We took the Sportsvan through the Vineyards at Nuits Saint Georges for a beautiful evening ride...
Driving and owning a Golf is one of the most sensible things you can do. The latest edition is a case in point.
This Golf is one of the best built cars around, timelessly styled, superbly engineered and made to do all the things you normally expect a car to do, and let it be said, it does all this very good. But maybe you want just that little bit more.
Like a bit more headroom for instance, or a bit more room behind the front seats, or somewhat more luggage space. Or you just want to sit a bit higher, and get in and out of the car somewhat easier. But you still want to drive a Golf. Well, than we drove the car for you, the Golf Sportsvan...
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The timelessly styled Golf Sportsvan in front of our overnight resting place at Les Hêtres Rouges, at Argilly in the Côte d'Or in French Burgundy, ...
Our test car was equipped with the 110 hp "Bluemotion" Diesel engine, smooth and willing, but which emits only 101 g of CO2 per km. It was mated to the classic 5 speed gearbox. An excellent combination, we can tell you here already.
The Sportsvan looked superb, with its tungsten silver paint livery, and the titan black interior in the tested "Trendline" equipment version, which was also quite pleasing.
Of course one finds the familiar VW controls and commands, also the instruments and dials bear the timeless VW design and touch. Readability is excellent, and the controls are intuitive to use, and have this absolute quality feel. Our test car came with the "Business Pack", which includes the excellent Climatronic airco/heating system. Just set the desired temperature and the system does the rest.
In the "auto" function, the airco system achieves the set temperature virtually draft free with just the necessary amount of blower power, which never becomes annoying or obtrusive.
The vast experience of the manufacturer tells here...and these details make a good car truly outstanding, day after day.
The audio system is also superb, with 8 speakers and excellent reception capacity of the radio. We were able during our French holiday trip to listen throughout our long trip to France Culture, even in mountainous regions, and suffice to say that this also gets a smile on your face.
Of course the sound quality is excellent, also with our favoured Jazz music, like for example the track "The peacocks" by the Bill Evans trio and Stan Getz, which we enjoyed on our I Pod Touch thanks to the Mobile Device Interface which was also present on our test car.
It is the combination of all these elements which make a car stand out, in our opinion, and yes, we repeat ourselves here...
The choice of materials, the matte grey surfaces around instrument clusters and console panels, all have a typical subdued timeless elegance about them, never outstpoken, but never dull either. Well, just VW.
Of course, the overall finish is beyond reproach. This also goes for upholstery, cabin panelling and seats. Our test car came with the so-called "top comfort" front seats, and they are worth every cent of the extra 335,17 Euros they command.
They were wide, gave excellent back and thigh support, and really, after driving for hours on hundreds of kilometers on motorways or routes nationales and départementales, there is not the slightest hint of fatigue for driver or passenger.
Or car came also with Park Pilot fore and aft, and needless to say, this is also always quite welcome in everyday use.
The cabin is quite roomy, with plenty of leg room available for the rear passengers. Ths is also a big plus for this Sportsvan version. The wheelbase is 2685 mm, and this is 48 mm longer than the normal Golf. The rear seats can slide back and forward by not less than 18 cm, and this makes the luggage room more verstaile. The Sportsvan can take up to 590 litres, and with the rear seats folded down, some 1520 litres.
Taking everything in its stride...
Now comes the driving. The 1,6 litre TDI is a wonderfully smooth unit, virtually undistinguishable from a petrol engine, with even a pleasant exhaust note around 2500 rpm.
Pulling from about 1200 rpm onwards is completely vibrationless and silent, and this adds to a very relaxed driving style. Not least because the engine is mated with a silky smooth 5 gear box, whith ratios well suited to the engine's torque and power characteristics.
Driving on a lot of routes nationales with numerous roundabouts, we came to appreciate the smooth flexibility of the engine, which always managed to pull away in third gear - or about 1200 rpm - out of the roundabout.
We always find it a very good way to test the "natural balance" of a car - just drive it towards a roundabout, lift the throttle and feel how it decelerates in the gear(s), whether it negotiates the corner with ease, precision, agility, and then how smoothly and powerful it will accelerate again out of the roundebout.
A very mundane exercise, but it tells a lot about the everyday driving abilities of a car. Well, the Golf earned very high marks here. The overall balance is honed to perfection.
Of course the Golf Sportsvan feels at home on the motorway. It is so to say born for high speed cruising, with acoustic comfort and economy of very high standard indeed. The top speed is a good 192 km, and high cruising speeds can be maintained for hours on end with very little mechanical fuss and wind or tyre roar.
A word of praise for the excellent radar assisted distance control function in combination with the cruise control. (See steering wheel controls on photo above)
It made motorway driving truly marvelous, the system is sensitive, well tuned and the acceleration and deceleration movements ware always smooth and progressive. We have the impression that the system has been honed to prefection now, and undoubtedly, the vast experience of the manufacturer sets a benchmark here.
The radar "interprets" any given situation very well, and it appears to us that VW has reached a very high standard in this respect. Of course, it is due to the latest generation of electronics which is finding its way into the MQB platform.
The combination of mechanical and electronic refinement made long motorway journeys even with heavy traffic a very relaxing experience.
Of course, economy is a strong point for the 110 hp Bluemotion version. It emits a mere 101 g of CO2 per km and average consumption during our test is 4,7 litres/100 km. It was no trouble at all to stay below 5 litres /100 km, even under brisk driving. Of course, respecting the indicated gearchange points and driving with anticipation, on secondary roads and even with a fair amount of city driving, consumption in the region of 4,2 litres/100 km was achieved.
Acceleration in the gears leaves nothing to be desired, thanks to the excellent torque of the engine, of 250 Nm between 1500 and 3000 rpm. This means plenty of pulling power and a steeply ascending power curve, which gives the impression of a very every powerful engine indeed. The sprint from 0 to 100 is absolved in 11,2 seconds.
Maximum power of 81 Kw or 110 hp is achieved at a mere 3200 rpm, and this says a lot of the character of the engine, which needs hardly to be revved beyond 3000 rpm to achieve excellent performance, which will satisfy most.
With its excellent MQB platform and suspension, the Sportsvan scores very high in terms of roadholding, agility and comfort. When driven with verve over curvy roads, this Golf comes very much into its own, the car steers beautifully neutral, the steering is precise and sensitive.
It takes uneven road surfaces very well in its stride, one feels literally the vast know how the VW group has built up, and we found the balance between comfort and roadholding close to ideal.
The suspension never feels harsh, body roll is minimal. Of course, the brakes are up to the job.
Our test car photographed again in front of the main house of delightfully charming B & B "Les Hêtres Rouges" in French Burgundy.
The Golf Sportsvan is quite an endearing car. Earning very high marks in sheer economy, smoothness, mechanical refinement and build quality, it is also quite roomy. Add to this the rather timeless styling, the unmistakeable Golf identity, and you have a well engineered car which will give you years and years of pleasure of driving and owning it.
The car handles very well, and therefore the "sports" designation is quite logical: this compact Van will give you indeed a lot of sporting driving pleasure, whilst staying comfortable and practical in everyday use.
Hans Knol ten Bensel