The Volkswagen Golf TDI is the eponymous choice for drivers wanting a safe place to put their money – and it’s not just private buyers either, given the Golf’s position as the number one choice for employees who are allowed to choose their own company cars too.
In recent years though, the halo has slipped just a little; not because the Golf has gone bad but because others caught it up. Has this, the seventh iteration of the Golf, regained its headroom?
It’s like a Golf, but bigger, neater, and even better looking. When you first see one in isolation you’ll be hard-pressed to see the difference between it and the sixth generation but examine them side-by-side and the difference is more obvious.
The use of the MQB (Modularer Querbaukasten) platform or Modular Transverse Matrix means that the front wheels are set further back, giving a longer bonnet, helping to give the look of a premium car from a higher sector. Tight shut-lines and a glossy paint job help too, of course.
It doesn’t just look bigger – it is. The new Golf is longer than the model it replaces (by 56mm) and has a longer wheelbase too; at 2,637mm, it’s 59mm longer between the wheels, helping interior space. Crucially, and importantly, it’s lighter too. Despite being packed with even more equipment (safety and comfort) it’s up to 100kgs lighter too, helping agility and fuel consumption. (All Mk7 Golf dimensions).
It’s a safe, clever design, but not a startlingly beautiful one; VW know their customers, and none will be upset by the latest design.
Each generation has moved the quality of the interior fixtures and fittings up a notch, and the 2013-model is no exception. The quality is exceptional and the execution is flawless; think Audi three years ago and you’ve got it nailed.
The driving position is perfect, with a wide range of adjustments that will suit drivers of all sizes and ages; the motoring journalists on the launch I attended varied from the tiny to the supersize and we all agreed that there is little to fault with the Golf’s ergonomics.
Leg and headroom is generous, and the Golf is truly big enough to act as the family runabout for anyone with three or fewer children, no matter what their age. It’s practical too, and the boot now holds 380 litres, up 30 on the mk6 and the variable height boot floor can be lowered by 100mm. Clever.
Equipment is generous. The basic ‘S’ model gets 5.8” colour screen, digital radio, Bluetooth, Stop/Start and battery regeneration, ABS, ESP, seven-airbags, and automatic post-collision braking. Moving up to the SE-trim level of our test car adds Driver Alert, PreCrash protection (which closes the windows and tensions the seatbelts), Automatic Distance Control with Front Assist, and City Emergency Braking.
Part of the reason for this is that the MQB production line makes it cheaper to produce the Golf, enabling VW to load the Golf with extra goodies. The other is that it helps resale values. Either way the consumer gets a great car that’s loaded with more equipment than they have any right to expect.
You don’t expect the Golf to be a sports car, do you? Good, because it isn’t, it’s something far better: it’s a rewarding car to drive in every sense of the word. If you pootle along it’ll act as your compliant and faithful servant, tending to your every need without making a fuss about it. And when you crank it up a notch it’ll make a pretty good fist of urging you along too, something that the ‘driver profile selection facility’ (a first on a Golf) helps, offering Eco, Sport, Normal and Individual modes to tailor engine mapping amongst other things.
If you opt for the Adaptive Chassis Control a fifth option – Comfort – is also offered. Which might be handy, as rough roads and big potholes do sometimes set your teeth on edge; the Golf TDI isn’t as firm as an Audi, but it isn’t far off…
The gearbox is lovely but I missed a sixth ration in this, the 1.6-litre SE. The brakes work seamlessly and unobtrusively – but then you knew that they would, didn’t you? The Ford Focus might handle slightly better but it doesn’t match the Golf’s all-round opulence, something that few would trade for slightly more precision in the handling.
The 1.6 TDI 105 BMT engine produces 105PS and 184 lbs ft from its four cylinders and 16 valves, which is enough. Just. It’ll hit 62mph in a pedestrian 10.7 seconds before going onto a decent top speed of 119mph. The result is that while it might take a while to reach motorway cruising speeds once it’s there it’ll sit there very happily for hour after hour.
And you won’t need to stop for fuel too often, either. This Golf 1.6 TDI 105 will return up to 74.3mpg on the official combined cycle, so 65mpg+ should be achievable under real world conditions and use.
Subjectively it feels lively, and isn’t too noisy, but a later turn in the 2.0-litre model shows that the extra power is very welcome and would probably suit most drivers better as it doesn’t have the 1.6-litre’s tendency to feel slightly breathless at times…
Value for Money
Our car, fitted with the 1.6-litre diesel engine and SE trim costs £20,500 on the road and qualifies for zero road tax thanks to a CO2 emissions figure of 99g/km.
It isn’t a cheap car then, but it provides excellent value for money, and as we’ve seen, resale values should be much better than average, helping you to balance the books on a whole-life basis.
If you asked 100 motoring journalist which car they would recommend, more than 90 per cent would probably suggest a Golf, and most would suggest a diesel-engined model – and with good cause. The Golf TDI has always been the default middle-class option: safe, durable, and decent to drive. And given Volkswagen’s R&D budget it’ll come as no surprise to you that the seventh generation Golf is even better than ever.
It is, once again, the best car in its class – just explore the petrol-engined models too, won’t you?
To save 10% on the new Mk7 Golf check out our VW Golf deals page. Receive quotes directly from VW dealers and buy directly from them.
For more information on the 2013 Golf, check out our full guide to the Volkswagen Golf with reviews, user reviews, stats, photos and videos.