Test Drives

Volkswagen Golf 1.2 TSI review – Poor man’s Golf


SINGAPORE – Want to eat your cake but not have to pay through your nose to have it? This
addition to the Volkswagen Golf range is aimed at you, then.

It slots in at the bottom of the Golf’s pricing ladder by doing without fancy extras and
getting by on 1.2-litre power.

That might seem tiny, but What the engine lacks in size it makes up for with heart. Like all
the Golfs, the 1.2 is turbocharged, so there’s a basic liveliness to the way it gets going.
The engine works well at town speeds, getting the Golf rolling smartly and punting it along
with other traffic in a way that doesn’t really leave you wishing for more power.

It’s only when you put pedal to floor that the engine reveals its lack of top-end fizz, but
the seven-speed twin-clutch auto does a lot to keep the 1.2 turbo operating in its sweet
spot most of the time.

If you’re one of those sceptics who doesn’t believe that such a small engine could pull the
skin off a banana, the Golf 1.2 should convince you otherwise. And if it doesn’t, nothing

(On the flipside, if you’re one of those resentful sods who doesn’t think anyone should be
driving a V12 car in Singapore, the Golf should be your poster boy for the idea that you can
only go so fast here, too.)

Mind you, while the Golf 1.2 has enough performance to set the baseline for adequacy in the
market, its equipment list is similarly basic.

You do get dual-zone climate control manual air conditioning, a trip computer and a touchscreen-controlled sound
system basic monochrome display unit – our test car had a slightly higher spec than the regular 1.2s. The lights and wipers switch themselves on when needed. But that is pretty much it in the way of toys.

However, the Golf 1.2 comes with seven airbags and stability control, which are worthwhile
features to have.

Anyway the main proposition here, to put things crudely, is that the 1.2 TSI is meant to be the poor man’s Golf. The car’s final price will only be out next week, but it should save you an estimated $8,000 over the next Golf up, which is the $129,300 (with COE) Golf 1.4 TSI.

The two cars are fairly evenly-matched in equipment terms, and the 1.4 of course has more power to offer, but in day-to-day driving it’s unlikely that you’ll notice much difference between them.

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Besides, if it’s the full Golf experience you want you should consider the high-spec 1.4 TSI EQP, which costs $18,000 more than this one. For that you get satellite navigation, fancy buttons on the steering wheel to control the sound system and trip computer, keyless entry and engine starting, along with that saviour of the unskilled driver: Park Assist.

We wouldn’t bother with the basic Golf 1.4, because the 1.2 TSI pretty much offers the same proposition. It might be the poor man’s Golf, but it’s as good as the next one up.

MORE: Could the new Golf Sportsvan be the solution to your practical needs?

More to the point, the 1.2 TSI is eligible for a 60 percent loan (the other Golfs will only meet you halfway on financing), which is perhaps the most important way it caters to the man on a relatively tight budget.

Mind you, there other cars to consider in the class, like Mazda’s 3 Hatchback or Toyota’s Auris, or even Renault’s diesel-driven but super-frugal Megane.

But our advice in navigating the Golf landscape is to go for either the 1.2 TSI or the 1.4 TSI EQP, and skip the model in between them. Piece of cake, really.

Engine 1,197cc, 16V, turbocharged in-line 4
Power 105bhp at 5000rpm
Torque 175Nm at 1400-3500rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual clutch
Top Speed 192km/h
0-100km/h 10.2 seconds
Fuel efficiency 5.0L/100km
CO2 115g/km
Price $121,000 with COE (estimated)
Availability June 2014

about the author

Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.