customers into showrooms with bargain-basement variants that require significant time with the options list to get the spec you actually want, the new base Golf 110TSI is, for many, all you may need or desire.
Independent rear suspension, leather steering wheel, 8.0-inch touchscreen, alloy wheels, AEB and reversing camera are not often seen packaged together in a $23,990 small hatch, rarer still one from a German manufacturer.
A dual-clutch auto takes the price to $26,490, but the power boost from 92kW to 110kW that forms part of the 7.5 update adds a genuine GTI-lite enjoyment when specced with the standard sixspeed manual gearbox.
A Trendline variant ups the stakes with more kit, while a Highline tops the range, but VW forecasts the mid-level Comfortline to attract the majority of sales from $28,990, or $1500 more for the wagon equivalent.
Like all sub-GTI petrol variants, the Comfortline has a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that has been squeezed to find another 18kW and 50Nm, and that increase has taken performance over the fine line between adequate and involving.
From a broader driving dynamics perspective, nothing has changed and that’s a positive, with the excellent handling and ride characteristics of the fouryear- old Golf Mk7 continuing.
While many midlife facelifts are headlined by a mild exterior redesign, the Golf’s aesthetic makeover of handsome LED lighting and bumper fettling is of welcome secondary importance to the performance boost and logical tech update.
With a proposition as compelling as the Mk7, the Golf could have rested on its laurels until an all-new model was due, but this well-considered update keeps VW’s small car firmly ahead of budget offerings and deserving of recognition with the Mk7.5 nomenclature. t
Spend $2300 on the optional infotainment pack and you gain a larger 9.2-inch screen complemented by a fully digital ‘Active Info’ instrument cluster, which was once the reserve of high-end Audis, along with a banging 400W Dynaudio sound system. The new Discover Media includes gesture control, which is more intuitive than BMW’s interpretation, if a little more basic in its functionality.
Boosted, zingy engine; winning blend of ride and handling; generous kit Excellent infotainment pack pricey; gesture control is gimicky