The Volkswagen Golf needs no introduction. Since its inception back in 1974, the Golf has made it to homes all over the world and became one of the most recognisable vehicles in the Volkswagen stable.
Now in its seventh-generation, it still hasn’t lost it charm that appeals to families and enthusiasts alike, thanks to a broad variety of trims from basic TSI models to the wicked Golf R. Unfortunately, here in Malaysia, the Golf doesn’t share the same high flying success as its European counterparts.
Perhaps it can be attributed to the poor brand image of Volkswagen vehicles in Malaysia or the hefty price to purchase and maintain one. Maybe it’s a little bit of both. However, after spending the Chinese New Year holidays with a Golf 1.4 TSI Highline, I believe it truly deserves more attention than it is getting. I’ve dissected the Golf down to five of its most appealing factors to me, so here goes.
1. Iconic yet Timeless Design
No one will pass off the Golf as “just another hatchback”. Thanks to decades of relentless effort to position the car as a people’s car, the Golf has become a household nameplate for most of us. When you’re driving the Golf, you’re not just driving a family hatchback, you’re driving a piece of history.
Thanks to a minor update in 2016 (not to be confused with the facelift), Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia (VPCM) has introduced some aesthetic enhancements for the Highline, including Golf R-esque LED tail lamps and 17-inch Madrid alloy wheels wrapped in 225/45 profile tyres. These add a touch of sporty elegance to the Golf Highline.
2. Ergonomically Sound Interior
After almost half a century of perfecting the Golf, Volkswagen finally nailed the interior. Like in the Jetta, all controls are ergonomically sound and extremely intuitive to use. I much appreciate the physical dials, buttons and knobs, especially in a time where more and more manufacturers are digitising all of these. Or worse, replacing all the physical buttons into the touchscreen display.
If you’re coming from a Japanese brand, you will definitely appreciate the decidedly more premium cabin the folks at Wolfsburg have put together. When you’re up to speed, wind and engine noise are impressively isolated from the cabin.
3. Compact Practicality
At the end of the day, the Golf still remains as a family hatchback, through and through. It’s practical enough to accommodate a family of five, yet compact enough to manoeuvre around narrow city streets. Cubby spaces are aplenty, and from my testing, three adults can be seated comfortably at the back. A 380 litre boot space is also more than enough for a quick weekend getaway. Why have two cars – one for the city and the other for long distance travels – when the Golf can do both?
4. TSI and DSG Combo
Motivating this Golf Highline is a 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol TSI unit that kicks out a healthy 148 hp and 250 Nm. Drive is sent to the front-wheels via a seven-speed DSG gearbox (dry clutch).
On the go, getting up to highway speeds is a breeze, even with four adult occupants and some load at the rear, thanks to the full torque available at a lowly 1,500 rpm. Mash the throttle, the Golf immediately leaps forward and will max out at 216 km/h without so much as breaking a sweat. In town, the notorious dry clutch DSG jerk is nonexistent, even when creeping in traffic. It is by far the most satisfying powertrain (bar the high-performance variants) available in the segment.
If you’re still in the skeptics camp, maybe VPCM’s 5-Year manufacturer warranty and Goodwill Programme can prove to you their resolve to ensure a worry-free ownership experience.
5. Handling and Ride Comfort
Underpinning this Mk7 is VAG’s MQB platform that shaves off almost 100 kg compared to the Mk6, which means that the Mk7 is extremely light on its feet. Throwing the Golf around bends proved to be a rewarding experience. Despite its exceptional road holding capabilities and larger 17-inch alloys with low profile tyres, the Golf is able to maintain its composure through road undulations rather pleasantly – the perfect setup for all, including driving enthusiasts.
These are just some of the key elements of the Golf that I personally adore. Many may turn away from Volkswagen especially after all the negativity plaguing the brand, what more with an asking price of RM161k. However, with VPCM (backed by Porsche Holdings Salzburg) behind the brand, the poor reliability and aftersales of Volkswagen in Malaysia may very well be a thing of the past.
VPCM is offering all Volkswagen models with a 5-Year manufacturer warranty, whereas service interval is at ever 15,000km or 12 months, as opposed to the more common 10,000km or 6 months service interval.
It’s only a matter of time before the facelifted Golf Mk7 arrives on our shores. We know that Volkswagen’s Pekan plant is capable of locally assembling the MQB-based Passat B8, so perhaps a cheaper, CKD Golf could soon be a reality.