2021 Volkswagen Golf 1.5 eTSI Review: All I Want Is Everything

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Driving Experience

The Volkswagen Golf is only available in Singapore with one engine, though in three trim variants. The 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine is good for 150 horsepower, which is plenty for a daily runabout by any standard. It’s also got a 48-volt mild hybrid system. There’s plenty of marketing flash around mild hybrid systems but you’ve got to remember that these are usually not in the same vein as full hybrid drives.

Meanwhile, this is the Golf’s luxurious cousin, the new Audi A3 and it comes with nearly the same 1.5-litre engine

What the mild hybrid drive does is that it allows the car to coast along with the engine shut down, and reduce some load on the engine as all electrical functions in the car are driven by the 48v battery and not driven by an engine-mounted alternator. The car can also deactivate two of the four cylinders in the engine under light driving loads, operating as only half an engine.

Does it work in real life? Mild hybrid systems certainly do, in stop-and-go infested Singapore. Our drive this time around was a day and a half – the Golf’s in big demand here – and with our extended photoshoots it was difficult to put a realistic figure. But if we had to guess, the Golf would certainly not have trouble delivering sub-7.0L/100km mileage, provided you don’t drive like Romain Dumas at Pikes Peak.

In the day to day, the hybrid system handover is totally seamless, and you do need to glance at the dashboard to see if anything has been automatically shut off. There are conditions to be met before systems engage though. If the ambient air temperature is too hot to allow for engine-off cruising or speed is too low, the engine won’t switch off.

There’s obviously a lot of software-driven thinking going on in the car at any given moment, and perhaps the only real worry is how reliable the electronics will be with age. 

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More importantly, does the Golf drive like, well, a Golf? Yes, it does. Part of the Golf’s charm is that it’s always been a thoroughly mainstream car, but its dynamics are anything but middle-of-the-road. It’s lively without being twitchy, composed without being boring, and with just enough power to keep an edge in the city.

Where the car really excels is in its broad range of dynamic ability. It’s manageable at low speeds and confident at high speeds. It’s brisk but you do need to prod the accelerator pedal quite far into its range to wake the car up, but that’s not a bad thing because otherwise it would be a very jumpy car to drive.

It’s not an outright hot hatchback because the Golf GTI fills that role, but the base model Golf is already a much better drive than many other supposedly performance-oriented cars, which is why the GTI has such a reputation. But a standard Golf in a good driver’s hands has always been something not to underestimate, and it remains the same here.

On a more relaxed note, the Golf is just as capable at the mundane stuff. If there’s one thing we’d like changed, it’s that the Golf is still not a particularly quiet car at speed, with tyre noise serving as a background on any highway drive.

Page 4: Conclusion and Competition

1. Introduction
2. Design and Interior
3. Driving Experience
4. Conclusion and Competition

about the author

Lionel Kong
An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.