Leaner, meaner and greener. That’s the message Volkswagen wants to send with its new Golf. Launched to the Australian motoring press yesterday in Byron Bay, New South Wales, the next generation Volkswagen Golf comes with a set of new engines that increase fuel economy by up to 25 per cent.
The base model – and baby of the group – is the 90TSI. Featuring a turbocharged, 1.4-litre, four-cylinder engine, the 90TSI brings with it a smaller capacity engine of 1.4-litres, compared to the naturally aspirated 1.6-litre featured in the Golf V.
On first glance, you’ll be able to spot the 90TSI by the plastic hubcaps, along with the ‘I’ in TSI being red.
Inside the cabin, it’s a pretty restricted affair. The ghastly looking plastic steering wheel and lack of steering wheel controls – and cruise control – are the only things that let this base model down. The seat trim is attractive, as is the well made dashboard and the quality of materials used throughout the cabin.
Due to the lack of steering wheel controls, the trip computer and vehicle options menu is adjusted via the windscreen wiper stalk.
On the road, it’s very hard to spot the turbocharger. When we arrived at the airport, this was the first car I jumped into and without knowing which models were being introduced into Australia, we didn’t know what engines were on offer. After some umming and ahhing, we deduced that it was the carry over 1.6-litre naturally aspirated engine from the Golf V.
It turns out that this model does in fact use a turbocharger – a very small and low pressure one – to help get the base model Golf moving. The assistance of the turbocharger has increased power to 90kW. The most miraculous feat of all is the drop in fuel consumption and engine capacity to reach a higher power figure.
Also different in this model is the introduction of Volkswagen’s seven-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG). Rated to withstand torque of 250Nm, the gearbox is used in the base model 90TSI and the higher powered 118TSI. In addition to the seven-speed DSG, a six-speed manual comes as standard for the 90TSI.
On the road, the 90TSI soaks up bumps tremendously well for a car in this price bracket. Some of the roads surrounding Byron Bay and onward to our lunch stop at Emerald Valley were abysmal. The taught suspension set-up in the 90TSI handled them with absolute ease.
This came at a cost to its cornering capabilities though. There is considerable amount of body roll on sweeping bends, which in addition to the cheap, narrow Hankook tyres makes it a bit of a non-event. Don’t despair though. The 90TSI is the base model in the range and has fleet buyers and people with lower expectations in mind.
In saying that, the car feels much like Golf V. It has the same handling characteristics and steering response, it has just been fine tuned to deliver a slightly more rewarding drive.
The 90TSI is priced from $25,990 for the six-speed manual and $28,490 for the seven-speed DSG. While fuel consumption is rated at 6.4-litres/100km for the six-speed manual and 6.2-litres/100km for the seven-speed DSG.
In my opinion, this is the pick of the bunch. A 1.4-litre, twin-charged, four-cylinder engine headlines this act. With considerable torque throughout the rev band, the engine works in unison with the new seven-speed DSG to deliver an extremely pleasing drive.
The 118TSI can be identified with the ‘S’ and the ‘I’ being red in the ‘TSI’ boot logo.
Much like the outgoing Volkswagen Golf GT Sport, which uses a more powerful variant of this motor, the supercharger works to deliver torque at the lower end of the rev range which keeps things moving before the turbocharger has spooled up.
Once the supercharger has done its job, it hands over to the turbocharger to finish the task, which is pre-spooled and ready to go by the time the supercharger switches over.
The end result is an engine that is responsive throughout the rev band. The new seven-speed DSG helps immensely by always selecting the correct gear (even when it’s in the regular drive mode).
It’s not much use in a straight line though, so we attacked a few corners to see how well the 118TSI reacted to power on mid corner and the way it handled being thrown about on what were essentially C-grade roads.
Volkswagen seem to have taken the handling characteristics of the already impressive Golf V GT Sport and honed them even further to deliver an affordable car which can be used both as a cruiser and apex slayer – certainly something others find hard to achieve in this price bracket.
The car remains flat and sharp on turn-in to the corner. The responsive steering has a bit of weight to it as you turn in, while the suspension holds strong and keeps things as flat as possible. Where the 90TSI would start rolling and continue until it understeered, the 118TSI turns in and keeps holding with a commendable amount of grip.
Even the rippled and rutted roads we were driving through didn’t unsettle the car, indicating a brilliant chassis. Power on mid corner, which generally causes boosted front-wheel-drive cars to jitter and understeer didn’t seem to bother the 118TSI.
