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Recently, my poor car Joey got poorly (drove over something which severed the fuel pipe under the car) so he had to go to Dr Volkswagen, and, in the meantime while my car was being checked and fixed, I was given a courtesy car, which was a new Golf 1.6 FSI, so I thought I'd review it.
The Golf is available in the 1.6 edition as an S model, SE model, Sport, GT, GTi, and R32 models. The S is the base model: as you move up through the different editions you get more extras thrown in.
The 'FSI' that's included in the name doesn't appear to mean anything: having scoured the VW website to find out if there is any significance to the name, I have to report that I can't find any. Please let me know if I'm wrong in this, and I'll update my review as necessary! Basically, if you want a 1.6l Golf, it's going to be an FSI model. Some 1.4l are also available as 'FSI' - checking the notes on the VW price list suggests that these cars are only available from stock and not factory order.
I'm going to try to cover all aspects of the car, giving each section marks out of ten (thanks to Richada for this format, which I've found really useful!), which will result in a final score at the end.
EXTERIOR APPEARANCE 8/10 This is a purely subjective, as to be honest, what I like in looks for a car won't necessarily appeal to my reader. However, I've been keen on this shape of Golf since it first came out whereas when VW have previously updated the car's style, I've taken some time to get used to it. The shape of the new Golf is more curved and streamlined than it's predecessor. I like the new style of the headlights and rear lights too - they've been designed to fit in with the new 'round' appearance of the new Golf, with the indicators inset insight the middle of the main unit, being round in shape rather than the previous 'boxy' rectangle.
The colour of the Golf I had for the week was a nice bright blue, which was clean looking and appealing to (my) the eye. Having checked the VW website, the car is available in four colours only as standard colours: black, candy white, ink blue and tornado red. There are three colours of pearl effect paint available (blue graphite, deep blue, and diamond black) plus a further five colours available in metallic paint (new river blue, reflex silver, sage green, shadow blue, steel grey) - yet these colours carry an additional charge of £335. So this car loses points for me in the fact that if I want to have that nice shade of blue on the car given to my by VW, I'd have to pay extra for it - and the choice of the paints offered as standard isn't that great. How many people really buy white cars nowadays?
The car I borrowed had alloy wheels but these do not come as standard on the Golf - they only set available for the 'S' costs £645.
INTERIOR APPEARANCE 5/10 This is a low scoring section for me, as I don't think VW really pulled out all the stops on this one. The dashboard area is really plasticky looking. While I appreciate that I'm not going to get a walnut dash (to my mind they only look right in certain cars anyway), I do expect the plastic interior that you do get to look as if it's cost some money which is reflective of the money you've spent on the car. Not so with this Golf - the dash is made from a dark plastic which looks incredibly cheap. When I compare it to the plastic used on my own Golf, which is a Mark IV, it's nowhere near as good-looking.
The look of the dashboard function is pretty good, although it doesn't make up for the surrounding dash area. The vents are located in better places than in the previous incarnation of the Golf, and most of the controls are located in one console in the centre of the car, which is pretty accessible. The interior of the doors are quite smart, with pockets on both the front doors. These also have reflectors, so useful when opening the door in the dark so that others coming along the road or path can see you.
The colours used in the interior in the car I drove were pretty dire though. Some clever person at VW had decided that the interior of this car should be in beige, which, to my mind, was completely revolting. It looked ok from a distance, but as soon as you got up close to the car and actually sat in it, it was hideous. The pale colour highlighted the cheapness of the plastic dash, and, having the carpets and chairs in the same colour was a little OTT. Now, I've again checked the VW website for this, and the 'S' model of the Golf only comes with a choice of three different upholsteries as standard, none of which include beige (good thing too). I'm guessing that someone actually paid extra to have this installed in the car! The standard option for an S is to have Anthracite (black), Blue Anthracite (very dark blue) or Art Grey (grey striped effect upholstery, again, not great). As you go up in models, onto the SE, Sport etc, there's more choice, but it's fairly limited for the S model.
