VOLKSWAGEN GOLF S 1.2: Small engine prompts a Meldrew moment….

VW Golf 5IS it at all possible in this day and age to slip an engine the size of an overgrown lawnmower under the bonnet of a quality car and – let’s put it this way – still get away with it?

Those of us who remember the days when a 1.2 engined car could barely struggle to the top of a hill under its own power would probably say no.

But those people at Volkswagen have proved us wrong. For the Golf range (and others in the VW stable, it has to be said) now offers the option of a modest 1197cc unit. And to be honest, it’s an eyebrow raiser.

Those days of the skin on the rice pudding chuckling in the bowl with a self-satisfied feeling of safety are banished. This is a small engine Golf with undoubted pulling power.

Yet it’s also smooth and refined, hardly ever feels or sounds like you’re giving it a bit of a shoeing with your right boot, when in fact you’re sailing merrily along with the rest of the swiftly moving motorway traffic and still showing a reading the top side of 50mpg into the bargain.

I like that. Especially when the last 1.2 engined VW I drove returned a totally inept 27mpg or so from a ‘combined’ mix of driving.

There’s no doubting the 1.2 Golf’s efficiency. A CO2 figure of 114g/km and a claimed combined fuel figure of 57.6mpg say so, and even though the power output is a relatively modest 105ps, it has on the button acceleration while at the same time being as smooth a performer as Nigel Havers.

VW Golf 4It’s grown in size over the years, and even though the latest model is new from the ground up – literally every component has changed – that distinctive profile that has been the Golf’s hallmark over the years remains. You don’t fix what isn’t broke in this business.

Comfortable, practical, safe and efficient have been its bywords and for VW that’s not about to change. What you will notice, though, is a definite step upwards in terms of quality to a level that puts much more expensive cars to shame.  Golfs have always been classy, but now the fit and finish are well above the norm, with a very definite prestige feel to the cabin and the way everything fits together and clicks into action when required

The steering is in the main pin sharp, the car always feeling well planted on the road. The gearbox itself is a precision piece of smooth shifting perfection and the Golf has a flat bottomed steering wheel and an electronic handbrake among its standard kit.

For those who struggle to get in and out of cars, note that the doors open wide and its increased dimensions gives everyone just that bit more room.

What don’t I like? Well, for over £18,000 I’d expect a set of neat alloy wheels in place of the cheap wheel trims, but even in S spec there is a decent amount of standard equipment, though rear passengers get those old fashioned non electric wind up windows. But it does come with stop/start, battery regeneration, climatic air conditioning, multi function computer with a 5.8 inch touchscreen and Bluetooth.

VW may have built up their reputation as being the people’s car, but those people are finding they’re having to stump up a fair old wedge of cash to stay loyal to the marque.

Even so the Mk7 Golf offers a compelling proposition for anyone seeking performance, pampering and prestige in the same package.

FASTFACTS: Volkswagen Golf S; £18,160; 1.2 litre four cylinder 16 valve TSI;  six speed manual gearbox; 105ps, 175Nm; Top speed 119mph, 0-62mph 10.2 secs; Fuel – urban 47.9, extra urban 65.7, combined 57.6; CO2 114g/km; Insurance 11E.

© Wheelwrite 2013

Seven generations of Golf - and they keep getting better

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