The New Volkswagen Golf: An Icon Evolved.How do you update something as ingrained on the automotive landscape as the VW Golf? Very carefully, it appears.
-You join us in Sardinia to drive the all-new Mark 7 Volkswagen Golf. It was formally unveiled at the 2012 Paris Motor Show and now we finally get a go and was a continuation of one of Volkswagen's biggest-selling cars ever. In the U.K. it sold 1.6 million units alone since its inception in 1974. It's the 3rd biggest-selling car ever for goodness sakes. So this car is incredibly significant. But before we get to all the road testing stuff, it's time for a quick history lesson. -Well, I'm not a-- well, I'm not a-- -The Mark 1 Volkswagen Golf was launched in 1974. It was designed as a replacement for the aging Beetle, you see on the tail end of an oil crisis, and with its unreliable rear engine and rear-wheel drive setup, the Beetle wasn't really what people wanted anymore. So using front-wheel drive technology from recently acquired Audi, VW set out to create a front engine, front-wheel drive, water-cooled 2-box hatch. The result was the Golf. It was named after the gulfstream because at the time Volkswagen had a thing for naming its cars after famous winds. It was also designed by a rather famous designer Giugiaro. You may know him for doing the Lotus Esprit. It's pretty safe to say the Mark 1 Golf was a huge success. It lasted all the way until 1983 and it also introduced something of an icon, the GTI. The Mark 1 Golf GTI was launched in 1975 and you can tell why this car was the start of something really, really big for not only the Golf but the VW, and hot hatches in general. This is the start of GTI. This is the car that made GTI a household word, a coveted thing. 1983 saw the Mark 2 image from cover. It looks like a slightly sturdy version of the original. In 1991, the Mark 3 Golf was introduced. Again, the design evolved and it became a little more bloated than before. 150 brake horsepower GTI made an appearance as did 188 brake horsepower 2.9-liter VR6 6-cylinder model. The Mark 4 hit showrooms in 1997 and lasted until 2003. It was a significant step for the Golf as it showed that VW could make a car that could match the likes of Audi for quality. It was good to drive, but a little bit heavy. 2003 saw a leaner, faster, best to drive and more fun Golf hit the showrooms. The Mark 5 featured a ton of innovations, a DSG gearbox and the turbo and supercharged TSI engine in the GT are just 2. The 197 brake horsepower GTI was a revelation. In 2008, the Mark 6 came around. It looked sharper, meaner and was purposeful than the car it replaced and added dynamics and refinement to the mix. It was more of a Mark 5.5 though. Right, history lesson over. Let's talk about what this bad boy actually brings to the game. How does it evolve the Golf legend? Well, let's start with 2 very interesting engines. Okay. It does come with more than 2 engines but 2 of them are more interesting than the others. First up is 110 brake horsepower, 1.6-liter TDI BlueMotion model. BlueMotion is VW E's for super Eco and the Mark 7 is certainly that. It will manage if you drive like I said 88.3 miles to the gallon and will emit just 85 grams per kilometer of carbon dioxide. Now VW reckons that if you drive around 9,300 miles a year, you only need to visit the pumps 10 times. And that's quite impressive. It actually was more than quite impressive. It's very impressive. It makes the previous generation BlueMotion look positively like a gas guzzler. Shame on it but by far the way the most interesting engine in the lineup is a 1.4 ACT. Now ACT stands for Active Cylinder Technology, and what that means is that when you're driving or when you're cruising and the engine isn't really underload, a trick camshaft would turn off 2 of the cylinders so you'll cruise only using 2 which means better MPG and better carbon dioxide emissions. That's really quite clever. Its makeup is pretty cool too. It's based on the VW Group's MQB platform. It's where a large chunk of the group's cars will set on from now on. The new SEAT LeÃ³n uses it. The new Audi A3 uses it. The next Å koda Octavia, guess what that will use. Thankfully the A3 is a decent steer so the architecture is pretty solid, which means it's fun to drive. Well, both versions are actually. I say both versions because if you go for a car with around 150 brake horsepower or more, you get more fiercer strut suspension on the front and a very expensive, very complicated but very good multi-link setup at the back. If you go for less than 150 brake, you still get [unk] upfront but in torsion they are at the back. Slightly less complicated, not quite engaging. So VW finally agrees with something I've been saying for years, more power is more fun. One of the most if not the most important part of a Golf is how it looks both inside and out because this is a kind of car that even if someone didn't know that a new Golf was on the way they'd see it in the street and instantly recognize the fact that it is a Golf. It's a kind of car that has the heart back to the car that was launched in 1974. Over 40 years the Golf has changed so it's almost unrecognizable from its source point, but at the same time it's also very much related. Everything is an evolution of where it started from. A kind of subtle but elegant design but is instantly, instantly recognizable. And that's quite hard to do. Some people say this looks a little bit conservative but I have a brilliant defense for them. There's a chap called Ian Callum. He's the design director for a small car company called Jaguar, and he just finished a lovely looking car called the F-Type and he seems to think that this is rather pretty. You know what? That's good enough for me. So this new Golf, is it a decent follow-up to a paradigm established nearly 40 years ago? Thankfully, yes, yes it is. It's both fast and frugal. It's fun. It's entertaining. It's understated to look at. It's not offensive and it's not boring. What this car is, is a return of an old friend, someone you haven't seen in ages but you can still go out, have a really, really epic nice time with or you can just spend the night in and watch a movie in a comfortable silence and just exist together. It's good to have you back, old friend.