STANDARD SPEC 6/10 The spec of the car depends on which model you have (S, SE, Sport etc) but the following is available on all models:
12 year body protection warranty 3 rear head restraints 3 rear three point seat belts 3 year paintwork warranty 3 year/60,000 miles warranty ABS with HBA (hydraulic brake assist) Air Conditioning ('climatic' semi-automatic control) Black door mirros with integrated indicators Black side bump strips and door handles Body-coloured bumpers, front and rear with black bump strips Body-coloured front grille Coat hooks, rear x 2 Cup holders, front x 2, rear x 1 Curtain airbag system for front and rear passengers Disc brakes, front and rear Driver's and front passenger airbags with passenger's airbag deactivation switch Driver's and front passenger's whiplash-optimised head restraints Driver's seat height adjustment Dust and pollen filter Easy entry sliding seats (3 door only) Electric windows, front Electrically heated and adjustable door mirrors Electronic engine immobiliser ESP (Electronic Stabilisation Programme) Exterior temperature gauge Front seat side impact airbags Front three-point seat belts with height adjustments and tensioners Full size wheel trims Glovebox, cooled Grab handles, front x 2, rear x 2 with integrated coat hooks Halogen clear headlights, range adjustable Height and reach adjustable steering wheel Instrument lighting, blue adjustable panel illumination Interior light delay Isofix child seat preparation (for two rear child seats) Luggage compartment cover Luggage compartment light Non-smoking pack Power-assisted steering, speed sensitive Reading lights, independent front and rear Rear screen wash/wipe with intermittent wipe Reflectors in front and rear doors Remote central locking with 2 remote folding keys Remote interior fuel flap opener Speedo and rev counter, electronic odometer, trip, service interval display and fuel gauge Split folding rear seats Steel space saver spare wheel Storage area, centre Storage compartment in rear doors Storage compartment in roof console Storage compartments in front doors Three-spoke steering wheel Vanity mirrors VW Assistance Warning buzzer and light for front seat belts not fastened Warning buzzer for lights if left on Windscreen wiper with intermittent wipe and 4 position delay
Once you move onto the SE model, you start to get additions such as Cruise Control and alloy wheels thrown in, but, if you want them on this car, you'll have to pay for it. While it looks like an extensive list, VW have done a good PR job on this: this list also includes the basic items which you'd expect to get in any car, such as a steering wheel, glovebox, luggage compartment cover etc. There are some pretty good things included though, once you sort through the marketing hype: warning buzzer for the seatbelts if they're not fastened, air conditioning (I'd never buy another car that didn't have the air con now after having had it for the last four years), trip computer etc. I'll cover these items in a later section in more detail. However, VW loses points from me on this standard spec, as there's nothing really groundbreaking there as you wouldn't get as standard in another similar, but cheaper car. (I haven't checked out what you'd get with a new Seat, but my guess is that the list would be the same, if not better. And if you're not aware, Seats are part of the VW group so they're the same car, just badged differently. You're paying here for the name, pure and simple).
PRICE AND DEPRECIATION 7/10 The Golf 1.6 FSI S is available, with a manual gearbox and five doors on the road for £14, 395. The 3-door version comes in slightly cheaper at £13,895, and the automatic, which is only available as a 5-door model, is priced at £15,720. It's cheaper than the comparative Audi A3 (yet another car owned by the same group as VW) which comes in at 15,440 for the 1.6 FSI, it is more expensive than other cars in it's class, such as the Ford Focus (£12,945 for a base 1.6l model) or the Seat Leon (£11,495 for a basic 1.6l model).
So how much has this model depreciated in the two years since it's launch? Bought new two years ago, this car would have cost £14,107. If you were to buy it today in excellent condition, with an average mileage of 20,000 miles on the clock, you'd expect to pay £11,030, so the depreciation is some 22% over two years. Compared to a Ford Focus, which in 2004 you'd have paid £13,397 for and for which you could now expect to pay £7840 from a franchised dealer, the Golf's depreciation compares favourably.
THE 'COCKPIT' 6/10 Everything's pretty close to hand with the Golf but there are additional safety features that could be included as standard which would make it better. For example, the stereo controls could be included on the steering wheel rather than having the driver fiddle with the radio while driving (used to have this on a BMW some years ago, and it was pretty useful). So on this section, the car loses points here. However, it gains points in other areas. The driving position is comfortable, and the driver's seat can be adjusted quite easily - not only in regard to how far away you are from the pedals, but also with it's height. For a shorter person like me, it's absolutely imperative that I can raise the seat so I can easily see above the steering wheel and out of the windscreen properly! (There are still some cars on the road out there that don't do this!). Everything around the steering wheel is in easy reach of the driver, indicators etc are easy to access without having to stretch fingers too far. Mirrors are easily adjustable - the side mirrors are electric, and heated, which is useful on those dewy mornings - just put the heated rear screen on, which also heats the mirrors, and that early morning dew soon burns off! The radio supplied as standard now includes a CD changer. I didn't have the instruction manual supplied with the loan car, so it did take some time to work the radio out, but once used to it, I was quite pleased. It has six buttons around the edge of the radio, and the screen shows which station you're listening to. However, adjacent to each of the buttons is the name of an alternative radio station - just press the button to change channels. You can preset channels into the radio too. One thing I was disappointed about with the stereo system was the fact that there wasn't a built-in ipod jack for my iPod, and I had to listen to it in the radio using the cigarette lighter, as I do with my own car. I was under the impression that modern cars (this Golf only had 300 miles on the clock when I got it) are now being built with iPod jacks already installed, but not this one. The air-conditioning was also a disappointment at first. It has now been updated so that you can never turn the air conditioning off. This is a good thing in a way, as if you do turn the air conditioning off in a car and keep it off for too long, the system dries out and needs