A Golf for one year

It’s time to take a look at the Volkswagen Golf, one year in.  In fact, it is exactly 12 months old, having just required its first replacement tax disc. 

The Mark 6 has won many awards for its diesel engines, build, DSG gearbox and so-on but the real question is: what is it like to live with?  Now having over 10,000 miles on the odometer, I can give you a pretty rounded picture.

The Golf which came to stay is the family work-horse.  It’s the most economical car on our fleet and its hatch-back design means it’s great for throwing in the paraphernalia.  Despite the austere interior, it is reasonably well up the model range: a 2.0 TDi fitted with DSG gearbox in SE trim*. 

The clever DSG ‘box has been praised as all things to all men (and ladies).  It provides fully automatic operation which is desirable in stop-start traffic, yet it allows crisp manual changes for the enthusiastic driver.  The other advantage is that it is programmed for maximum economy and minimum emissions.

My problem with this ‘box is the poor driving experience.  As soon as technically possible, the next gear up is chosen – fifth is attained at just 33 mph – and this leaves the car feeling stodgy and unresponsive.  Sport mode is very effective, holding gears a little longer and changing down quickly; somewhere in between normal and sport would be ideal for driver control and engagement.  The way round this is to drop into sport mode ahead of corners or descents, lifting the revs sufficiently to provide good car control on the throttle.

There is another downside to the crisp gear changes provided by the DSG ‘box over the traditional torque converter.  On braking, the car runs down through the gears, varying the natural engine braking levels as it does so.  This means it is virtually impossible to pull up smoothly in true chauffeur fashion.

Handling is entirely predictable – even in snow and ice – and 140 PS/320 Nm torque from the common rail diesel engine has been more than adequate, however laden the car.  The wheel base and torquey diesel allow for happy motorway cruising.

The official combined fuel consumption figures from Volkswagen are 42.2 mpg (urban) and 53.3 mpg (combined).  I shall concede that my commute is truly appalling in terms of crawling up and down the A6 each day but the car’s computer shows a combined consumption of just 35 mpg – not good.

On the plus side, the Golf has done everything we have asked of it – from family holidays full to the brim, bikes on the back – to tip or shopping runs.  While the interior might be on the plain side, it has also proved robust.  Any three-year-old will soon find the weak points but absolutely nothing has failed, mechanically or otherwise on this car.

The worst part of the bland trim is the steering wheel.  On a car costing over £21,000 it is ugly, coarse to the touch and bereft of audio controls.  The strange rectangular hole at the bottom is perfect for getting one’s finger trapped, too.

The overriding operational frustration with the car is because of its manic desire to remain in a locked state.   If you unlock the car ready to climb in and then heard a toddler past all known distractions, the car has often re-locked itself by the time parent and child have actually reached the door.  And while I can see the sense in being able to unlock only the driver’s door with the first key press, it usually takes another two or three frustrated jabs at the key to open the remaining doors and boot, by which time any potential passengers are frustratingly pulling at the handles while you, the driver, have already climbed inside out of the rain.

In summary, the Mark 6 Golf doesn’t excel in any one area but does almost everything quite well.  Personally, I’d forego the DSG ‘box in favour of the traditional wand.  Otherwise, it is the ideal car for anyone not interested in cars but who wants Germanic efficiency and to get on with their lives.

*This engine combination is now only available in GT trim.

Vital statistics

Power: 140PS, emissions: 138g/km (manual: 126g/km), torque: 320Nm, 0-62 mph: 9.3s.

Rating: ●●●●○

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