"You bought a Volkswagen??", "Why would you buy from the company that had that dieselgate controversy?", "Their DSG gearboxes are so unreliable so you will regret it!"
Oh yes, you will hear it all and we did, particularly when going from a Mazda SP25, which is seen as more reliable. Adding to others' curiosity was that our Mazda 3 was only two years old - I have done a purchase and departure review on that car on this site. When we purchased that SP25 the search began with "luxury" brands, but the charm of the SP25 and cheaper cost won us over.
So why not go back to the Mazda stable this time? Well the vehicle that was the close second last time was the Golf GTI and frankly the new Mazda 3, whilst more upmarket than the version we owned, now feels small inside, with shrunken boot space and a substantial jump in the price.
So again we looked at the best from BMW, Mercedes and we threw in the i30N for good measure, but we also wanted to revisit the GTI.
"But you didn't buy a GTI," I hear you thinking. The Golf range very quickly showed itself to have the mix of luxury and features we were looking for.
But what about the reputation and quality issues and how did the GTI purchase change to a Highline?
Firstly VW was not the only company to have been found to be liberal with their emissions testing, and in their case it was the diesel and not the petrol versions we were looking at. The DSG issues are not as common as people make out and a little internet research and talking with some VW repairers will show light on the usual issues.
The DSG is an automated manual meaning there are clutches in there that can be damaged in the same ways as a manual clutch. Driving in heavy traffic at 5km/h means the clutch is not fully engaged (just like riding the clutch) and if done regularly will prematurely kill it. Given we live in a regional area we were not concerned about this (although time will tell).
So, why not the GTI? On the day I went to drive the GTI there was this rather nice looking Highline with R-line option. To me it looked nicer than the GTI, so I had to give it a drive. 110kW and 250Nm doesn't sound like much of a challenge for the GTI, but in Sport mode the R-line definitely feels better than the quoted 8.2 seconds to 100km/h. The R-line package also brings leather seats from the Golf R as well as some of the body kit. Ours also has the upgraded audio package including larger infotainment screen. To get all these features in the GTI meant parting with another $10,000 to get to 100km/h a whole 1.5 seconds faster and to have a noisier exhaust note when accelerating (you'll see a trend in my purchases that this value is important).
After owning the Highline R-line for a little over a month we are very happy with our purchase. It has all the safety features of the BMW and Mercedes as well as many of the "like to have" features. Whilst it is not as powerful as the GTI and lacks the adjustable dampers, you can feel and hear the difference when you select Sport mode and take control of gearshifts with the paddle shifters.
The first month has been urban travel only and has shown an average of 8.2 litres per 100 kilometres of 95 RON. The seats are very comfortable, the rear is roomy with great head room and a good view through the large side windows. Boot space is good with the option to drop the floor to a lower level. You get a space saver spare (which has the subwoofer living in it because of the Dynaudio option). Ride is a little firm - as the R-line package includes lowered sports suspension which is not adjustable - but it isn't rock hard.