By: Jesse Adams & IOL Motoring
It took me all of about ten seconds to discover the Golf 7's improved quality levels.
Not that it started off a very low base. The Golf 6 was a very well built car to begin with.
It's just that this new one is, well... even better. A single tug of the door handle, or turn of the volume knob, or flick of the indicator stalk shows that Volkswagen means business when it comes to being the benchmark hatch, and let me tell you, it still is.
At my first encounter with the all-new Golf at its launch in Port Elizabeth last week, I was like: "dude, what's new here?"
I'll admit its design isn't exactly revolutionary.
But out on the road it all comes together.
It's smoother when cruising because of its longer wheelbase; a little more planted because of its wider track; and a little quieter because of all kinds of effort to kill unwanted road, wind and general noise. Even the fan blower and little electronic actuator motors have been made more discreet. All this stuff adds up, trust me.
FIVE ENGINES, ALL TURBO
The all-turbo engine range offers three flavours of petrol and two diesel options, and while many might cringe at the cubic capacity of the 1.2 TSI base engine - which replaces the previous normally aspirated 1.6.
Yet the 1.2 throws a decent punch for its size, the direct injection turbopetrol pushing 77kW and 175Nm.
Two 1.4-litre units top the petrol range, the conventional turbo unit offering 90kW and 200Nm and the twin-charged version credited with 103kW and 250Nm.
According the VW, the 1.2 will dash from 0-100km/h in 10.2 seconds while the 90kW 1.4 will take 9.3 seconds and the 103kW engine 8.4. Combined fuel consumption figures are listed at 4.9, 5.2 and 5.3 litres per 100km respectively.
If we're going according to the official figures, the two 2-litre diesel options are not much more efficient than the petrols, with VW quoting a figure of 4.5 l/100km for both.
There's still a big difference in price and performance, with the 81kW/250Nm TDI running to 100 in 11.3 seconds and the 110kW/320Nm managing an 8.6-second sprint.
PICK OF THE BUNCH
The new 110kW diesel engine is my pick of the bunch, granted that I only got a chance to drive this and one other twin-charged 1.4 TSI derivative. Both engine options were impressive, but the diesel just gets on with things so effortlessly.
This motor hums away at low revs under the slightly elongated bonnet, with revs matched perfectly to speed thanks to a smooth-changing 6-speed DSG gearbox. My co-driver, who owns a Golf 6 GTI, commented that this derivative could prove a nice alternative.
VW didn't give us a chance to drive the 81kW TDI or the 1.2 TSI. Interestingly, a vaguely-publicised feature on these cars is what VW calls a 'weight-saving' rear suspension, which should read 'cost-saving' suspension as it's essentially a torsion beam just like you get under a Polo. The rest of the range is fitted with a fully-independent multi-link rear axle (which provides a better balance between ride and road holding) as has been the standard on Golfs since the fifth generation.
PREMIUM CLASS CABIN
The Golf 7 has swelled in size compared to its forebear, but thankfully it's in all the right places. The cabin feels nice and roomy with good elbow and knee room for all passengers, and the boot has expanded a little too.
The features list (some standard, some optional) is equally impressive. A slightly gimmicky new 'Proximity Sensor' system that pre-empts your finger reaching the touchscreen infotainment system and pulls up expanded menus, is quite cool and I suspect we'll see it in other cars, VW or not, soon.
The usual long-list of options is in place, highlights being an eight-inch touchscreen with satnav, the latest generation parallel park assist and a rear view camera.
Nonetheless, the standard features count is relatively decent on the cheapest model - which goes by the Trendline name.
This one's got 15-inch alloys, an eight-speaker audio system (with aux input and SD card) linked to a five-inch TFT touchscreen interface, electric mirrors and windows (front) and a multifunction leather steering wheel.
All the safety bases are covered too, with seven airbags, ABS, ESP stability control and the multi-collision brake system being part of the package.
Upgrade to Comfortline and you get 16-inch alloys, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, cruise control, under-seat trays, rear electric windows and 'Comfort' seats.
Highline models add 17-inch rims, chrome grille trim, an upgraded sound system with USB and Bluetooth connectivity and a 5.8-inch screen, 'Sport' seats as well as Piano Black dashboard trim.
1.2 TSI Trendline (77 kW) - R233 800
1.4 TSI Trendline (90 kW) - R246 700
1.4 TSI Comfortline (90 kW) - R264 900
1.4 TSI Comfortline DSG (90 kW) - R279 400
2.0 TDI Comfortline (81kW) - R282 300
1.4 TSI Highline (103 kW) - R293 600
2.0 TDI Highline DSG (110 kW) - R334 800
All prices include a five-year/90 000km service plan.