8.5 / 10
The 2016 Volkswagen Golf 92TSI Comfortline is yet another in a seemingly endless line of Golf variants, with this one replacing the previous MY15 Golf 90TSI. While the engine might not be the star of the show, given the scant 2kW of extra power, the interior tech additions most certainly are.
Pricing starts from $22,490 for the 92TSI range (six-speed manual), plus the usual on-road costs. Our test variant in Comfortline specification is DSG-only and starts from $27,990. On our test example the only option over that pricing is metallic paint, running the cost up by $500 to $28,490 plus on-road costs.
The turbocharged 1.4-litre engine generates 92kW and 200Nm, while using an ADR claimed 5.4 litres per 100km on the combined cycle. On test, covering just over 250km with a 50km freeway cycle, the Golf returned an indicated 9.5L/100km.
It’s fair to say that the Golf was a little thirstier than we’d have liked, but with most of the running around done in heavy traffic, we can temper that response a little. Our test Golf was new too, barely run in, so you can expect that fuel consumption to improve a little over time. Keep in mind that even this base model Golf requires PULP.
Let’s take a brief look at those aforementioned tech additions. Along with a $700 price hike over the previous model (for the base 92TSI), Volkswagen recently announced that the base Golf 92TSI would also get the Composition Media 6.5-inch high-res touchscreen display. Gone is the ageing 5.0-inch display that was so far past its use-by date, it had started to curdle.
There’s also an App-Connect USB interface for Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and MirrorLink. The Golf 92TSI also gets a reverse-view camera as standard equipment. To this suite, the 92TSI Comfortline as tested adds niceties such as satellite-navigation as standard.
These additions have a twofold benefit in that they bring the Golf up to current standards, but they are also useable tech. Anyone who spends a fair bit of time behind the wheel slogging through the daily commute will appreciate these additions.
There’s not much point discussing Golf styling. This Golf looks pretty much like the Golf before it, which looks like pretty much every other Golf before that. There is good reason for the safety in styling mentality that Volkswagen takes, as there’s no point reinventing the wheel when buyers love the Golf as much as they do. Hence this is why VW is always describing every new Golf it releases as ‘evolutionary’ rather than ‘revolutionary’.
It’s refreshing to sample the reality of what a large European manufacturer like Volkswagen interprets as a relatively entry level model. This Golf, despite being at the cheaper end of the overall range price-wise, certainly isn’t in terms of comfort, ergonomics, and finish. The cabin is as quiet and insulated as the most expensive Golf in the range, and none of the touch surfaces feel harsh or cheap. The doors close with a solid thud and there’s a comforting feeling of insulation and quiet once you’re closed in.
The Comfortline seats are excellent, sculpted and comfortable and the material covering isn’t plasticky or harsh. It looks like it will handle some abuse too, which is crucial if this Golf is going to be a second car for the family. Part of the upmarket feel comes from the new entertainment system, which worked flawlessly on both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Callers reported that the Bluetooth connection was just as clear as that gained by the hard-wired system. Despite that, you’ll want your handset wired to the system at all times to get the benefit of the new system anyway.
The infotainment interface and controls couldn’t be easier to use, and important controls like juggling your music library via the touchscreen will take you seconds to familiarise yourself with. Steering wheel controls are plentiful enough without resorting to overkill and they never get in the way of what the steering wheel is actually there for driving.
We liked the small storage drawer ahead of the gear shifter. It’s almost big enough to fully conceal a larger smartphone and it provides a safe storage option for phones while the vehicle is in motion. Blokes will fit their wallets in there too, although it has to be said that those of you with larger hands will find the recessed USB input a little difficult to access.
The second-row seating is commodious enough for medium sized adults to occupy, even with a taller driver/passenger up front. Like the front seats, the second row is comfortable and contoured enough to keep you in place. Another highlight for this end of the pricing spectrum are the signature VW material-lined door pockets. This means no house keys or odds and ends rattling around in the Golf. It’s a small thing, but a very welcome feature.
The cabin, despite the Golf not being a physically large vehicle, manages to feel a lot bigger than it is. It’s something to do with the relationship between the seating position and the surface area of the glass, not to mention the slender (in modern terms) pillars. From the driver’s seat, or any of the passenger seats for that matter, the Golf feels airy and bright even when trimmed in black, like our test vehicle. Thud the doors closed, and you’re cocooned in comfort. We didn’t even notice any undue road or wind noise entering the cabin, even when travelling up to freeway speed.
We have a love/hate relationship with the Volkswagen DSG. Some are better than others and some seem better matched to one engine than they are to another. This particular pairing of a small capacity petrol engine and DSG isn’t great at city speeds. Once you’re up to speed it’s fine, remaining smooth and quiet and seemingly always in the right gear. It’s in the city at speeds below 50km/h where the DSG shows its shortcomings, suddenly lacking the buttery smooth response and drive experience you get from a conventional automatic.
Firstly, there’s a flat spot just off idle where nothing much happens after take off. You can find a way to drive around it, but the point is that you shouldn’t have to. We found it annoying when we wanted to make a quick getaway from the lights or take advantage of a gap in traffic to turn into a side street. Secondly, the DSG in this platform is a bit slow and dopey to engage, so when you’re shifting between drive and reverse there’s a few seconds of inactivity. This isn’t a huge issue unless you’re trying to execute a sneaky three-point turn, which is something you would probably do a lot if you live in the city.
The DSG is also hesitant and shunty at low speeds too. It doesn’t thrash and buck the Golf around uncomfortably, but you’ll certainly notice it, mainly when you’re rolling along at peak hour traffic speed. This is something worth noting, given how much time drivers spend in this kind of traffic in any of Australia’s large cities.
Some of the criticisms above relate as much to the small capacity petrol engine as they do the gearbox, and the age old rule of small engines certainly applies: keep the engine boiling along and you’ll be fine.
If you work the engine up to or near its redline, it’s much more likely to propel the Golf around without hesitation. The problem with the DSG is that it’s harder to do than it would be with a conventional manual gearbox. We realise that we’re a little spoilt these days, given the number of efficient engines that seem to deliver their best so lazily just off idle, but having to work an engine a little harder for results, like in the bad old days, feels like a laborious task.
If you’re in the mood to work the car, the Golf can be a quite nimble conveyance. It rewards positive inputs, decisive actions and a dash of enthusiasm. You can’t drive like that all day, every day, but the option is there should you wish to take it.
There’s a deftness to the Golf’s steering and braking that adds to the driving enjoyment in a segment that has become a little bland lately. The Golf retains that ‘go-kart’ feel that driving enthusiasts love so much and pine for in modern cars. It feels lighter than it is, handles beautifully and always feels surefooted.
While this Golf is designed for the cut and thrust of the city, it will put a smile on your face if you head out of the urban confines. This is courtesy of its sharp steering, all round balance, and chassis that is capable (reference the GTi or R) of dealing with a lot more power than what is on offer here.
While the MY16 Volkswagen Golf certainly isn’t a massive departure from its predecessors, it continues to deliver exactly what buyers expect of it with aplomb. Therein lies a measure of its success. Small hatchbacks are a sensible choice, but they can also deliver driving enjoyment and great value.
As we know, Volkswagen offers performance variants of the Golf for those buyers needing more grunt and ability, but this 92TSI Comfortline (or the more affordable trim grades for that matter) isn’t for that buyer. It’s for the city buyer on a tighter budget who cares about quality, comfort and the bottom line.