VOLKSWAGEN Golf 7 Review


VOLKSWAGEN Golf 7 - Page - 1
Even though being a star like the Volkswagen Golf seems like the most desirable thing in the car world, the German compact's life is far from easy. While most other vehicles can come up with anything they please, the Golf has to conceal the tons of changes brought by a new generation, so that
the bloodline is not disturbed.

And the seventh incarnation of the German compact has a mission that's more difficult than ever. That's mainly because the model it replaces became known as “five and a half” rather than six. The Volkswagen Golf 6 lost some of its aura due to Volkswagen’s cost-cutting strategies. The vehicle still kept its scepter in the class that was created by its ancestor, but the new model couldn't afford to repeat this history.

To make sure that the questionable plot of the Golf 6 is left behind, the seventh incarnation of the vehicle is underpinned by the carmaker’s all-new modular MQB
platform. And the things that sit on top of the new architecture are as just as fresh. Last time we checked, features like Adaptive Cruise Control belonged to longer vehicles, but the Golf has no problem in introducing this, and others, to the compact segment.

Being a Golf, our test car did its best to prove that it's a worthy successor for the iconic Beetle. In its quest to prove this, it used the second less powerful petrol engine in the range, the 105 hp version of the 1.2 TSI. Fortunately, the day was saved by the now-famous DSG gearbox. The vehicle used the mid-range Comfortline equipment level, a very popular choice among buyers.

As we approached out test car, we noticed that it was finished in a rather confused shaded of red, Sunset Red Metallic. Not the brightest start for our interaction then. Nevertheless, everything that's underneath the paint is waiting to be tested, so we quickly get going.

A glance at the seventh incarnation of the Golf simply tells you that the car is more planted and the road, as well as hinting about an upmarket move.

To achieve this impression, Volkswagen has pulled a few rabbits out of its designer hat. It all starts with the proportions. The company has taken advantage of the new Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) platform: the Golf 7 has grown 2.2 in. (56 mm) in length, while its wheelbase has been increased by 2.3 in. (59 mm), with the front wheels being pushed 1.7 in. (43 mm) forward. The width was slightly boosted, by 0.5 in. (13 mm). while the car is now 1.1 in. (28 mm) lower.

In addition, the traditional Golf C pillar has been pushed backwards and the combined effect of the changes is that the hood seems longer, while the passenger compartment is pushed backwards. These are features usually seen on higher tear vehicles. Neat trick.

And the engineers have one more ace up their sleeves, which is perhaps even more important: despite the increase in size, Volkswagen’s Golf is now about 220 lbs (100 kg) lighter.

The Volkswagen Golf 7 greets the world with what has already become established as the carmaker’s new family identity. You could swear that the bonnet steals a few moves from the aftermarket world, where such a dominant appearance is called a “bad boy” look. The radiator grille is constrained, as if it wants to emphasize the car’s green credentials. Below sits Volkswagen’s polite smile, a body-colored area that surrounds the lower air intake.

The profile shows a character line that runs the entire length of the car, but is interrupted by the rather extrovert wheel arches. These flex their muscles as if they were proud they can house rims of up to 18 inches in diameter. The aforementioned line makes the entire thing look lower, it gives the car a sense of purpose.

Look closely at the Golf 7’s rear end and you’ll notice that, compared to the Golf 6, there are new lines everywhere. The tailgate now goes considerably lower and this makes the car look younger, more open to your proposals. And while its predecessor seemed to be experimenting with its taillights, the current model looks very confident about their design.

The rear apron comes to complete this game of confidence, showing lines that stand out and also using a diffuser-like element, which flows smoothly into the bumper.

The cabin of the Volkswagen Golf has had to play a complex game over the years. It has to be premium, but without being... premium, as it can’t cannibalize its Audi A3 sibling. With the seventh generation, the Golf is getting closer than ever to crossing that line.

The changes are subtle, so it probably takes a forum member to name them exactly. Nevertheless, each and every element of the cabin was touched, so there’s a feeling of freshness when you install yourself into the seat. The shapes are fluent, they flow into each other, despite the fact that we’re mostly dealing with straight lines.

The Golf's center console is now driver-orientated and better integrated into the dash. This acts as a huge light bulb for a colony of insects, catching our eye from the moment we open the door. Speaking of Audi, the lines of the console seem like they belong to this carmaker rather than to Volkswagen. And it’s design is not all, as the console's contents are even more worthy of attention.

If the vast gray trimming of our test car reminded us of high-end Samsung smartphones rear covers, the touchscreen interface on the console reinforced this impression.

Even the most basic Golf now includes such a screen and digging into the list of options can take you all the way to an 8-inch unit. From the middle-range 5.8-inch unit up, the system also includes a proximity sensor which switches between menu styles when your fingers come near the screen. To fully convince you that a smartphone has been buried in your dashboard, the system also offers a swiping function for the menus. The interface proved to be intuitive and responded to our commands with ease.

The seats have received attention too and even though they don’t look as plush as those belonging to larger vehicles, they certainly match the latter’s level of comfort during a long trip. The driver receives the traditional low position, which brings a bit of a sporty feeling. This is sustained by the steering wheel, which, despite being shared with other VW models, shows excellent ergonomics and styling.

Speaking of ergonomics, this is one of the strong points of the Golf - everything is where it should be. The hours and hours of study give you the feeling that you magically find a control when you need it.

And like any good story, this one has a nice frame, as the interior space has grown noticeably. It would probably be much easier to list the areas where the Golf 7 doesn’t provide better accommodation than its predecessor.

The interior of the Golf has always been a strong point for the buying decision and the seventh generation shows that it has learned this lesson well.

