VW Golf: Golf shootout

  • VW Golf Cabriolet v GTI v 1.2 TSI
  • Cabriolet BlueMotion fails to impress
  • GTi impressive, but TSI remains no slouch

More by luck than judgment the Parkers car park was populated by a trio of VW Golfs, due to be tried and tested by our enthusiastic editorial team.

My own 1.2 TSI, a Golf Cabriolet BlueMotion and a GTI Edition 35 proved an impressive line-up and with the threesome rotating between the staff in consecutive evenings we were able to get a neat back-to-back comparison. Although not necessarily scientific or that useful, since the triplet are completely different animals, this rather serendipitous triple test did prompt some heated debate in the Parkers office.

By nature I am a loyal human being. Although the younger, more rapid members of staff at Parkers favoured the GTI, I stuck to my guns and argued that, pound-for-pound, my 1.2-litre TSI represented the best buy.

All agreed, however, that the Cabriolet would not be on any of our shopping lists. Powered by a 103bhp turbodiesel engine, it felt sluggish in spite of the sizeable 250Nm of maximum torque. Around corners it felt boring and unresponsive in comparison to the 103bhp TSI, which was surprising since both cars use the same running gear - the only major difference is that the TDI is a little heavier.

Of course, the TDI has an ace card when you consider official fuel economy. VW says it'll do 64.2mpg on average which fares well when it's put up against my TSI which will yield 49mpg. In real-world driving you can expect to knock 10mpg off both cars.

Also, the TDI offers the benefit of wind-in-the hair motoring but all Parkers staff agreed that they'd trade that for the decent handling and performance offered by the TSI.

So what about the GTI then? Well, we had the 35th anniversary version which has 25bhp more under the bonnet than the normal GTI. Although the standard GTI is no slouch, we all agreed that that extra ooomph really does make all the difference.

The main point of discussion surrounding the GTI was the inclusion of the DSG gearbox and whether it is a) a good thing or b) a bad thing.

Road test editor Simon McBride is a DSG enthusiast: he rightly points out that this is absolutely the best dual-clutch gearbox on the market and that no matter how fast a quick-throw manual box is, it'll never be anywhere near as quick as this slick-shifting auto.

Both myself and news reporter Gareth Evans, however, confessed to being 'old school'. While we recognise the superiority of the DSG, we still both prefer a traditional manual gearbox, agreeing that there is something inherently beautiful about reaching down and moving the gearlever closer to your left knee. It's a primeval activity that we simply cannot dispense with.

And then it came to value - the main discussion point for this test. McBride and Evans were both sufficiently enamoured by the rapidity of the GTI to convince them that parting with £28,820 was an entirely sensible thing to do. I, however, didn't agree. I felt that the £17,135 outlay for the TSI represented better value especially when you consider the Cabriolet, with exactly the same power output, costs £23,245 and it hasn't even got a fixed roof. Of course, the TSI and the GTI are at opposite ends of the spectrum, but this a question of bang-for-yer-bucks, and although we all agreed that the GTI and TSI are both good value, for me, the TSI gets the nod.