We’ll get the name out of the way first. The ‘SV’ in Golf SV stands for ‘SportsVan’.
No, the Golf SV isn’t particularly sporty and realistically it’s not much of a van either, being only fractionally larger than the Golf it’s based on and offering up less luggage space than the Golf Estate (500 litres versus 605).
However, ever since Renault introduced its Megane Scenic (later renamed simply Scenic) in the late 1990s, there’s been a strong market for regular family cars turned tallboy wagons.
Buyers like the headroom as it makes the car feel more spacious. It gives you a more commanding, secure-feeling driving position. And it makes loading kids, dogs or general “stuff” a whole lot easier than stooping down into a regular car. At the same time, there’s barely any compromise in performance or economy.
Or handling, as it turns out. At 1,578mm the SV is 126mm taller than the regular Golf, but importantly it’s a little wider, has an extra 5cm between the wheels and it’s a tad longer too. The slightly greater stance means it feels little different from the Golf to drive. It has the same slick yet feel-free steering, rides bumps in the same composed manner and grips to more or less the same degree.
You don’t get a lot of side support from the seats when you start driving a little quicker, but few will treat the SV like a hot hatchback. In terms of comfort, it’s more than up to its family duties. Driver and front passenger get plenty of legroom, and there’s even a handy shelf for your right foot when you’re whisked along by the cruise control.
Rear seat passengers do well too – while we couldn’t test the car from the back seat, a brief poke around revealed acres of legroom, a couple of useful tray tables and some cubby holes. Less appealing was the overly firm central rear seat – you’ll either have to let your three children argue over who sits there, or trade up to the more accommodating Touran instead.
The gearshift slots cleanly and noise from our 1.6-litre TDI diesel test car wasn’t too intrusive, which makes a change from other recent 1.6 TDIs we’ve driven. There’s little remarkable about the engine (save perhaps its 72.4mpg claimed economy) but as VW told us, it’s likely to be the best-seller. Driven out of town, we returned as much as 60mpg, and while the TDI has only five gears to call upon it sits at a nice economical 2,000rpm at 70mph.
VW has been sensible with the SV’s glass area too, and while it can’t quite defeat the wide, hard to see-around A-pillars of other modern cars, forward, rear and over-the-shoulder visibility is pretty good. It is, as we discovered, an easy and relaxing car to drive whatever road you’re faced with.
VW says this Golf SV 1.6 TDI SE will be the biggest selling model in the SV range, and we don’t doubt them. As a family car, it does pretty much everything right – it’s spacious, frugal, easy to drive and feels built to the same standards of quality that VW buyers have always enjoyed.
We do have one reservation – at £22,585, an unadorned version of our test car seems quite pricey. Diesel SVs do start at £20,695 (with less power and less kit in S trim) and SVs as a whole begin at £18,875 for a 1.2 TSI S. That’s around £500 more respectively than the Golf Estate, which has more outright luggage space. But to ensure familial bliss with greater space and better visibility, we suspect the SV might be worth the extra.
Find out more about the Golf SV
Our Golf SV review compares the opinions of the UK’s leading car critics, meaning you don’t have to trawl the web to make your mind up. Simple!