For the urban part of our test drive we decided to throw the worst of the city at the Golf 7. Thus, we grabbed the car by the wheel and took on a cross-city road in the midst of the morning rush hour.

The eyes of the drivers around us reveal warfare-like intentions, but the Golf can’t be bothered. The excellent soundproofing keeps most of the urban rage out of the car, it offers us more than enough peace of mind to focus on what we’re doing.

Now that the interior has gone a bit beyond the usual neutral attitude, the time spent inside the car has more sense of purpose, the boredom take longer to install. And when it does, you can simply step up your game and ask a tad more from the car. The Golf’s agility means that you can exploit the openings in the traffic when these show up. The car responds swiftly to your inputs, but when you’re driving spirited inside the city, you do feel the turbo lag.

The 1.2-liter turbocharged engine doesn’t respond sharply enough if you’re in a hurry under 2,000 rpm, exactly the area where you usually find yourself during normal driving. The only way to tackle this is to push the pedal really hard, so that the DSG gearbox drops one gear, but such a maneuver simply seems to much of a hassle in city traffic. And while putting the gearbox in the Sport mode does keep the revs from dropping into that undesired area, it’s brings the same feeling of exaggeration.

Apart from that, the turbo-fed powerplant doesn’t run out of resources inside the city. In addition, the unit makes a great couple with the dual-clutch gearbox, with
our test car returning an urban efficiency of 33.6 mpg (7 l/100 km). The pre-downsizing 1.6-liter engine which the TSI engine replaces could only dream of such a value.

At a certain point, we run out of patience and swerve away from the jam we were stuck in. Of course, this means going through a neighborhood with roads that look like the suspension testing area of an automotive proving grounds facility.

Our test car is fitted with the most basic suspension setup available, which means that the dampers are passive and at the back we have a torsion beam. Even so, the car holds its own against the broken asphalt, isolating us from what goes on underneath. The only complain we have is that the shocks generated by larger bumps are a bit too loud.

As for the quick stops included in most urban journeys, these are handled with ease. Parking is a piece of cake, especially if you sprinkle the car with the optional all-round sensors and rear-view camera.

And if one of these stops happens to see you enter possession of multiple shopping bags, the Golf will treat you with decency, which comes in the form of a 13.4 cu. ft. (380 l) boot.

A single moment of thinking about it is enough to offer you the set of expectations you’ll be using when driving the Volkswagen Golf 7 for the first time. Nevertheless, the car needs just as little to shatter some of them, proving that the differences to the previous generation are greater than you’d think.

We were still early into our journey when the feeling that we are surrounded by a car that’s at least a Passat installed. The soundproofing deserves serious credit for this, as it allows normal conversation to take place even at stupendous speeds.

The 2013 Volkswagen Golf also shows little worry about the noise and vibrations that usually affect non-premium cars. The only moments when we made the thing shake a bit was when we asked the 1.2-liter engine to pull away from 1,000 rpm in seventh gear.

The low revs reminded us that we have to check the trip computer for the fuel efficiency, with the long-term value sitting at 32 mpg (7.4 liters per 100 km). As for a highway cruise at 80 mph (130 km/h) saw the car returning 42 mpg (5.6 l/100 km).

We took the Golf on both B-roads and highways and the car quickly finds its place, providing a pleasing ride. The difference in compliance between the adaptive and the passive dampers is not great. Yes, the experience is smoother with the superior technology, but the standard setup also provides a pleasant ride. The gap narrows even further when comparing the torsion beam rear suspension vehicles with the multilink-gifted models.

The standard Golf is far from being an adrenaline generator, but if you’re picturing yourself in a GTI, the car is happy to go along with your imagination. The turn-in is keen, while the steering offers balanced weight and feedback.

After all, nobody could blame you for the occasional sporty driving ambitions. That’s because the front axle now features the XDS electronic limited slip differential simulacrum, which was previously only available on the GTI.

We’re in the middle of a very long right hander that allows the little 1.2 TSI to pack more and more momentum into the car. The understeer is kept in check well and since the systems intervene early and act progressively, you never quite feel the intrusion.

As for the engine, once you go past the 2,000 rpm lag break even point, the delivery is linear and the resources are decent. The unit feels pokier than a 1.6-liter naturally aspirated engine it theoretically replaces. Even with this near-entry level engine, the Golf can sustain an Autobahn drive at respectable speeds.

The unit isn’t particularly keen on providing a pleasant audio experience though and you get the feeling of a struggle once you go beyond 4,000 rpm. This is the reason for which it’s best to avoid the “Sport” mode of the 7-speed DSG. Sticking to the transmission’s normal mode means that you have to be quite generous with the throttle at times, but driving this way feels more natural.

Under heavy loads, the DSG insists on shifting gears just above 6,000 rpm, but we found ourselves using the manual and upshifting quickly after passing 5,000 rpm. That's because when you climb past the aforementioned level, the extra revs don’t seem to pay off.

Our fingers also went searching for the paddles on a few occasions. We know they would make as much sense here as a watermelon on the grill, but they’d be fun.

There’s a much tighter turn coming towards us and even though the ESP can’t be switched off, the car responds well to trailbraking, chewing on the bend nicely. We test the brakes once again shortly after the straight line that follows and the smooth pedal modulation is doubled by reassuring stopping power.

The next corner sees us cruising in sixth gear, as we are pleased by the interesting nature of the car’s apparently neutral character. In fact, the Volkswagen Golf is not a colorless car, as among its various parts, we find many that support comfort and some which target dynamics.
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autoevolution Apr 2013
In the city
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81user rating 141 votes
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