VW Golf: Takes on its rivals

Who gets the triple crown?

It was a logical move: myself and my colleagues Lewis Kingston and Gareth Evans all have small family hatchbacks on long-term tests. Why not pit them against each other in a battle of the hatchbacks?

Lewis is currently enjoying the benefits of running the new Ford Focus, while Gareth is still getting used to the Vauxhall Astra. I, however, have had my small hatchback - the VW Golf TSI - for the longest, and am becoming quite attached to it.

Now, the thing is, when we do a twin test we stick to a fairly rigid format in order to establish which is best, but on this occasion Gareth, Lewis and I will go off-piste. We'll leave the scientific comparisons to the formal triple test, and just proffer 'from the heart' opinions on these three cars for our long-term updates.

I still do not know what conclusions Gareth and Lewis have come to but almost inevitably I am happy to conclude that of the three, the Golf is the best.

It was a close-run thing though. I drove the cars back-to-back and had a bit of a prod around each one to establish which I would choose if the proverbial gun was put to my head.

So, if ever there is a Colt 45 pointed at my cranium, I would tell the armed oppressor seeking a definitive conclusion that I just couldn't go for the Focus or the Astra, for one major reason and one major reason alone: the Golf's the best to drive.

It feels nimble, grippy and easy to manoeuvre, and although the Focus is close - it's got plenty of grip - it's just not quite so agile. My 70-mile commute from Peterborough to London alllows for motorway, urban and B-road driving and almost every time I emerge from this trip in the Golf I feel pretty pleased with myself because it has well... been fun. It's not so much fun in the Focus and, having completed the same journey three nights in a row in the Astra, I felt rather underwhelmed. The Vauxhall just doesn't feel so nippy, quick to turn in and I am not that much of a fan of the steering feel either.  

That said, I am not that fond of the steering feel offered by the Focus. It uses an electronic mechanism and even when I first drove the car on the international launch I was not that impressed with it. Handling-wise though, there's little to complain about. I just feel that it's not up to the Golf's very high standards.

The Golf isn't perfect though. The loadbay won't deliver a flat floor when the rear seats are folded down, unlike the Astra, and I do find the dashboard layout and interior a little dull when you compare it to the Focus. Yes, the Focus and the Astra have more kit, including sat nav, but I still think the interior could be a little more 'wow'. VW is supposed to be a premium brand, after all.

So, still pleased with the Golf, but I will be interested to see whether my two colleagues agree with me.

Current mileage: 10,300

Average mpg: 40.6