One thing is certain about the start of a new year and that’s everyone begins thinking about health, well-being and losing weight – even car manufacturers like Volkswagen!
Because it has launched the MkVII incarnation of the business car park stalwart, the VW Golf, with the headline statistic that it is up to 100kgs lighter than the out-going model. For the motoring purist, this promises nothing but good things especially in the light that the original GTi model tipped the scales back in 1977 at just 888kgs while the heaviest Golf produced, the MkV GTi, weighed in at a porky 1,700kgs plus – deep into cardiac arrest territory!
Of course, beyond just adding to driving pleasure, the real advantage of lower kerb weight is seen in a greater power-to-weight ratio, brighter performance from whatever the engine choice and better mpg and C02 efficiencies, affecting the all-important BIK rating for the corporate driver.
The bulk of the weight has been shed with the use of ‘hot’ pressed chassis members and a totally new all-aluminium engine, sharing no parts with the old Golf.
Naturally, despite losing the pounds, the new Golf is longer, wider and lower than the MkVI while boasting a chassis 23% stiffer.
How does all this laudable dieting affect the drive? Well, the car still feels very much ‘like a Golf’ with enough driver feed-back to promote some fairly rapid progress even with the modestly powered options I tested inn the shape of the 1.4-litre TSI 137 brake horsepower petrol and the 147 brake horsepower 2.0-litre diesel.
Both have almost identical performance (0-to-60mph in 8.4 and 8.6 secs respectively) with the oil-burner winning the ecology credentials claiming a claimed urban mpg figures of 56.6 against the petrol’s 47.9, in spite of its F1 derived ‘active cylinder technology’ to cut out two cylinders when not required.
But what was a bit of a revelation is that the diesel loses nothing in cornering capability to the petrol as one would expect from what would normally be a lighter power plant. That’s because, according to kerbweight figures quoted, the oil-burner is actually 8kgs lighter at just 1,280kgs!
This means that, at a time when diesels are losing ground to super-efficiency smaller petrol plants, here’s one that is the better choice for both economy and grin factor thanks to a much meatier boost of torque out of bends without the need of lots of revs. And the diesel is more than £900 cheaper!
One ‘old-school’ innovation is a manifold integrated into the cylinder head so that hot air gets pumped into the cabin as soon as the engine is turned on. Anyone old enough to remember the Daf and Lada hot-manifold air systems on a freezing morning will welcome this!
In all other aspects, both models sing from the well rehearsed VW song-sheet being superbly bit and fitted, ergonomic cabin with chunky switchgear and easy-to-read instruments.
Standard features include pre- and post-crash braking to mitigate accident damage, driver alerts, stop/start engines, semi-automatic climate control, Bluetooth connectivity, light-my-way auto lights on lock/unlock, media system with 5.8-inch colour touchscreen, DAB radio, iPod and MP3 connection, 16-inch alloys and heat insulated tinted glass.
The launch range sees prices start at £16,285 for the 1.2-litre TSI S model to £24,880 for the 2.0-litre TDI six-speed DSG auto.
The Golf is still a fine choice for the company car buyer who, let’s face it, will value that badge over many of its competitors.
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Engine: 2.0-litre TDI
Top Speed: 134mph
Economy: 68.9mpg (claimed)