Never before has the Volkswagen Golf been sold with a meagre three cylinders totalling just 999cc. That’s not a lot for a Golf. A turbocharger saves the day, though, and the smallest engine in the range actually squeezes a respectable 113bhp to the front wheels.
Performance is even slightly brisker than average, on paper, marginally over the 10-second mark for the 0-100kph sprint when equipped with the test car’s seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox, and topping out at 204kph.
Predictably, with modest figures as above, in Match Bluemotion Edition trim the Golf looks entirely unremarkable, in that uniquely German sharp-edged but orthodox way. Aesthetically it’s homely and inoffensive, like a favourite jumper. Its 16in wheels put practicality and comfort before look-at-me style, but the confident lines around bumpers, shoulders and boot give it an air of something definitely not rubbish. The Golf is a desirable car, as ever, and despite recent troubled times for Volkswagen it will continue being a star performer in the range. It’s a car that needs no explanation; your friends and neighbours simply assume it’s a good choice.
It’s more about space and practicality than shock and awe. The seventh-gen Golf platform is the most spacious by a tangible margin. Rear passengers have to deal with smaller apertures than those at the front, but once settled there’s not much for average-sized kids or teenagers to complain about, unless the driver has legs like the Eiffel Tower.
There are useful door pockets, although the soft-touch lining isn’t great with drinks spills. The boot in this car is magnificent, though, with the removable boot floor lifting up and clipping behind two latches to reveal a huge extra storage bay where the spare wheel should be. Bluemotion models always make do with a tyre repair kit, and it means you can – in theory at least – carry much more baggage.
Given the green leanings of any Bluemotion VW, this isn’t a Golf for enthusiastic drivers. In this fuel-saving spec the DSG transmission, which has no adjustable driving modes attached to it, defaults to shifting up a gear at the earliest chance. It’s clever in that it holds a lower ratio on downhill stretches to reduce over-speeding, but on the flat it selects the next cog far sooner than you would expect.
It’s not tuned well for standing starts, though, forever snatching at the bite point instead of smoothly modulating it. Add that to its frustratingly slow reactions when getting back on the accelerator after rolling up to a junction or roundabout, and on balance the car is better as a manual. Small wheels consolidate the impressive ride quality, and there’s not much road noise from the eco-minded Dunlop tyres. It’s a very serene place to be, all things considered. Just don’t expect it to blow the cobwebs away when it comes to going full-throttle.
All in all, there’s lots of practicality, sensibility and all that other logical stuff that makes a really good family car. It’s frugal enough for most people; it’s an ideal town car for ferrying the kids around and it’s good enough to cope with highways and back-roads, too. It’s also very well kitted, but unfortunately excitement doesn’t come as standard.