If there's one other model that Volkswagen is known for, it's this: the Golf.
Most people the world over recognize the Beetle as the iconic Volkswagen, but the Golf holds perhaps a more important distinction: it's the best-selling VW model, ever. Globally, it's also the second best selling nameplate in history, hitting the 30 million unit mark in June 2013 over seven generations since its introduction in 1974. Only the Toyota Corolla has more sales at 40 million, but it did have an 8 year lead when it was introduced in 1966.
History lesson aside, much is expected of the Golf in the Philippines, especially since we've had to wait over 2 years after Ayala set up the distributor in the country. Sure, we've had the GTI, but that was never meant to sell in big numbers. This one is the TSI Highline version, and we're about to see if it lives up to its best selling lineage.
The Golf, as expected, is as Teutonically-styled as they come; conservative and straightforward. There aren't any fancy lines, no creative uses of surfaces, or other complex exterior design details on this five door hatchback. I actually like that, as it means the Golf looks reserved and proper wherever you drive it, park it, or photograph it. What does look good is VW's use of LED lights in front and on the back.
Like the exterior, the cabin is neat, clean, and conservative. I remember driving the Jetta two years ago and feeling a bit underwhelmed, especially with the way the interior was specced and equipped. Not so for this Golf, especially with their choice of materials and the number of check marks when speccing the Highline for our market.
This is virtually the same interior as that in the Golf GTI, sans a few details like the “Clark” seats, the steering wheel, and a few others. These seats are of the “Vienna” leather variety, and they feel comfortable to be in; actually I prefer them to the ones in the Golf GTI, given the TSI's less sporting orientation. There's a nice 5.8-inch screen in the middle with Bluetooth and many other functions, and there's a dual-zone climate control system which should be useful if both front occupants have varying preferences in temperature.
There's good room all around, and the five door configuration makes it easy for people to get in and out of the the back as opposed to the three door versions overseas. Being a hatchback, the Golf offers plenty of versatility and practicality on daily tasks and errands. With the rear seats up, there's space for 380 liters of cargo in the back, but with the rear seats down, the Golf can take on up to 1270 liters; that's plenty of space.
What I was really looking forward to taking the Golf around for a drive, especially since it has a neat little 1.4-liter engine under the hood. It sounds odd to look forward to driving a car with a small engine after testing its GTI brother that came with a 2.0-liter turbo, but this TSI has a turbo as well. At 150 horsepower with 250 Newton-meters of torque, as well as a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox, this hatchback should have plenty of go.
On a daily commute to and from the office, the Golf TSI proved to be a very comfortable ride as the suspension is certainly softer than the GTI. The dual clutch gearbox seems to have been improved on, as it drove neatly even in low speed traffic. Fuel economy was quite impressive; in the city at an average speed of 21 km/h, the TSI achieved 10.5 km/l; that's if you drive it smartly without fully spooling the turbo. On highway speeds, it goes up significantly; 16.7 km/l when driven casually at an average speed of 89 km/h.
With those numbers, its easy to dismiss the Golf TSI as a boring econobox. Thankfully, that's so not the case. Floor the throttle and that turbocharged 1.4-liter motor responds with gusto. The TSI can dispatch 100 km/h from a standstill in just 8.2 seconds, with the DSG easily sorting through all the gears up to a top speed of 216 km/h.
When it comes to cornering, there's a little bit more body roll compared to the GTI, but there are definitely traces of hot-hatchness in the TSI. Despite having tires of the low rolling resistance variety, the Golf's suspension does well to deliver an exceptionally fun drive.
This Golf does, however, come at a price. At PhP 1,739,000, this Golf TSI's pricing puts it in the price range of executive sedans and crossovers, and that's the trade off for a more premium German car. Yes, this Golf isn't "Hecho en Mexico"; it's built in Wolfsburg, Germany.
Overall, the 2016 Volkswagen Golf TSI Highline is just a well-sorted, practical, and usable daily driver. We can go on and on about specs and such, but really, the bottom line with the Golf is the exceptionally excellent way the 1.4 engine, the dual clutch gearbox, the monocoque and suspension all work together to deliver a surprisingly great driving experience. It's no GTI, but it sure delivers plenty of the same kind of fun.