re-gassing, which can be expensive. However, what I didn't realise with this new system of air con, was that to make the air get really cold, you have to turn the compressor on. It's something which, because it's to the left of the driver in the centre of the console, makes it hard to play with while driving, so it took the husband, who has climate control, seconds to figure it out when he got in the car as a passenger. So once I got it working I was very pleased with it. Unfortunately I'd spent a few days driving around thinking that either air con wasn't there or it wasn't working properly! The air con did affect the fuel consumption quite significantly - I literally saw the needle go down on the fuel gauge as I was travelling with the air con blasting at 70mph on the A3, so wouldn't recommend using it continually, unless you have deep pockets. The car does come with a trip computer as standard now, which I think is a brilliant addition to the car. Previously this was an additional purchase. The only thing the trip computer doesn't now include is cruise control, but, not being a fan of this function anyway (I'm driving the car!) I didn't really miss it. There's several settings on the trip computer: speed warning (I couldn't figure this out, if anyone knows what it is please would you let me know? I tried flying through speed cameras in excess of the speed limit but still couldn't set this off); the current mpg of the car (this changes from second to second as your speed/revs etc change), the mpg for that journey; the mpg for that tank (or since you reset the trip computer); the time the engine's been running (again, both for that single journey and across the life of the tank); and, also another new addition to the speed setting, the amount of miles left in the tank. this should have been included in the Mark IV Golf, but a bug in the programme meant it couldn't be included. The temperature is also continually on display, which is an excellent safety feature during the winter. The only time it isn't on display is when you're using the speed warning setting. If this trip computer is like the one included iwth my own Golf, there should also be a frost setting on the temperature which will show up when the outside temperature reaches or falls below five degrees centigrade. The dashboard has changed a little with this new model too. The speedometer is now on the left with the rev counter on the right. The fuel gauge and temperature gauge, instead of being at the top of the dash, are now at the bottom with the trip computer taking up more space. The on board clock is now also included in the trip computer. Graphics for the trip computer are red, and complement the blue lights of the dash nicely when the headlights are turned on. There are two positions for the steering wheel, but preferring the position that was set up when I got the car, I didn't play with it. Electric windows are standard on the S model at the front - I also had them on the back in this car. These windows are controlled from the driver's seat as well as the doors themselves. The driver also has the capability of locking the doors from the inside and to childlock the back doors too, so passengers in the back seat can't open them. The doors will open from the inside though should you wish to if the doors are just locked: to prevent them from opening you must use the childlock feature. The simple locking feature is for use when driving in towns to prevent people from getting into the car - I use this feature quite a lot, as I often drive alone with a handbag on the front seat beside me.
FUEL CONSUMPTION 6/10 This may not be a fair score, as I have never owned a 1.6l petrol car - my current car is a diesel where I get about fifty to the gallon out of it. However, with town driving and sitting in traffic I achieved about thirty seven miles to the gallon with this car - much less when I had the air conditioning on full pelt. Given the fact that this is a petrol car though, it's probably not terribly uneconomical, although, given the current price of petrol, you'd want the car to be as economical as possible.
DRIVING EXPERIENCE 8/10 I really liked the drive of this car. It was light to steer, and the driving position was comfortable, making it suitable for journeys of all lengths. Everything inside was pretty much to hand so it made driving easier. The only area where the car loses points was on the power. I drive to and from work every day past Thorpe Park, and right by here there's a small motorway bridge that I have to drive over where the speed limit is 70mph. Each time I went over that bridge, I had to have the gas flat to the floor to achieve the full speed limit, and it took some time getting there. I tried the same effect with my own Golf - in fairness a 1.9l TDI - and found that once my foot was flat to the floor I easily reached the speed limit (much quicker than with the 1.6l car) and the speed continued to increase. There is a 1.4l model also available with the Golf - given the performance of the 1.6l on this bridge, I'd steer clear of that size engine. One other thing that really added to the drive of the Golf was that either the car is slightly wider than it's predecessor, or the wheel base is wider. That meant that, if you have those daft speed humps that take up just the middle of your side of the road, you could just fly over them and the wheels wouldn't touch them at all, which makes for a much more comfortable ride. Suspension on the car is solid, giving a comfortable ride. The engine noise is also greatly reduced and more than once I thought I'd stalled the car when I hadn't, because I couldn't hear the engine. The car also has six forward gears, which I've only ever seen on sports versions of the Golf. It does take some getting used to on the drive, but having the sixth gear does mean that the drive is more economical than just having five. Having passengers in the car also made little difference to the drive, and they all had plenty of room, even legroom was ample enough in the back seat compared to other similar cars.
CONCLUSION Final Score 46/70 (65%) Would I buy the Golf? Probably - but I think I'd probably spend the money and get an SE instead of the S, on the basis that I spend a lot of time in my car, and I'd like the extra features and paint colour choices that you'd get with more than the base model. I also wouldn't go for a 1.6l petrol engine, but would stick with the diesel model. However, if you don't do much mileage, are happy with the standard spec and want a quality car, you can't go wrong with this choice. I haven't mentioned anything about running costs for this Golf, as I didn't have the car long enough to warrant any repairs to it. However, I can only add that I've had mine now for four years, it's still in superb condition after 61,000 miles and has cost me very little in repair bills. This is a classic car which fits in with most lifestyles.