REVIEW DATE: 09 Oct 2009
Volkswagen's Golf gets a big boost to its luggage capacity in estate form. Steve Walker reports.
Not one of the more exciting ways to buy a Volkswagen Golf, the Estate version nevertheless delivers the considerable qualities of the hatchback with a 505-litre boot. There should be plenty of family buyers who find it hard to turn up their noses at that.
In scratching around for criticisms that will stick to the imperious Volkswagen Golf, commentators usually settle on one of two things. They'll either call its design dull or suggest that it might be a little on the expensive side. You can almost hear the sound of straws being clutched at as they do this but, such as they are, these still constitute the Golf's weak points. That might not bode particularly well for the Golf Estate which, to most eyes, is a step up the frumpy scale from the hatchback and comes in around £500 more costly.
Many estate cars these days have been rechristened with some combination of words like tourer, sport and wagon by product executives keen to bestow some dynamism onto what is a very traditional family car formula. The Golf has stuck with plain old 'estate' which speaks both of Volkswagen's restrained approach in the marketing sphere and the Golf Estate's no-nonsense persona.
Perhaps, it doesn't need a fancy name to get its message across. The sixth generation Golf is a resoundingly slick package and the concept of one with more space in the back must certainly appeal to enough families to justify the estate's existence. The question is whether the car's practical qualities can overcome any perceived absence of excitement?
The big hitting engines from the Golf don't come into play with the estate version. The choice does include a worthwhile selection of the lower powered petrol and diesel units from the hatchback line-up. Contrary to what we've come to expect in utilitarian vehicles these days, the petrol engines are not there just to make up the numbers. Volkswagen is offering the 1.2-litre TSI turbocharged unit with 104bhp or the 1.4-litre TSI with 120bhp which can dip under the 10-second barrier for the 0-60mph sprint. Both are available with the user-friendly 7-speed DSG gearbox as well as the standard manual one.
The same gearbox choices are available with the majority of the diesel options. The 89bhp 1.6-litre TDI engine is manual only but both the higher powered 103bhp version of that engine and the range-topping 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI have a DSG auto option. The 2.0 TDI delivers a 9.7s 0-60mph time and a 130mph top speed.
"Beneath the tailgate is a 505-litre boot that will be at the centre of the Golf Estate's appeal."
It's the refinement levels in the Golf that really set it apart from rival models. Cabin noise is kept remarkably low whether it's wind, road or engine in origin. The independent suspension serves up a supple ride and deals extremely well with surface imperfections while still letting the driver know what the car is up to. The fine gearboxes and well-weighted speed-sensitive steering only add to what is probably the most rounded driving experience in a car this size.
The clean lines of the Golf are altered little to squeeze in the estate's extra rear-end capacity. The low, wide grille first seen on the Scirocco coupe merges with the headlamps at each end to form a single band across the car's nose. Below, the theme is mirrored by the air intake with fog-lamps at its extremities. The Estate is 335mm longer than the five-door hatch at 4,534mm and gets its own tail light design. Beneath the tailgate is a 505-litre boot that will be at the centre of the Golf Estate's appeal. The hatch can only muster 350 litres, so there really is a lot of room back there. With the back seats folded down, there's 1,495 litres of capacity which should be enough for most eventualities.
The cabin might lack some sparkle but its quality is a class apart. The instruments are tastefully designed with obvious Audi influences and illuminate in crisp white light. The controls function with typical efficiency and the plastics quality is hard to fault compared to the Golf's family hatch rivals. Rear legroom is adequate for tall adults so long as the front seats aren't pushed right back on their runners
There are S, SE and Sportline versions of the Golf Estate. All feature ABS and ESP, seven airbags including a driver's knee airbag, remote central locking, Climatic air conditioning, a CD stereo, plus body-coloured bumpers, door handles and electrically heated and adjustable door mirrors. The roof rails aren't body-coloured but they are standard and if you want alloy wheels, you'll need to upgrade to the SE or Sportline levels. There are also Bluemotion editions of each trim level which add efficiency modifications to the package.
There are less estate versions of family hatchbacks than there once were, partly due to the larger numbers of compact MPVs that fulfil a similar role. Despite this, most of the major players still persevere with an estate of some kind and the Golf version will need to see off challenges from load carrying versions of the Vauxhall Astra, Renault Megane, Skoda Octavia and Ford Focus. All of these cars will undercut the Volkswagen on price and that will be an important factor in this utilitarian sector of the market but the Golf's extra quality will be tangible as, eventually, will its superior residual values.
The BlueMotion models will be the most cost-effective Golf Estates to own. As in the standard Golf line-up, the BlueMotion badge equates to low rolling resistance tyres, a battery regeneration system, gearchange indicator lights, a trip computer and a hill-hold function to stop the car rolling backwards when pulling away up a gradient. It makes for a seven per cent improvement in fuel economy meaning that the 103bhp 1.6-litre TDI car returns 62.8mpg in standard guise and 67.3mpg with BlueMotion technology.
The Golf Estate is a Golf with more room in the back but so, in their own way, are the Golf Plus and the Touran MPV. It all makes the more practical end of VW's mid-sized car line-up seem a little overcrowded but the manufacturer will tell you that it's simply catering for the diverse requirements of its customers. Offering the considerable qualities of the Golf hatch with extra luggage space makes good sense and the Golf Estate looks a well executed car in every respect. The upfront price may count against it but many will still decide that, out of all the compact family cars in this price bracket, the Golf Estate is the one to go for.
The results below show the top GOLF deals on buyacar
|Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI GT 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £21,355||Save £2,320|
|Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI GT 5dr DSG diesel hatchback|
|Price £22,613||Save £2,477|
|Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI ACT GT 5dr hatchback|
|Price £20,906||Save £2,264|
|Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDI 105 SE 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £18,720||Save £1,990|
|Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDi 105 BlueMotion 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £16,000||Save £4,015|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT GOLF DEALS|
|For GOLF ESTATE RANGE|
|OVERALL||7.7 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||9|
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