SINGAPORE – What can you get for around $130,000 these days? Well, if you’ve thumbed through the pages of CarBuyer recently, you’ll realise the answer is, “Quite a lot”. And for the family man, he’ll definitely be spoilt for choice with the glut of recent new offerings, like the Kia Forte featured in this issue, and the ground-breaking Toyota Auris we drove last month.
It does give you a striking illustration of how much things have changed over the past couple of years, when the best-selling family car in this country comes from Germany, and the challengers for the crown are from Asia. Ten years ago the Japanese and Koreans would have been top dogs, and the Golf would have barely registered on the family man’s radar.
But this is the New World Order we have to live with now, and the car we have here, Volkswagen’s entry-level Golf, is almost certainly going to end up as one of the brand’s best-sellers this year. Knowing Singaporeans’ car-buying habits, it’s probably a sure bet that a good majority of Golf buyers will eschew the extra equipment available on the more powerful (and more expensive) Golf Sport model, and settle for this standard version.
For the $15,000 or so that you save over the Golf Sport, the only things that you’ll really miss are sat-nav, integrated Bluetooth, USB input port (although we’d argue that having a USB charger is a required necessity these days), and Keyless Go. Other than that, most of the stuff you get in the Golf Sport are also correct and present here, like automatic headlamps, automatic wipers, electric parking brake and paddle shifters. So you’re still getting quite good value for money if you think about it.
Of course, the biggest difference between the two lies under the bonnet, with the base model Golf featuring the same 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, but tuned to produce 122bhp and 200Nm of torque, 18bhp and 50Nm down from the Sport. It sounds like a significant amount of power loss on paper, but in actuality, the difference barely registers if one doesn’t know better. The Sport does has that little bit more verve and pep when you’re pushing along, but for everyday driving, the standard car with 122 horses is definitely more than enough for your daily needs. The powerplant pulls smoothly when you’re ambling along, and yet has enough energy to let the car to make darting sprints between city traffic should the need arises.
And the best part is, you still get the excellent ride and handling setup that made the new Golf such a media darling. The 16-inch rubber offers a slightly more comforting and absorbing ride than the Sport’s 17-inch wheels, and the car still feels as fluid and lively through the corners as ever, with its well-weighted steering and precise turn-in. The car is so nicely set-up and balanced that you don’t really need masses of power to entertain yourself.
A decade ago, it would have been hard to imagine us crowning a Continental car as the family runabout kingpin, and christening the Asians as the pretenders. But that’s the reality now, and even in base model form, the Volkswagen Golf just about hangs on to its crown as the conservatives’ choice in the family car sector. Its general well-rounded ability sets a huge benchmark for the rest to conquer, but as we’ve seen so far with the Auris and Forte, the gap is closing very rapidly indeed…
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 1,395cc, 16V, turbocharged in-line 4
Power 122bhp at 5000rpm
Torque 200Nm at 1800-4000rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual clutch
Top Speed 203km/h
0-100kmh 9.3 seconds
Fuel efficiency 20.0 km/L
Price $126,300 with COE
Also Consider: Toyota Auris, Hyundai i30
Photos by Alvin Dominic “Doms” Valentin