Wagon special 4: Volkswagen Golf Variant
Text by Azfar Hashim, Burnpavement.
Photos by Azfar Hashim & Joel Tam, Burnpavement.
Volkswagen's extensive Golf range has, officially, gotten all its ground covered here. If you want a family hatchback with not so big engine, there's the 1.2 TSI; for more power and accessories, you could opt for the 1.4 TSI. For nutters who love more horsepower but are restrained by their wives, the 148 bhp R-Line sounds quite perfect. Lovers of topless driving, the Golf GTI Cabriolet can be had for less than two corneas. The traditional family man looking away from the usual Japanese suspects can have the Jetta. Young families in need of space have the Sportsvan to consider.
Then to complete it all and capture even the niche segment, Volkswagen introduced the Golf Variant.
And mind you, I quite like it. Because firstly it has a rather extensive equipment list; in all likelihood during a product specialists' meeting, the local product head decided, "Lets just throw everything into this car."
Which is a good thing, as at least, the car doesn't feel 'empty'. In here, you get goodies that tech geeks would surely approve, namely a self-parking function that makes parallel parking a walk in the park, Volkswagen Car-Net Connect which works with both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and not forgetting Driving Mode Selection which gives you the option of driving the car in Comfort, Eco, Sport or Individual mode depending on your mood.
For the cockpit, there is nothing to critically fault looking at how each control buttons are clearly labeled and easily within the driver's reach. On a more personal note though, I still think Volkswagen should put on a layer of protective screen over the touchscreen - like the sort widely available for smartphones - to prevent fingerprints from sticking on.
A large sunroof comes standard with the Golf Variant, ensuring the entire cabin also feels airy and spacious. Its rear bench is able to accommodate three average-sized adults with ease, although the intrusive transmission tunnel does compromise overall comfort for the passenger seated in the middle; the upside here is that said passenger will be the only one enjoying cold air directed in their direction.
The Golf Variant is factually 337 mm longer than the hatchback brethren, but interestingly, its wheelbase is 2 mm shorter. No surprises here where the extra length went to - yes, all to the boot. Here, you have a total of 605-litres worth of space at your disposal that is 225-litres more than, again, the hatchback. Fold down the rear seat's backrest and you immediately have 1,620-litres - I reckon you could fit the whole of Orchard Road back there.
With 123 bhp and 200 Nm worth of torque available courtesy of a 1.4-litre turbocharged TSI powerplant mated to a 7-speed DSG 'box, the Golf Variant is a surprisingly eager sprinter; flooring the accelerator could still cause the front two wheels to wheelspin off the mark. Well, it's ok to be a little juvenile every once in a while.
You can stretch the engine in the first three gears, which easily saw the speedometer touch three-figure speeds. That said, the Golf Variant does feel a tad breathless close to the redline.
Along the expressway, this wagon is an exceptionally refined car to drive. It doesn't seem to feel out of element; power is present to aid overtaking and it doesn't have any problem keeping up with traffic on the fastest lane. Deserving praise is how both wind and engine noises are almost non-existent, giving you the impression as though you're driving a larger sedan twice its price. Tyre noise still makes its way into the cabin though, which is unavoidable considering the performance-biased 225/45 R-18 Bridgestone Potenza S001 rubbers the car is shod with.
Volkswagen seemed to have gotten it right in setting up the suspension system. It doesn't feel too stiff or too soft; 'nicely balanced', would be highly appropriate to describe it. Then to sweeten things up, the steering feedback is positive, with response immediate. Complimenting this trait further are composed body movements even when taking sweeping corners at speed.
As a whole, the Volkswagen Golf Variant offers (a) a lot of shebang, (b) adequate performance, (c) respectable refinement, and (d) satisfying handling. It isn't as stiff as the Mini Clubman, plus has more goodies than the Volvo V40, to the point its $133k price tag sounds quite reasonable.
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