VOLKSWAGEN GOLF WAGON COMBINES FUN AND FUNCTION

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Conventional station wagons have been one of the main casualties of the ongoing SUV boom with buyers opting for the more adventurous styling that they provide.

We’ve just spent a week in one of the survivors, the Volkswagen Golf 7 wagon, and have come away thinking that perhaps there has been somewhat of an over-reaction and that many of the growing number of small SUVs don’t offer any significant advantages over Euro-style wagons such as the new Golf, especially not in terms of driving enjoyment.

Like many cars of its size Golf is frequently used as a family car on the congested roads of its native Europe and as Australian buyers continue to downsize the appeal of the new wagon is likely to grow. At 4.657 metres in length, it’s just over 300 mm longer than the Golf hatch.

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Most of that extra space gets taken up by a cargo area that can take up to 605 litres with the rear seatbacks in place and 1620 litres with them folded, larger than many of its SUV rivals while its lower ride height makes for easier loading and unloading.

There are some useful under-floor compartments around the space-saver spare wheel.

STYLING
Volkswagen Golf celebrates its 40th anniversary this year with sales closing in on the 30-million, and done so without ever having stand-out looks. Nothing has changed with the new Golf 7 wagon, it’s neat and conservative both inside and out with a dipping rear roofline.

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The dashboard layout is clean and functional although the growing trend towards touchscreens is beginning to worry us because of its distractive qualities.

The storage area includes a clever protective curtain that clips onto the back of the folded rear seat and extends up to the roof. Both this and the conventional cargo blind can be stored in moulded supports located below the cargo floor.

ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
Golf 7 wagon gets the same engine choices as the hatch, that is two petrol and one diesel. All with four cylinders and all turbocharged. They use the familiar VW naming format where the number refers to peak power output, so the entry-level 90 TSI can reach 90 kW from its 1.4-litre petrol engine and a handy 200 Nm of torque.

The 103 TSI is a tweaked version of the same engine with an extra 50 Nm of torque while the 110 TDI diesel has a 2.0-litre capacity and an impressive 320 Nm.

There’s no manual transmission with the Golf wagon (the 90 TSI hatch has a six-speed), all come with Volkswagen’s DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission, seven-speed with the petrol models and six-speed with the diesel.

SAFETY
Standard across the range are seven airbags; ABS brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Pressure Distribution; hill hold; tyre pressure monitoring; multi-collision braking system and a fatigue detection system. Isofix child seat anchorage points are fitted on the outer rear seats.

Rear parking sensors are optional on the 90TSI with front/rear sensors and a reversing camera standard in the higher specced models.

INFOTAINMENT
Two display modes are used, both using a 5.6-inch colour touch screen. Composition Media is standard on the entry level 90 TSI and both Comfortline models; with Discover Media optional with Comfortline and standard in Highline. Both include
Bluetooth phone and audio streaming: USB and Auxiliary sockets as well as displaying driver information. Discover Media adds satellite navigation.

There is a CD player but with declining usage it been hidden away inside the glovebox alongside SD slots for both music and satellite navigation data.

EQUIPMENT
Standard across the range are roof rails; daytime running lights; rear fog lights; cruise control; leather trimmed steering wheel and gear lever; and height and reach steering wheel adjustment.

The 90TSI Comfortline adds dual zone air; storage drawers under the front seats; rain sensor windscreen wipers; 12-volt socket in the cargo area; and a rear-seat centre armrest with cup holders.

All models come with alloy wheels ranging from 15-inch (90TSI), 16-inch (Comfortline) and 17-inch (Highline).

Our Highline came with over $9000 worth of options, lifting its price to $45,690 before on-road costs. These included metallic paint; panoramic sunroof; bi-xenon headlights with dynamic cornering lights; and daytime running lights.

DRIVING
We drove all variants at the Golf 7 wagon’s launch in South Australia earlier this year but concentrated on the Highline 110TDi during our recent extended test at home.

