Ryan Bubear reports back after driving the new Volkswagen Golf SV 1.4 TSI Comfortline at the local launch...
Take a few steps back from your monitor. Wait, not that far. Forward a bit. Right, just there. Perfect.
Okay, squint at the accompanying press image above. From afar, it looks sort of like a Volkswagen Golf, right?
Well, that's because it is. Only a bit bigger (sorry, you can come back now).
Yes, the bigwigs at the brand's Wolfsburg headquarters have decided to have another bash at making the Golf Plus — that, well, plus-size Golf that tried to squeeze itself into the admittedly odd-shaped gap between large hatchback and small MPV way back in 2005.
That generally ill-fated model didn't ever make it to our shores (some would say thankfully so). But VW clearly thinks this — the new Volkswagen Golf SV — will make more of an impact on the market. In fact, it's hoping to sell a not inconsiderable 100 to 150 units a month in South Africa, despite the compact MPV market seemingly still being pummelled by the ubiquitous SUV.
What's with the "SV" moniker? Well, curiously, the newcomer is known as the "Sportsvan" in much of Europe. But since the chunky Golf is plainly neither sporty nor a van, Volkswagen SA has followed the UK's lead and gone with a simple two-letter abbreviation instead. Interestingly, neither "Sportsvan" nor "SV" badging appears anywhere on the local models, which make do with a common-or-garden "Golf" marker on the tailgate.
So, is the Golf SV simply a fattened-up version of the much-feted seventh-generation family hatchback? Well, yes and no.
You see, just like the standard Golf, the SV runs on the German automaker's clever MQB platform, a modular system that allows for impressive versatility, particularly in terms of size variations among different models. And that's made it entirely possible for Volkswagen engineers to take a standard Golf and stretch it in all the right places. The result is a vehicle that feels rather like a Golf (despite not a single shared body panel), but with considerably more interior space.
Indeed, at 4338mm, the Golf SV is some 83mm longer than the regular hatchback. It's also 8mm wider and 126mm taller, while the wheelbase has been stretched 48mm to 2685mm. The yields inside are plain to see: acres of head-room front and back, enough leg-room to satisfy even grumpy six-footers, and appreciable luggage space of 500 litres (besting the Golf by 120 litres). Oh, and that seemingly sought-after raised driving position, too.
Furthermore, the 60:40 split rear bench is able to slide forwards and backwards (by up to 180mm in total), with the potential to boost boot space by an additional 90 litres. Folding the rear bench virtually flat, meanwhile, increases loading capacity to 1520 litres, despite the welcome presence of a full-size spare wheel. There are also a handful of neat functional touches back there, including a reclining function for the rear perches and the option to stow the parcel shelf under the height-adjustable boot floor.
Is it an MPV? For all intents and purposes, yes. But the Touran already plays that role, right? It does, and there's even some overlap in terms of pricing (the entry-level Golf SV is just R7900 cheaper than least expensive Touran, for instance). But the Golf SV effectively slots in just below its stablemate, with VW South Africa likely to take the Touran a little more upmarket (and push the seven-seater option) at its next model update.
Right, back to the new Volkswagen Golf SV range. The local line-up comprises five derivatives, made up of three forced induction engines, two transmission options, and two equipment lines (no Highline option as yet) — all of which have already been seen in the Golf. The base Trendline model employs VW's faithful 1.2-litre TSI powerplant, sending 81kW and 175Nm to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. The 2.0-litre TDI mill also churns out 81kW, but adds a useful, diesel-flavoured 250Nm to the mix. This Comfortline derivative is available with either a five-speed manual gearbox or an optional six-speed DSG.
On the local launch, however, we sampled the mid-range 1.4-litre TSI Comfortline variant, first with the optional (and still-superb) DSG and then with the slick standard six-speed manual. It's a familiar turbocharged engine, delivering a peaky 92kW and 200Nm, and able to hit 100km/h from standstill in 9.9 seconds, regardless of which transmission is fitted. Refinement is, of course, a strong point, as is economy, which comes in at a claimed 5.4 litres per 100km (or 5.2 for the self-shifter).
The ride, meanwhile, errs on the side of comfort, particularly in the 1.4 TSI models, which benefit from a more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension setup. But that doesn't mean the Golf SV is allergic to corners; there's a distinct feeling of stability through the bends and any MPV-style body-roll is kept to a minimum. The steering, too, is fairly direct and accurate in a decidedly Golf-like way.
Inside, the Golf SV also borrows heavily from its hatchback sibling, although the dashboard layout is noticeably different. Still, many of the knobs and switches are common to both vehicles, as is the general feeling of high quality. There are also plenty of practical storage spaces scattered around the cabin, as well as handy folding trays on the backrests of the front seats (on the Comfortline models, that is).
A five-inch touchscreen infotainment system linked to eight speakers comes standard, but should you want a USB port and Bluetooth you'll unfortunately have to upgrade to the plusher 5.8-inch or 8-inch options — with the largest version including navigation and a DVD drive.
That said, Comfortline models are relatively well equipped as standard, featuring seat-height (and lumbar) adjustment for the driver and front passenger, rake-and-reach adjustment for the leather-trimmed steering wheel, electric windows, manual air-conditioning, a fuel-saving stop-start system, cruise control, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, electrically adjustable (and heated) side-mirrors, electro-chromatic rear-view mirror, electronic parking brake (with auto-hold function), fog-lights (with a static cornering function up front), silver anodised roof-rails, and 16-inch alloys.
A handful of price-swelling options — from a massive panoramic sunroof to bi-Xenon headlights and a parking assist system — are also available, should your budget permit. Safety, meanwhile, is well covered by the usual raft of abbreviations, as well as an electronic differential lock, VW's clever multi-collision braking function, a tyre pressure indicator, trailer stabilisation, IsoFix child-seat anchors, and seven airbags.
So, to the all-important issue of price. The Wolfsburg-built Golf SV range starts at R292 500 and runs through to R359 200, undercutting by some margin the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and Mercedes-Benz B-Class — the two somewhat posher MPVs Volkswagen ostensibly has in its crosshairs. And, for what it's worth, the SV costs somewhere in the region of R20k more than the equivalent Golf model, spec for spec.
In summary, the Volkswagen Golf SV takes an already polished family hatchback and adds generous dollops of practicality, functionality, and — above all else — pure space.
Yes, it's basically an upsized Golf. But that sounds like just about the ideal car for many a growing family.
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See page two for specs and pricing.