2013 Volkswagen Golf | Road Test
|Good||Premium cabin, Handling|
|Bad||Stiff-ish ride, Excessive wind noise|
|Specs||1.4L, 4 cylinder, turbocharged, 140 hp @ 4500 rpm, 250 Nm @ 3500 rpm, 7 speed dual clutch transmission, FWD|
|Price||AED 79,900 - AED 133,900. AED 99,900 (As Tested).|
Will the real hatchback, please stand up.
The Golf is definitely the most important model for Volkswagen in their entire line up. The Golf was introduced as a replacement for the Beetle and ever since has become the highest selling VeeDub ever. What we have here isn’t a GTI but the base entry level not so hot hatch with a measly 1.4L engine. But let’s face it, for the Golf to become the highest selling VW they definitely had to move a lot of the non-’hot hatch’ versions. So when the folks at Volkswagen offered us the keys to the newly designed Mk VII 2013 Volkswagen Golf, we were eager to find out how VW have improved on the brilliant outgoing model.
On first glance, it doesn’t seem very different. But a closer look and you can see the car has grown longer by 81mm offering improved legroom in the little hatch. The Golf is often compared to the 911 as the cheaper FWD alternative and the design progress has been very similar. Every generation of the Golf since its introduction in 1974 has been an evolution of the initial design and not a revolution.
In the Middle East, the 2013 Volkswagen Golf is available in 7 versions. Ranging from the 1.2T all the way to the mighty GTI. Now before you begin rolling your eyes at the puny engine which has lesser displacement than your bottle of fizz, let me tell you remind you this direct injection engine uses turbocharger witchcraft producing 138 hp @ 4500 rpm and 250 lb-ft of Torque at just 1500 rpm in a car that weights 1290 kgs. 100 kgs lighter than the outgoing model. That’s not too bad. While stationary, plant your foot on the throttle and the car sort of hesitates for a second till the turbo spools and then pulls strongly to the 100 kph mark in just 8 seconds. The 7 speed DSG box (VW speak for a dual clutch automatic transmission) changes gears swiftly and so smoothly it is impossible to tell between gear shifts while driving in normal mode. Stick it into sport mode and the transmission is reluctant to move to a higher gear while being quite abrupt with gear changes resulting in a bit of a jerky ride. For spirited driving we found it best to use manual mode, giving us complete control of the gears. Being a 4 cylinder turbocharged engine, the exhaust note is hardly appealing and as you approach the redline you can’t wait for it to shift gears so you don’t have to listen to the little engine screaming.
However, the Golf is enjoyed best as a run about around town, more specifically taking turns. This being a FWD, you would expect some amount of understeer but the 2013 Volkswagen Golf handles like a typical RWD setup resulting in oversteer instead! How Volkswagen have managed to do it with this little guy is absolutely fantastic. Grip around the corners is brilliant and if it weren’t for the small engine it could easily pass off as a hot hatch. There is a trade off though and the ride is not as smooth as we thought it would be. Around town, minor imperfections in the road are felt in the cabin while at highway speeds the ride can be a bit bouncy. Clearly not your weapon of choice for the Dubai – Abu Dhabi commute. One smart feature on the 2013 Volkswagen Golf is the speed limiter option which allows you to set your maximum speed and then does not allow you to accidentally speed. With more speed cameras than camels in this country that will definitely help keep your RTA contributions in check.
Step into the cabin and you are greeted with high quality material all around. The height adjustable fabric seats have inserts that feel like suede. The piano black inserts, leather wrapped steering wheel and gear knob and infotainment package make this little guy feel premium. Every little storage space is lined with rubber/cloth to ensure a rattle free interior. The soft to touch plastics, faux carbon fibre inserts, faux chrome surrounds on the switch gear and overall fit and finish is excellent and can easily compete with any of the premium german brands. The 2013 Volkswagen Golf has also borrowed Audi’s famous interior light package that we love so much to make for a cabin nicely lit in all the right places with soft white lighting. The only gripe with the interior was the plastic cover over the storage compartment below the climate controls. Once shut, the cover refused to open and only worked after furiously pushing and tugging at it for more than 10 minutes. For an otherwise excellent interior this little plastic cover feels out of place.
While the 2013 Volkswagen Golf is no doubt a brilliant hatchback, it has its flaws. At highway speeds there was more than a little wind noise that made having a conversation uncomfortable. For a car that promises to feel premium, that can’t be overlooked. Thanks to the tiny side view mirrors in spite of this being a hatchback, the blind spots are rather large. Add to this, the transmission tunnel runs high which means it can definitely not seat more than 4 average sized adults comfortably. Larger individuals might find it a little uncomfortable even in the front seats. There is a cheaper 1.2 Liter, Turbo engine available too, but I suspect that might feel a little under powered and take away from the experience.
At a cost of AED 99,900 it is not the cheapest hatchback money can buy. But then again, the Golf has always been a car that offered hatchback practicality, refined driving dynamics and a premium interior quality all rolled into one little package. More importantly, a Golf was designed to be a fun to drive car. And that, the 2013 Volkswagen Golf does not fail to deliver.