First impression is of the reassuringly solid feel that’s characteristic of all Volkswagen when you open and close the doors and rear hatch. Seats are firm and supportive yet comfortable but with manual-only adjustments.The side mirrors are smaller than we like them.

The 2.0-litre diesel is quite raucous at start-up and needs a fair bit of throttle before gaining momentum. A stop/start function is standard across the Golf 7 wagon range (VW calls it Start/Stop which doesn’t make a lot of sense). It’s nowhere near as smooth with the diesel engine as with the petrol, annoyingly so but it’s there to serve a purpose and the longer any diesel engine can be turned off the better for the environment. All models also come with gearshift recommendation, brake energy recuperation and intelligent thermal management.

But it’s out on the open road where the Golf wagon steals a march on its SUV competitors especially through the bendy bits where its more dynamic body and lower centre of gravity had it skipping through the corners with ease. Relatively steep hills were gobbled up by the torquey diesel engine while it cruised in smooth and comfortable fashion on the motorway section of our drive.

SUMMING UP
If you’re one of the multitude of Australian buyers queuing up to test drive the many small SUVs on the market we’d suggest taking the time out to check this competent German alternative.

AT A GLANCE

MODEL RANGE
90 TSI 1.4-litre 90 kW turbo-petrol five-door wagon: $25,540 (seven-speed DSG)
90 TSI Comfortline 1.4-litre 90 kW turbo-petrol five-door wagon: $29,290 (seven-speed DSG)
103 TSI Highline 1.4-litre 103 kW turbo-petrol five-door wagon: $33,840 (seven-speed DSG)
110 TDI Highline 2.0-litre 110 kW turbo-diesel five-door wagon: $36,340 (six-speed DSG)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Volkswagen dealer for driveaway prices

FEATURES
ABS Brakes: Standard in all models
Automatic Transmission: Standard in all models
Cruise Control: Standard in all models
Dual Front Airbags: Standard in all models
Front Side Airbags: Standard in all models
Electronic Stability Program: Standard in all models
Rear Parking Sensors: Optional in 90 TSI, standard in Comfortline and Highline
Reversing Camera: Not offered in 90 TSI, standard in Comfortline and Highline
USB/Auxiliary Audio Inputs: Standard in all models
Bluetooth: Standard in all models
Steering Wheel Mounted Controls: Standard in all models

SPECIFICATIONS (Volkswagen Golf 110 TDI Highline 2.0-litre 110 kW turbo-diesel five-door wagon)

ENGINE:
Capacity: 1.968 litres
Configuration: Transverse, four cylinders in line
Head Design: DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Compression Ratio: 16.2:1
Bore/Stroke: 81.0 mm x 95.5 mm
Maximum Power: 110 kW @ 3500-4000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 320 Nm @ 1750-3000 rpm

DRIVELINE:
Driven Wheels: Front
Manual Transmission: Not offered
Automatic Transmission: Six-speed DSG
Final Drive Ratio: NA

DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4657 mm
Wheelbase: 2620 mm
Width: 1799 mm
Height: 1496 mm
Turning Circle: 10.9 metres
Kerb Mass: 1326 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 50 litres
Towing Ability: 750 kg (1800 kg with braked trailer)
Boot Capacity: 605 litres (1620 litres with rear seatbacks folded)

SUSPENSION AND BRAKES:
Front Suspension: Independent, MacPherson struts, lower A-arms, anti-roll bar
Rear Suspension: Independent, four-link with coli springs, anti-roll bar
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Disc

PERFORMANCE:
0-100 km/h Acceleration: 8.9 seconds

FUEL CONSUMPTION:
Type: Diesel
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/02): 4.7 L/100km

GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE RATINGS:
Greenhouse Rating: 8/10
Air Pollution Rating: 6/10

STANDARD WARRANTY:
Three years/100,000 km

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