You would get a tugging at the wheel as the tyres traversed the rutted portions of road, but there would never be the sense that the car was about to push the nose wide on you. The increased tyre width of 205mm, compared to the 90TSI’s 195mm, also helps give the car a more planted feel on the road.
The 118TSI gets bigger brakes in comparison to its base model sibling, giving it a bigger edge when it comes to continuous brake applications. The brakes feel quite strong in all Golf variants tested. Pedal feel is also very consistent, meaning that there is never any doubt over what the brakes are up to.
The 118TSI gets different seat trim and funky new looking steering wheel controls over the base model. You will also find dual-zone climate control, a leather wrapped steering wheel and a few other bits and pieces to justify the additional price.
Fuel consumption sits at 6.2-litres/100km for the six-speed manual and 6.5-litres/100km for the seven-speed DSG. Pricing begins at $30,490 for the six-speed manual and $32,990 for the seven-speed DSG.
The Golf wouldn’t be the Golf without a diesel engine. As expected, Volkswagen have launched in Australia with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo diesel unit, producing 103kW at 4200rpm and 320Nm between 1750-2500rpm.
Noise suppression inside the cabin has been increased, reducing road noise and engine noise considerably. A 10 per cent increase of thickness on the side glass and an extra layer of film on the windscreen mean that external noises remain external.
We were also lucky enough to drive a 103TDI with the Adaptive Chassis Control. As the only Golf in Australia with this feature fitted, we were sure to keep this car to ourselves. Three suspension modes – Normal, Comfort and Sport – differentiate suspension comfort for your drive preference.
Adaptive Chassis Control works independently on each wheel to adjust suspension firmness. It’s a contrast to most other systems which only adjust suspension firmness as a whole, opposed to each wheel.
The seven-speed DSG can only support 250Nm, so the six-speed DSG is used in the 103TDI, which is capable of 350Nm.
There’s plenty of torque throughout the rev range, this engine is consistently spooling and ready to roll. It gets a bit noisy inside the cabin when you reach the upper end of the rev range, but it’s not overly bad.
Fuel consumption sits at a miserly 5.3-litres/100km for the six-speed manual and 5.6-litres/100km for the six-speed DSG. Pricing starts at $33,190 for the six-speed manual and $35,690 for the six-speed DSG.
We all know that Volkswagen is big on safety. The entire Golf range will come with seven airbags, including a knee airbag.
Already tested overseas by EuroNCAP and most recently tested in Australia – just last week in fact – by ANCAP, both tests have rated the Golf at five-stars.
The entire range will also come with Electronic Stability Program, ABS brakes with EBD and BA, along with engine immobiliser and deadlocking.
Volkswagen is setting a benchmark in this segment and wants everyone to know about it.
Although the standard equipment list is what you would expect, the options list includes some pretty nifty things, some of which until now weren’t even considered as availabilities on vehicles in this price bracket.
You can option your new Golf with Volkswagen’s Park Assist feature. Park Assist will automatically park your car for you. Line it up in between two parked vehicles and the system uses front, rear and side parking sensors to direct your vehicle into the open space.
Until this feature became available in the Tiguan, mid last year, it was only available in the $200,000+ Lexus LS600hL.
The Golf can also be fitted with the new RNS510 system, which includes satellite navigation. The system can also be optioned with a reverse camera which pops out from under the Volkswagen logo boot lid.
Although some may argue it looks much the same as the outgoing Golf (which isn’t such a bad thing), I’m of the opinion that Volkswagen is yet again onto a winner.
People complain about the good press we give Volkswagen, it’s hard not to when they keep releasing cars like the Golf VI. It’s hard to fault the package, price and drivetrain offerings.
There is a model in the line-up to please almost all tastes at the moment.
Volkswagen’s CEO, Jutta Dierks has told CarAdvice that unless there is a miracle, the GTI won’t arrive to our shores before early 2010. The car will be unveiled at next week’s Geneva motor show and will be launched to the European public in the middle of the year.
Head of exterior design, Frank Bruse told CarAdvice that the GTI will be an impressive looking machine. He also hinted that VW will follow Audi’s lead with LED portions of the headlight, making the GTI visible from a kilometre away.
Until then, this is what we have on offer and it will undoubtedly sell well for Volkswagen.
If you’ve been holding off until the Golf VI to upgrade or purchase your next Volkswagen, it’s been a well earned wait.
The Volkswagen Golf VI is sure to blow your socks off.