The facelifted Volkswagen Golf is here. As covered in our launch story on CarBuyer.com.sg and issue 263, the seventh-generation Golf debuted in 2014 and now receives the customary mid-life facelift.
Typical of a mid-life facelift, if you weren’t a fan of the Golf’s appearance before, the tweaks, which include new lights, new LED daytime running lights and a tidied up front end, won’t change your mind,
We feel the clean-but-unboring lines – and the intact classic C-pillar flair – have well preserved the ethos of VW’s most successful car and Giugiaro’s utilitarian but elegant original.
The racy models, the GTI and Golf R, get more power and other minor updates, but it’s the car you see here that’s really packing all the action: The new entry-level model for the Golf range, the 1.0 TSI, which replaces the old 1.2 TSI.
By now the fears of downsizing have long been allayed, as we mentioned even in the review of the 1.2: “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.”
A one-litre engine is no strange thing these days, as Ford’s Fiesta has been packing one since 2014, while the Golf’s 1.0-litre unit has already been seen in two Audis here, the A1 compact hatchback and Q2 compact crossover.
In any case, the 1.0 has the same 110hp as the engine it replaces, even a smidgen more torque (200Nm vs 180Nm), and on paper, it’s quicker in the 0-100km/h sprint (10.6 seconds down to 9.9 seconds).
Like many VW engines it’s tuned for efficiency, so when driven in regular mode, the dual clutch gearbox tends to shift up very early, which makes it seem the engine’s almost bogging down (it isn’t).
There’s a tad more roughness to the engine, you’ll feel it when the start-stop system comes on and when accelerating hard, as it’s a three-cylinder, but the fun counterpoint is that it sounds like a (very) distant cousin of the RS 3 Sedan with an enjoyable burble absent from the more mature 1.4. That leads us to the elephant in the living room, the most popular Golf being the 1.4 model.
The new 1.4 model is forthcoming, but hasn’t passed Singapore homolgation yet (see box), so the crucial question for the Golf 1.0 is – should you buy one now, wait for the 1.4, or miss the boat on the Vehicle Emissions Scheme (VES) come 2018, where it seems the price of almost all cars will increase by $5,000 to $10,000?
Having driven the current, pre-facelift 1.4 extensively, we expect the facelift to perform almost identically. It’s a superior machine to the 1.0 in terms of comfort and refinement, thanks to the smoother inline four and the multi-link rear suspension. The 1.0, like the 1.2 before it, had a less expensive torsion beam rear suspension, and over rougher stuff it has less composure than the 1.4.
| Facelifted VW Golf 1.4, specifications and trim levels, details on launch date revealed
The 1.4 model uses the same turbocharged 1,395cc inline four engine as before. Volkswagen Singapore says the car is currently undergoing homologation, but with the homologation process taking far longer than it used to, it’s anybody’s guess when the car will go for sale.
Taking the pre-facelift model as a point of comparison, the price difference between the old 1.2 and 1.4 was $10,000, and that accounted for the engine itself, switchable drive modes, paddle shifters, steering wheel remote controls.
The EQP model, which cost a further $8,000, added more niceties such as keyless entry and start, the higher-spec ‘Discover Pro’ infotainment system with navigation, Bluetooth and USB, sunroof, sport suspension and Park Assist. All of that, by our reckoning, was well worth the premium.
The facelifted 1.4 will be offered in three variants: Comfortline, Highline and R-Line in terms of ascending price and features. We expect the Comfortline to line up with the pre-facelift base model, the Highline with the EQP. The R-Line will be significantly more expensive, as it will have the most equipment and a COE Cat B 150hp engine.
Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI
The 1.0 is still a Golf though, at the end of the day, which means it still operates at a high level as far as small hatchbacks are concerned, and there’s that sense of ‘do-everything without missing a beat’ so often found in the Golf range.
Volkswagen has sweetened the entry-level pill a little this time round, with the new 6.5-inch colour touchscreen display that also packs Bluetooth and USB connectivity, both of which were absent before, and there’s also a driver attention detection feature to help on longer drives.
There’s little else in terms of amenities, as the AC is now manual (as it was on the 1.2), but at least there’s a nice cargo area rubber liner that wasn’t present before.
The Golf has lots of competition from different comers, since VW exists at the interstice between mainstream and luxury, buyers could also consider anything from $100k to $130k, from a Kia Niro, to a Honda Civic Hatchback or even the BMW 116d and Mercedes-Benz A 180. The classic Euro rivals include the Renault Megane, though the Golf’s closest rival is the resurgent Opel Astra, which has a 1.0-litre engine and a slightly higher price tag, and also a 1.4 model.
Which brings us to the point that the Golf is still competing with everyone but, at the same time, no one directly. Even if the 1.4 is better, the 1.0 still comes in above par and delivers a good Golf experience for the least amount of cash. The 1.4 models should be even more impressive, and that’s what a buyer should keep in mind, along with the lead up to 2018 and VES-driver price increases. For here and now though, the greenest Golf is the 1.0.
Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI
Engine 999cc, 16V, inline 3, turbocharged
Power 110hp at 5000-5500rpm
Torque 200Nm at 2000-3500rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 196km/h
0-100km/h 9.9 seconds
Fuel efficiency 5.0L/100km
Price $108,600 with COE
Agent Volkswagen Singapore
Verdict The least expensive Golf, but the total opposite of being the least, small hatchback around
Also Consider: Opel Astra, Renault Megane