VW Golf: Evans' view

  • First impressions don't count with our VW Golf
  • Evans reports excellent driving position and handling
  • Zippy 1.2-litre petrol engine wins another fan

When I first had a look around Tim’s Golf, I have to admit to feeling somewhat despondent about it.

On paper it just looked like a ‘hire car-spec’ Golf; not much kit, a little engine and a bland, soul-less interior. I was left with this impression for months as Tim and his car went through the trials and tribulations of a six-month sentence with each other.

Then one weekend our boss decided he wanted to borrow a car, so I lent him my Astra. Tim jumped into a much nicer car that we had on short term loan and I was relegated (for lack of a better word) to the humble Golf. I’ve done nearly 600 miles in it since, so thought I’d offer my thoughts from a young, dumb wannabe race driver’s point of view.  

Jumping behind the wheel, the first thing I noticed was the driving position. It is simply fantastic; much more intuitive than any other modern hatch I’ve driven. The Astra pales in insignificance and the Focus doesn’t even come close. I mentioned to our Road Test Editor Simon McBride that it was the closest I’ve come in recent months to feeling like my race car in terms of how it feels behind the wheel. No mean feat for a family hatchback.

Out on the open road I prepared to give the Golf a good thrashing to see how it compares in the drivability stakes.

Now, although the tiny little 1.2-litre petrol engine will never turn your Volkswagen into a Veyron, there’s a lot to be said for the plucky little powerplant. It’s smooth and refined, and boasts the sort of wide power band that genuinely aids over-taking.

Although peak power is just 104bhp, it’s so nice to drive a car with a decent petrol engine these days. Everyone (and their dog) wants you to burn diesel, which exactly doesn’t make for an exhilarating driving experience.

The ride and handling are excellent too. It isn’t the last word in razor-sharp precision, but through corners the Golf feels so planted it is confidence-inspiring. In fact it’s very hard to fluster this chassis through low- or high-speed bends. When you do push things a bit far (and I tend to do just that) the car responds in a collected and predictable fashion.

The steering is sharp and direct, although if I were really nit-picking I’d say it could do with a little more feel and feedback in order to be a true driver’s car.

Even the seats, which are just simple, everyday VW parts-bin items, are supportive and comfortable enough to keep me happy on a long, enthusiastic drive. The stereo is spectacularly loud too, although the iPod control leaves a bit to be desired.

So, overall I have to say I’m very impressed with Tim’s Golf. It took me by surprise with its capabilities, and since it is such a low spec I have to salute it; a car that reminds me of first couple of generations of Golf. You won’t hear much higher praise from a self-confessed petrolhead.