Road Test: Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI Evo 150 DSG (2017)

  • Only new engine for the 2017 VW Golf tested
  • Zippy 150hp performance, plus promise of good mpg
  • No pricing yet, but est £21.5k when on sale in May

You’ve probably heard that Volkswagen has been having a little public relations difficulty with diesel engines recently. Perhaps you’re even considering abandoning your diesel Golf as a result.

Should that be the case – or even if you just like decent family cars – then we have got some good news for you. It’s called the 1.5-litre TSI Evo engine, and it’s the only all-new motor joining the Golf range as part of the VW’s 2017 mid-life refresh.

A new petrol-powered Golf

As the TSI badging suggests, the new 1.5-litre engine is a turbocharged petrol. It will be available in two outputs when order books open in May, but so far we’ve only been able to test the more powerful one.

Not that this is anything to complain about, as with 150hp and zingy, eager responses this is a delightful version of the latest Golf to drive – especially when partnered with the new seven-speed DSG automatic transmission.

What’s so good about the new 1.5-litre TSI engine?

It’s been engineered as a replacement for the 1.4-litre TSI (although that remains in the Golf price list for the time being), and carries over some of that motor’s clever technology.

On the 150hp version this includes the cylinder deactivation system that shuts down two of the engine’s four cylinders whenever circumstances allow – such as cruising at low revs on a constant throttle – in order to help you save fuel.

Fuel-saving technology that works

This is basically seamless in operation, but we did occasionally detect some vibration through the driver’s seat that could be attributed to it. Unusual for a VW, though we were driving an early car so perhaps this issue will be ironed out in full production, and regardless it was only the slightest of tremors.

VW Golf 1.5-litre TSI 150 (2017) road test review

The less-powerful 130hp version of the new 1.5 is even smarter. Badged with Volkswagen’s BlueMotion eco branding, this borrows technology from the Golf GTE plug-in hybrid and can shut down completely, rather than just partially. VW claims this brings a substantial increase in real-world fuel economy, not just a big on-paper improvement.

What’s the 150hp version like to drive?

A joy. Response to your right foot is crisp, acceleration is brisk, and the noise it makes is pleasantly sporty without ever becoming overbearing – dropping away to a relative whisper at constant motorway speeds.

The seven-speed DSG automatic transmission makes a very good partner to it, too. Lively yet smooth when left to its own devices – and you can tailor this to a certain extent using the Golf’s driving mode selector – but also snappy and happy to oblige whenever you choose to take manual control via the paddles on the back of the steering wheel.

Add petrol for a great drive

So where in the latest Golf GTD performance diesel model the DSG seems to subtract from the driving experience, in the 1.5 TSI it manages to still feel exciting if you do enjoy driving with enthusiasm.

VW Golf 1.5-litre TSI 150 (2017) road test review

The new 1.5-litre petrol also has a weight advantage over the 2.0-litre diesel commonly fitted in many Golfs, and since this advantage is concentrated over the front axle, it helps make the petrol engine feel lighter on its feet.

This translates into keener direction changes and suspension that is adept at dealing with bumpy surfaces.

At this stage, however, we have only been able to try the new engine in combination with the optional Dynamic Chassis Control package, which has a choice of Comfort, Normal and Sport suspension settings, each bringing advantages depending on your driving mood.

And how’s the Mk7.5 in general?

The 2017 facelift is supposedly the first significant mid-life update VW has ever carried out on the Golf – and as a result this version of the seventh-generation model is likely to become known as the Golf Mk7.5.

A new set of bumpers and lights give the exterior a sharper look, while the makeover on the inside is centred around a new Discover Pro infotainment system option, which includes a 9.2-inch touchscreen.

VW Golf 1.5-litre TSI 150 (2017) road test review

Together with the (also optional) digital instrument cluster – familiar from the latest Passat – this gives the interior a really modern look. But it does so without taking away the old-fashioned dial controls for the air conditioning, so it remains reassuringly user-friendly.

Just as the material quality remains reassuringly premium.

There’s also a boost to safety, with the autonomous emergency braking now able to recognise pedestrians as well as other vehicles, while the Traffic Jam Assist option aims to do the driving for you up 37mph whenever you’re stuck in congestion.

Golf 1.5 TSI value and running costs

Value is tricky to gauge this at the moment, as VW is yet to release pricing for the new engine.

However, as a general rule, the 2017 facelift Golf is £650 cheaper than the model it’s replacing – which is good news for buyers. And regardless of Dieselgate, the Volkswagen image remains a strong lure, helping the Golf achieve good residual values, which in turn make for highly competitive finance rates.

We’re expecting prices for the 150hp 1.5-litre to start at around £21,500.

VW Golf 1.5-litre TSI 150 (2017) road test review

As for running costs, translating the German figures – which are all we have available at the moment – when equipped with the DSG auto, this car has claimed fuel economy of 56.6mpg with 114g/km CO2 emissions.

Since it arrives in the UK after 1 April 2017, this version of the new Golf will immediately be subject to the new car tax rates. Meaning you’ll pay £160 in the first year, then £130 a year after that (the latter figure being the same for any ordinary petrol or diesel model under £40,000).

Verdict

The 1.5-litre TSI Evo engine with 150hp is one of the stars of the 2017 VW Golf line-up. It’s fast enough, great fun to drive, refined and – if the figures are to be believed – should prove efficient to run as well.

We look forward to catching up with again once it goes on sale in UK in May, but have little reason to hesitate recommending it at this stage.