Rock of Ages | Volkswagen Golf 7 Drive

BY Joel Tam

The seventh-generation Golf is out, and the first batch of cars will roll out of the factory in November. We get behind the wheel of the class-leading model to find out if it the new one still rocks.

Photos: Joel Tam

Before we tell you if the new seventh-generation Golf is worth holding back your deposit until it arrives on Singapore's shores early next year, there are a three things you might want to know about it. 
First, and most importantly, this is an all-new car. Nothing was carried over. Chassis, platform, engine, interior - all new. The car is now up to 100 kg lighter and consumes up to 23% less fuel. Of course, these are the optimum figures, but even if you take them half seriously, that's still a mighty feat!
Secondly, it's bigger too. Longer by 56 mm, wider by 13 mm and with a wheelbase that is almost 2 ft longer over the previous model, what you have is an interior space increment of 15mm. This is undoubtedly a car that has grown up. 

Thirdly, it has matured not just in size, but in looks as well. The exterior design is cleaner with edges and lines that are sharper and more pronounced. So if you were hoping for something 'younger', the Golf might disappoint. That said, it is by no means unsightly, in fact it looks really sharp and handsome dressed in blue or white.

We flew 12 hours across continents to Sardinia, Italy, (where the fish got its name) to drive the new car. Home to lovely rustic Italian architecture, grand highlands that are hugged by the splendid turquoise blue mediterranean sea, and best of all, gorgeous winding roads that are perfect for putting the new Golf through its paces.

We got behind the wheel of both the 1.4 TSI with 140 bhp (EA 211) and the 2.0 TDI with 150 bhp (EA288). But let's talk about the 1.4 TSi since this is going to be the hot-seller here in Singapore.

As expected, the quality inside and out is exceptional. Seated in the new cabin, details like the thin chrome trim and glossy piano black finish give the whole car a premium feel. The lovely new steering wheel has a flat-bottomed design and felt great under the grip of my hands. The new eight-inch touchscreen has sharp and clear graphics and is now equipped with a proximity sensor that detects your finger moving towards the screen and brings up a menu automatically.

Other features that were on our test car included goodies that were normally found only on larger car models. These included multi-collision brake, lane assist, front assist, light assist, park assist 2.0, to name a few. Up to 10 new technologies are available for speccing up the Golf of your dreams.

The new engine is just that, new. Only the cylinder spacing of 82 mm was retained from the EA111, everything else is freshly developed. Using aluminum, the engine is up to 16 kg lighter. With the first-ever active cylinder management (ACT) used in a four-cylinder engine, two of the four cylinders will temporarily be deactivated during light or the absence of load to save fuel and reduce emissions.

Despite having lots of straight lines in its styling, the new Golf is anything but in its handling prowess. Adept at slicing through curves, powering through the twisty bits with 140 bhp and 250 Nm is fuss-free and the car copes easily even with steep inclines. The steering is a tad sharper and more direct than what we remember the Golf 6 to be.

Light on its feet yet securely planted round the corners of these well-paved roads, the Golf rides well even when greeted with pot-holes and the rare undulated portions of our test-drive. Find a linear stretch, and the car will pull through its 7-speed DSG cogs enthusiastically. We never got to hit the claimed 212 km/h top speed, but the 0-100 km/h time of 8.4 seconds is highly believable, as it actually feels faster than that.

Our car was equipped with Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC), which came with a driver profile selection. Choose between Eco, Comfort, Sport, Normal and Individual modes, and each setting will alter the throttle response, suspension and engine management of the car. We kept it in Sport most of the time, but left it in Comfort on the way back to the hotel with our hearts beating quickly from all the adrenalin rushing through our veins.

Undemanding in town, yet engaging on fast B-roads where the weight reduction is most evident, the new Golf is able to be both relaxing and lively at the same time. While it is no hot-hatch (we'll have to wait for the GTi for that), the Golf Mk 7 is a highly capable premium hatchback that will win both your heart and your head. So yes, if you can wait, wait. Because the new Golf still rocks!