REVIEW DATE: 22 Jan 2008
By massaging the Volkswagen Golf's value proposition, the Match trim level has ensured that rivals have an even tougher task on their hands. Steve Walker.
If a man with his trousers tucked into his socks wearing an appalling day-glow sweater offers you a golf match, the chances are he's a golfer and you should respectfully decline. Unless, of course, you quite fancy a six-hour stint of rain-sodden misery. If a man dressed in a smart collar and tie offers you a Golf Match while you happen to be standing in the vicinity of a Volkswagen car showroom, the chances are he's trying to sell you a car and you may want to hear what he has to say.
Whereas golf is a game that even those who spend the best part of their waking lives struggling to master it love to hate, the Golf is a car of far less ambiguous appeal. What's not to like? We're talking about a family hatch that bristles with Teutonic efficiency and a certain classless quality through which its desirability has spanned social boundaries. The Match derivatives that we examine here look to extend that appeal yet further. Slotting into the middle to lower end of the Golf line-up with accessible prices and a bundle of equipment, it's like the peoples' trim level for the peoples' car.
Rather like the Golf itself, the Match trim level gets the basics right. Research has shown that while buyers in this £15,000 to £16,000 price bracket will take or leave many of the fripperies that manufacturers fit to their vehicles these days, they do want alloy wheels, air-conditioning and a decent stereo. The Match obliges. All Golfs get air-con so we can tick that off from the outset but in addition to the standard S specification, the Match models chuck in 15" Canberra ten-spoke alloy wheels and an eight speaker CD stereo with MPS compatibility.
"You can sense from just sitting inside the Golf that it's going to stand the test of time"
Volkswagen are not known for succumbing to the fads and trends that periodically circulate the industry, especially not where their rather straight-laced Golf is concerned, but someone must have decided that MP3 stereos are a winner and they've jumped on the bandwagon. The Match models actually feature a link-up cable secreted within the armrest so you can connect your iPod or other portable music player and listen to your painstakingly collated files through the car's stereo. Additional equipment on the Match includes a multifunction trip computer with controls on the leather-trimmed steering wheel. Outside, the bumpers, side rubbing strips and door handles all get body colouring.
The Golf Match models actually replace the SE derivatives in the line-up but they offer more equipment at a lower price so complaints are unlikely to be forthcoming. This move sets the Match up as a good bet for private buyers looking to maximise their Golf's equipment while minimising the cost. Indeed, Volkswagen are expecting big things for the Golf Match. Despite the limited choice being offered - buyers choose a 1.4-litre TSI petrol or the 1.9-litre TDI diesel and are stuck with the 5-door bodystyle- the trim level is predicted to account for one third of total Golf sales.
The two available engines tally well with the value for money emphasis of the Golf Match, the strengths of each lying more in the way of economy than performance. The 122bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged TSI petrol is available from £15,445 and can cover the sprint to 60mph in around 10s and achieve a top speed of around 120mph. Based on the original award-winning 1.4-litre TSI engine which combines a supercharger and a turbocharger to produce an impressive level of power from a small capacity engine, the 122bhp unit uses simply a sophisticated turbocharger and offers a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG gearbox.
Torque is increased substantially over the old 1.6 FSI petrol unit that was previously offered in this model, by nearly 30 per cent from 155 Nm to 200 Nm. The 1.4 TSI engine also brings fuel saving benefits: the combined consumption, for example, has increased from 42.2 mpg for the old 1.6-litre FSI to 44.8 mpg for the 122bhp 1.4-litre TSI. Carbon dioxide emissions are also reduced from 161g/km to 149g/km.
The diesel engine option (£16,225) of course betters its petrol counterpart's showing at the pumps, with a 53mpg average, and although its looks slightly slower on paper with an 11.3s 0-60mph sprint and 116mph to speed, it feels stronger on the road. There is a penalty to pay in terms of refinement with the oil-burner sounding coarse on start-up and more vocal than the petrol under normal driving conditions. It's also less smooth in its power delivery with a flat spot early in the rev range before the turbocharger does its thing but the mid range pulling power and economy still see the diesel edge it. The diesel is available with a 5-speed manual transmission or the excellent DSG twin-clutch auto box while the petrol option gets a 6-speed manual. There's also the option of ordering this car in frugal BlueMotion guise, where it returns emissions of just 119g/km and a combined fuel figure of 62.8mpg. There is a higher £16,745 upfront price to pay for this however.
Inside, the Golf is the class of the field in the family hatch sector. If you want vibrant design and eye-catching detailing this might not be the car for you but the layout and the quality of construction are from the top draw. There's ample space both in the front and in the rear with the driving position providing plenty of scope for adjustment and all the controls feeling reassuringly solid. You can sense from just sitting inside the Golf that it's going to stand the test of time far more resolutely that rival products which might appear glossier and more alluring on first inspection.
Safety equipment is very impressive on the Golf Match and on all Golf models for that matter. ABS brakes and ESP stability control are standard on all models but if the worst should come to the worst, there are twin front, side and curtain airbags to fall back on. To help boost security, central locking and an alarm are also fitted as standard.
The Volkswagen Golf is undoubtedly a highly polished family hatch product with far-reaching appeal. The only area where it did leave itself open to real criticism is that of cost with similarly-equipped rivals often weighing in significantly cheaper. The Match trim level has addressed this issue to an extent, with its tight pricing and an equipment list featuring the kind of extras that buyers tend to look for. You'll still pay a shade more for a Golf but its build quality, engineering and strong residual values mean that UK motorists will continue to be more than happy to do so and probably even happier.
The results below show the top GOLF deals on buyacar
|Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI GTD 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £23,880||Save £2,060|
|Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI GT 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £21,355||Save £2,320|
|Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TSI GTI 5dr hatchback|
|Price £24,395||Save £2,100|
|Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TSI GTI 5dr DSG [Performance Pack] hatchback|
|Price £26,574||Save £2,316|
|Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TSI GTI 3dr [Performance Pack] hatchback|
|Price £24,691||Save £2,129|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT GOLF DEALS|
|For GOLF MATCH|
|OVERALL||7.8 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|
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