Mild tweaks aim to keep the Golf at the peak of its powers
Has Volkswagen really done enough to distinguish the facelifted Golf from its hugely successful predecessor car that notched up more than 900,000 sales worldwide in 2016 alone?
In terms of exterior styling, the changes are extremely subtle even by Volkswagen’s conservative standards. It’s a similar story inside, where the seventh-generation Golfs orderly dashboard, intuitive switchgear layout ,superb driving position and high quality materials have been carried over with only detail modifications.
The big news, however, concerns the new turbocharged 1.5-litre direct injection four-cylinder powerplant.
It has Active Cylinder Technology, a system that allows it to switch off some cylinders on light throttle loads.
Bucking the downsizing trend, the new four-cylinder is a development of the Golf’s older turbocharged 1.4-litre engine. In its initial state of tune, as tested here, it kicks out 148bhp and l84lb ft to match the output of the engine it replaces.
The new engine is wonderfully flexible with a linear delivery and underlying determination from around 1500rpm onwards. It also provides sufficient resolve and verve to let you execute B-road overtaking manoeuvres with confidence and conviction.
The ratios of the Golf 1.5TSI Evo’s standard six-speed manual gearbox are perfectly suited to the characteristics of its engine, while its action is crisp and defined with weighty springing and a positive feel. Buyers can choose an optional seven-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission; it brings automatic shift properties but without any significant improvement in fuel economy compared to the manual.
The facelifted Golf continues to deliver sound and reassuring handling. It is not the most dynamic car in its class, but its direct steering, taut damping and excellent body control combine to give it tidy and dependable qualities in all conditions. The ride is firm by class standards but never harsh.
Also new is the range of digital display options in the cabin. The new 2017 model can be specified with the Active Info Display, which has a 12.3 inch screen as an alternative to the standard analogue instruments.
There’s also a new top-of-the-line 9.2 inch infotainment system called the Discover Pro. It offers full touch control together with gesture control in various menus. It can be combined with online services, including Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Mirror Link, as well as Volkswagen’s own Car-Net scheme.
Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Evo
Price: £20,000 (est)
Engine: 4-cyls, 1498cc, turbo, petrol
Power: 148bhp @ 5000rpm
Torque: 184lb ft @ 1500rpm
Gearbox: 6-spd manual
Kerb weight: 1294kg
Top speed: 134mph
Economy: 55.4mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 116g/km, 20%
Rivals: Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra
The upgrades are subtle, but they take the Golf beyond the reach of each and every hatchback rival