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Golf stays with us a while longer and that’s a good thing

Wednesday, 8th May, 2019 4:47pm

It’s as familiar as looking in the mirror to brush your hair (or polish your bald spot — we’re not judging).

It’s on every second driveway (or so it seems at times) and you’ve either had one or know someone who has.

It’s the Volkswagen Golf and the good news is that it’s going to be sticking around for a little while longer yet.

Let me explain. There’s no danger of the Golf, as a model, going away any time soon, but this specific version — the MkVII, seventh generation Golf, the current model — should have had its bags packed by now and be putting on its metaphorical hat and coat, with the eighth generation Golf about to ring the doorbell (this metaphor is running out of steam so let me end it here).

Instead, the next Golf has been delayed, just a little. It should have been getting its official reveal at the Frankfurt Motor Show this autumn, but instead VW is moving up the debut of its — potentially game-changing — new all-electric ID hatchback to around then.

So the Golf 8 has been delayed either because of some minor technical difficulties in its development process (as VW avers) or, (as rumour has it) simply to leave the stage clear for the ID to wow us all with its electric prowess.

The Golf 8 slips back to the first quarter of 2020 instead.

That’s fine, though. While we’re excited to see the new Golf, the fact is that it’s probably not going to evolve very much from the current car.

It will carry over much of the current Golf’s chassis and engines, and really only add some 48 volt mild hybrid tech as far as newness is concerned. And, of course, it will stick closely to the styling template of the current car — Golfs only evolve very gently in a visual sense, from generation to generation and long may that continue.

Let the likes of Honda or Citroen push the styling boundaries, the Golf is like the Porsche 911 of the family car world and that is just as it should be.

Keeping this current MkVII around for a few extra months is no hardship anyway, and given that it’s just gained a new 1.5 litre TSI turbo petrol engine, it seems like a good idea to renew our acquaintance with an old friend, and see how it stacks up against rivals such as the new Corolla, new Mazda 3, and new Ford Focus.

Let’s take a look at that engine, for a start. A development of the old 1.4 litre TSI, and sharing that car’s 150hp power and 250Nm torque outputs, the 1.5 is arguably the best engine that VW currently makes (well, it’s either this or the brilliant little 1.0 litre TSI three-cylinder).

This version gets clever Active Cylinder Management, which can shut down the fuel flow to two of the engine’s four cylinders when it’s operating under low loads, when you’re driving gently around town, or rolling down a long motorway incline.

It’s tech that VW has used for more than six years already, but in the old 1.4 TSI engine you could just about tell, both from listening to the engine note, and from the feel through the chassis, when the changeover occurred.

Here in the 1.5 litre, you’ll never guess, unless you look down into the instrument panel and see the Two-Cylinder Mode Active display light up. It’s seriously smooth, this engine — impressively refined and unruffled, even when you rev it out, and there’s plenty of power on tap.

It’s not quite a junior hot hatch, but you know what? It’s not a million miles away, and it’s a very satisfying engine to drive. Much more so than would be the equivalent 2.0 litre TDI diesel.

Economy? Well, it depends on how you drive it. Keep things gentle and maximise the two-cylinder running and you should get close to the claimed 50mpg combined figure. Drive with a touch more vim, and it’ll be closer to 40mpg, but even that’s not too shabby for a petrol engine with performance this decent.

As for the rest of the Golf? Well, it’s certainly ageing and those rivals are starting to show it up, just a little.

The Focus is a little more engaging to drive. The Mazda is better looking inside and out. The Toyota is so much sharper than the old Auris and, of course, has appeal all of its own because it’s a hybrid.

Somehow, through all of that, the Golf still shines. It may not be way out in front of the competition, as once it was, but it’s certainly still keeping up with them.

It’s both responsive and comfortable to drive. It’s beautifully made inside and out. It’s practical enough for a growing family (although, from that perspective, we still lament the disappearance of the Golf Estate from Irish price lists) and yet classy enough to swish up in front of a five-star hotel, and not look out of place.

If we have to keep this MkVII Golf around for a bit longer, well frankly that’s no hardship.

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