It isn’t just about massive SUVs here in the UAE — even though they probably make up the largest percentage of vehicles on our roads. No, there are other cars here too — and no, I don’t mean supercars either. You see, sitting in between 458 Italias and Land Cruisers are your everyday cars. Compacts, if you will. Designed to get you from here to there without a fuss and without costing a packet in the process. The budget buyer has to make the right choice and his/her hard-earned dirhams have to be put in the right place. Fortunately, there is plenty of choice and we narrowed it down to three we felt offered the best value for money; the Volkswagen Golf, Toyota Yaris saloon and Kia Cerato.
The Yaris is much loved in these parts and the hatch has been joined by the new body style. But its below-average dynamics and ageing drivetrain (it still comes with a four-speed auto, where rivals offer six-speeds...) means it is dropped from the list rather sharpish.
The battle is now between the Kia Cerato and Mk7 Golf. Good looking, comfortable and great value for money (its 2.0-litre four cylinder makes a healthy 159bhp and it has a very roomy cabin), the Kia is a great option. In a recent wheels comparative test, it beat four of its rivals purely due to the fact that it’s so well equipped. But the VW wasn’t part of that group test…
Now into its seventh generation and showing no signs of abating, it is all the car you’ll ever need. Built to last with exquisite German know-how and engineered to perfection, the Golf has it all: superb ride, roomy cabin, and it’s loaded to the hilt.
But we’re petrolheads, and the thing that sways it for us is the Golf’s chassis. It’s properly good fun to drive; an area where its Far Eastern rival doesn’t even come close with its soggy dynamics. You’ll be hunting highway off-ramps and roundabouts all day in the Golf.
It’s lighter than the previous gen yet looks remarkably similar (the boxy shape doesn’t really need changing — it’s iconic and we all love it). Its 1.4-litre TSI packs 138bhp and 250Nm of torque.
Compared to the other two, this feels like a proper driver’s car. The DSG is snappy and the steering is far sharper than either the Kia or Toyota.
The ride quality is also much better, and while the Cerato and Yaris get noisy at highway speeds, the Golf is serene there and beyond. Sure, it’s more expensive, but it looks and feels premium. It’s a worthy winner.