LAUNCHED: Volkswagen Golf VI

It's one of few class-free cars ever produced. Volkswagen's Golf manages quality and desirability without pretence. It's the embodiment of the Volkswagen brand in the same way the original Beetle was — a people's car that transcends socio-economic status to appeal to a broad buyer cross-section.

Now, in its sixth generation, Wolfsburg's iconic hatch is refined and remotivated with new drivetrains to take it into next decade.

Like an increasing number of car companies intent on greening their range, Volkswagen is shifting from naturally aspirated engines towards smaller capacity and forced induction.

Golf VI's engine line-up consists of two petrol TSI fours — a 1.4 turbo and 1.4 supercharged turbo — and a 2.0 turbo diesel. Wanna know how you pick the difference between the two TSI-badged models? If the 'I' is red it's a 90TSI (1.4 turbo) and if the 'SI' is red it's a 118TSI (1.4 super/turbo). Now you know...

The turbo 1.4 replaces the atmo 1.6 four of the base MkV Golf, while the supercharged and turbocharged 1.4 (previously found in the Golf GT Sport) replaces MkV's atmo 2.0 four. Outputs from the 103 TDI's 2.0 turbo-diesel four are identical to the previous pumpe düse oiler's at 103kW/320Nm, but the new common-rail mill is more economical.

It features two balance shafts to reduce vibration and new engine mounts to improve isolation.

The result is it's almost possible to mistake the oiler for a turbo petrol, 5000rpm redline aside, so cultured is its note and such is its smoothness.

Now retuned for economy, the 1.4 super/turbo produces 118kW (down 7kW) and an unchanged 240Nm. Its wave of boosted midrange torque adds an extra dimension to the driving experience, and also makes it quicker and more frugal than the engine it replaces. That's a story retold across the engine range.

In normal driving the seven-speed DSG 118TSI transitions quickly through the ratios into top. In 'sport' mode it's better suited to fanging. Motoring at 100km/h the twice-forced 1.4 spins at just under 2300rpm in seventh.

Curiously, the DSG 118TSI and 103TDI are a sip thirstier than manuals, but the DSG 90 TSI is more economical than the manual version. Volkswagen wasn't able to explain the phenomenon.

It's claimed this is the quietest Golf ever, but that depends entirely on road surface. On coarse-chip roads tyre drone intrudes, however on smooth surfaces it's very quiet.

The strut front, multi-link rear suspension of MkV carries over lightly revised. Sensibly, it offers ride/handling biased slightly on the side of floaty (save the screwed-down, stiffened-up calibration for the GTI, due around mid-year), without compromising the chassis' inherent sure-footed balance. Adaptive chassis control is a new option, the system constantly adjusting damping for comfort, and offering a 'sport' setting.

Steering feel is lacking, and although it does leave the driver guessing at front grip levels, this doesn't detract unduly from driving enjoyment.

Golf VI's styling treatment makes it appear wider (it is, but only by 26mm), however the major dimensions are little changed. Better visibility for rear passengers is afforded by reducing the rise of the beltline.

An aspect that drew criticism on Golf V was the large, black plastic region of the lower rear bumper. Its area is reduced for a 'more valuable' look.

Cabin treatment is typical Volkswagen: elegant, austere, classy and understated.

The range tees off with the six-speed manual 1.4 turbo 90TSI Trendline at $25,990, followed by the $30,490 1.4 super/turbo 118TSI Comfortline and the $33,190 turbo-diesel 103TDI Comfortline. The DSG adds $2500 — a seven-speed for the petrols and a six-speed for the oiler.

With its identity and timeless appeal intact, Golf VI emerges as a refined evolution of a small-car favourite, commendable for its performance and economy gains. Volkswagen Group Australia MD Jutta Dierks sums it up succinctly: "We took a very good Golf and made it better."
Model Volkswagen Golf 118TSI
Engine 1390cc 4cyl, dohc 16v, t+s
Max Power 118kW @ 5900rpm
Max Torque 240Nm @ 1750-4500rpm
Transmission 7-speed automated manual
0-100km/h 8.0sec (claimed)
Price $32,990
On sale Now

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