Upsized Game. Volkswagen Sportsvan 1.4 Highline
Photos by Low Fai Ming. Text by Regan Ong, sgCarMart.
The all new Volkswagen Sportsvan is ready to address fans of the Golf with ample
space and versatility.
The compact MPV market has, in recent years, taken a bruising from newer concepts such as compact SUVs and crossovers. But Volkswagen isn't content with its lineup and has completely renewed what used to be the Golf Plus (not available in Singapore), turning it into something much more attractive against the competition.
The name Golf Plus has been ditched and Volkswagen has christened its new car the Golf Sportsvan in Europe, truncated to Golf SV in the U.K. and just Sportsvan here in Singapore.
While we have already tried a left-hand drive version during its international launch in France last year, this time, we have a go at the right-hand drive model that has landed on our shores.
The Golf Plus had something of an image problem with some, being seen more or less
as a dowdier, less wieldy Golf. Fortunately, the Sportsvan is much easier on the
eye and will likely garner broader appeal.
Its exterior design isn't what you'd call adventurous, but sharp edges and prominent creases along the flanks do help the car neatly disguise its inflated proportions.
Rather than having a solid C-pillar like its predecessor, the glass area has been extended, reducing the impression of height when viewed in profile, and the front wheels are closer to the car's front end.
The angular lights of the Mk7 Golf family are present and correct, the higher roofline doesn't detract from its stance and the overall effect is of a compact, tidy design, thanks to the fact that it is just 83mm longer than its hatchback brethren. It's also wider and taller than the standard model by 8mm and 126mm respectively, and this translates to more space inside.
The party trick of the Sportsvan lies in its rear quarters because there are acres
of head and legroom everywhere.
It's significantly more spacious than the hatchback, thanks to a wheelbase that is 48mm longer. To this end, the rear seats can be moved 180mm forwards to create more room in the 500-litre boot, or backwards so that those in the rear can stretch out.
The best way to describe the interior of the Sportsvan, really, is a bigger Golf. With the exception of larger air vents, bigger spacing between buttons and a few more capacious cubby holes, there's very little separating the two cars from each other.
The dashboard, centre console and instrument panel are near identical in design and build quality is robust enough to handle the worst a family can hurl at it.
Family focused it is, and one tell-tale sign is the centre console that is slightly flatter rather than angled towards the driver. The electronic handbrake has also migrated forward to sit alongside the gearstick, making way for a pair of generously sized cupholders between the front seats.
Volkswagen upped its game in terms of interior refinement with the Mk7 Golf, and the Sportsvan follows suit with a cabin that's tastefully decked out in soft-touch materials edged with slithers of aluminium and piano black inserts (Highline model).
The 1.4-litre turbocharged engine is quiet and strong, delivering enough torque to
make it flexible in every gear and it's smooth enough to be completely fuss free,
which probably sums up the car right there.
Bolted to the seven-speed DSG gearbox, it manages to merge effortless highway cruising with reasonable off-the-line accelerative urge.
Road and wind noise have also been kept to a ear-pleasing minimum, thus making the car very relaxing to be in. Slumber inducing or not, the Sportsvan remains an accomplished vehicle.
You may be forgiven for looking at the Sportsvan's size and thinking it won't be anywhere near as good to drive as its hatchback sibling.
But the truth is it shares much of its running gear with the Golf. As a result, the two cars are very similar on the road. The compact MPV drives just like a bigger and heavier Golf and this also means it is smooth and predictable.
Our test car in Highline trim is equipped with sports suspension as standard, which seems quite unusual for a family-focused car. As such, the ride is a little bit firmer than we'd expect on this type of car. Nonetheless, it can handle corners without drama and hold the road surprisingly well.
Besides all of its other trickeries, the Sportsvan also has a driving profile selector, so its engine response, transmission urgency and even its steering can work together to deliver four driving programmes - Eco, Normal, Sport and an Individual mode that can combine them in funky combinations.
The Volkswagen Sportsvan is a perfectly civilised car to drive, with nicely
weighted controls and decent ride quality. It's not the last word in driver
enjoyment, but the handling is safe and predictable, while the engine offers enough
performance for most.
For a compact MPV to so closely mimic the driving dynamics of a hatchback on which it's based is a big achievement. Add bundles of practicality and the Sportsvan makes a compelling case for itself.
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