This is the first brand new car I have ever bought, so it is fair to say I did a decent amount of research online before settling on a few cars I wanted to test drive. The short list came down to the Ford Focus Titanium, Mazda 3 SP25 GT and the Golf. Being self-employed I had the benefit of being able to purchase it through the company, with the idea being to turn over the car every 3-4 years. As such, I was not as concerned with warranty and servicing cost as I would have been if I were buying it personally. That would have brought the Hyundai i30 and Kia Cerato into the mix.
With all three on the short list around the $35k mark on road, it really came down to personal preference, and that is where the Golf's interior and engine won me over. I felt the engine was more refined than the other two and having the low-down torque delivered so smoothly made it much more enjoyable to drive. The advertised efficiency was also impressive and the real world numbers have not been too far off with an average of about 6.5 litres per 100 kilometres since new. The interior fit and finish felt like a step up from the other two options as well, so that made my mind up.
I know the styling is not for everybody with some thinking it is boring. It has looked the same throughout the generations but I quite like that. It’s confident in its own skin and doesn’t need to try too hard with unnecessary design elements. It also means, looks-wise, it won’t age as quickly and like a good pair of jeans, won’t ever go out of style.
The Golf really is a great little car to live with. Spending most of its time in and around town, it is so easy to drive and has really good visibility. The steering is light and accurate, which makes for easy manoeuvrability, and the front and rear sensors come in very handy in shopping centre car parks. I was also able to get the dealer to throw in the driver assistance package which is very useful. The radar cruise control makes freeway driving a breeze (and is very easy to use), and the blind spot monitoring is also a great thing to have. I would not buy a new car without these features now. The park assist feature though, I have only ever used it once and still feel it is a bit of a gimmick. Don’t get me wrong, it works very well, but it is only really useful for the smallest of spaces which I usually try to avoid anyway for fear of touch parking which is rife where I live.
The infotainment system is fairly straightforward and easy to navigate. Apple CarPlay makes life very easy with the ability to activate Siri from the steering wheel and use voice commands to make calls, get directions, play music etc. Having a wireless CarPlay connection would make it even better but I assume that will arrive with the next generation.
I have three young kids and whilst it would be a struggle to get three car seats across the back (I’m sure it would be possible) it is a comfortable place for two of them. They have enough leg room and good visibility out the windows, which means longer trips are generally fuss-free.
Storage is also very good in the Golf and that was another feature that got it over the line for me. The boot is surprisingly big for a small car and doesn’t have trouble swallowing a set of golf clubs and folding buggy, a few medium size bags, or even the kid’s bikes if you take out removable boot cover. The 60:40 split of the rear seats offers extra versatility if you need to fit in anything bigger. There are also some useful compartments up front like small drawers under the front seats and a little compartment in the dash on the driver’s side. The door pockets have plenty of space for drink bottles and other goodies and the lining helps to avoid rattling.
All positive so far, but there are a couple of things that I feel could be improved - the stop/start system being one of them. I get that it is a system to try and save fuel, but it is not seamless enough and results in very jerky take off if you are too heavy on the throttle. I resort to turning it off every time I get in, which is easy enough but I would love it if you could somehow set the default to off instead of on.
Another thing that I find strange is the absence of a middle step/notch when opening the front doors. I may be missing something but my experience has been there are usually three steps on the door, or at least the driver’s door. The Golf has the first step but then nothing until the door is fully open and almost perpendicular to the car. When parking on a hill (which is often for me) or in a carpark, a middle step would be really useful. There would be less need to worry so much about bumping neighbouring cars or having the door close on you when trying to hop in or out.
So overall I would strongly urge anyone considering a small hatchback to take a look at the Golf. Admittedly is not for everyone but it is a great all-round package with good dynamics and versatility, and it is something that is very easy to live with on a day-to-day basis.