The new Golf is, predictably, still a Golf. Thats the natural order of things and how life should be. We love the 122 PS-version of the 1.4 TSI Golf SE, awarding it a carwow score of ten – and the last time we did that was when we reviewed Volvo V40, so its a pretty rare occurrence.
So the more powerful TSI engine with 140 PS engine has got to be better, surely, especially when its fitted into a top-of-the-range GT model? With a specification like that, what could possibly go wrong?
Everything youve read about the seventh-generation Golf is true. Its lower, longer, wider, and lighter than the model it replaces, which has done great, but subtle, things to the way it looks.
Premium, of course, and conservative (with a small c) the Golf embodies the cautious, frugal, and very sensible European middle classes. Youll never see one with bulging wings, extreme spoilers, or with a candy-flip paint finish well, not until it reaches its third owner, anyway.
This is a Good Thing; the Golf takes you effortlessly from the school run to the opera via the supermarket, something confident and successful people appreciate more than money. Thats why they buy a Golf in the first place.
The feeling of success and discreet privilege extends to the Golfs interior, especially in GT trim, which adds sports seats trimmed with Alcantara, tinted rear windows, and a multi-function steering to the already generous trim levels of the S and SE.
Generous? Yes, the new Golfs are very generously trimmed, partly because of the savings made possible by new manufacturing techniques and partly to help residuals.
But dont waste time worrying about VWs motivation, because the equipment levels are staggering: 5.8 colour screen, digital radio, Bluetooth, Stop/Start and battery regeneration, ABS, ESP, seven-airbags, automatic post-collision braking, Driver Alert, PreCrash protection (which closes the windows and tensions the seatbelts), Automatic Distance Control with Front Assist, and City Emergency Braking.
The GT trim, as tested here, also gets satellite navigation, parking sensors, 17 alloys, lowered suspension, alcantara interior, sports seats, fog-lights and electric door mirrors.
The only significant extras are (the very good) Park Assist and (the not quite so useful) Lane Assist and High Beam Assist.
The basics are good too; flawless ergonomics, plenty of room both front and back, huge practicality, and the sense of well being that all manufacturers aim for but few achieve. Very Golf-like, in fact.
The TSI 140 drives rather nicely. Not as nicely as the 122, it has to be said, and thats only because VW fit 10mm lower suspension to the GT and 17-inch alloy wheels with 45-section tyres rather than the SEs 16-inch and 55-section. Yes, theyve ruined the ride to give you something that some (ill-informed) consumers consider to be an improvement. It isnt.
Other than the harsh ride, something that it is hard to ignore on the poorly maintained roads that comprise the UKs road network, the TSI is pretty darned good. A sweet gear change and highly effective brakes conspire with decent steering to make a pretty effective fist of turning the Golf into a semi-warm hatchback. (And we cant deny that the extra power is nice to have, even if it doesnt make itself that noticeable in everyday driving.)
The 1.4-litre TSI with 140 PS and 184 lbs ft of torque is the top-of-the-range petrol engine, and deservedly so. Its a sweet-revving thing with bags of torque throughout the normal working range that makes it feel more powerful than it is.
Sixty-two miles per hour sneaks up in a credible 8.4 seconds and the top speed is 131mph; neither is startling but neither is too shabby, either. Fuel economy is rated at 58.9mpg according to the official combined figure, something that is helped by this engines party piece, Active Cylinder Technology (ACT).
ACT works seamlessly and unobtrusively to shut down the two middle cylinders when they arent needed. When this happens, a message appears on the dashboard, which is just as well because youll never feel it happening. And that message triggers something inside you, something primeval and urgent, something that makes you want to trigger it again and again and again.
And its easy to do it; 70 on a motorway is easy-peasy on two cylinders, as is gentle acceleration. Its good fun and good for the environment and good for your pocket; a genuine win all round and something that we were all talking about over lunch.
Value for Money
We come across the first stumbling block here, because this car costs a not inconsiderable 22,960, although it does sit in Tax band B and C, so paying for your annual road tax shouldnt be too onerous.
Resale values should be strong too, which will help balance the books, but we cant help feeling that the cheaper 122 offers better value for money and a sweeter ride.
The new Golf is sensational. It looks great, its extraordinarily well built, and drives very well indeed. That it deserves nine out of ten is beyond doubt. The debate to be had is whether it deserves that final mark, the one that turns a very good car into an outstanding one.
For us, the firm ride and the high-ish cost of this 1.4 TSI ACT GT means that it just misses out, being pipped to the post by the TSI 122. Its not a bad car, far from it, its just a very, very good one rather than an exceptional one, and for that you can blame the marketing team who, no doubt and with good cause, think that people want lower suspension with their higher trim levels.
Now, if only you could buy the TSI 140 GT with standard suspension…
We’ve negotiated around 10% off RRP savings on the new Mk7 Golf with official VW dealers. Sign-up to receive quotes from dealers on the new Golf you want and if you want to buy then you buy directly from them and they’ll deliver the car to your do. More details on our 2013 VW Golf deals page.
For more information check ourbuying guide to the Volkswagen Golfwith more reviews, prices, stats, photos and videos.