First Drive: Volkswagen Golf SV

First Drive: Volkswagen Golf SV

A new week, another new car with an identity crisis. It’s called the Volkswagen Golf SV (that’s short for Sports Van — yes, really) and it appears, in my eyes at least, to be somewhat confused. For at first glance it looks like an estate version of the current Golf 7 Hatchback we South Africans can’t get enough of. But then you walk closer, scrutinise the shape and notice that those proportions seem to be at odds with the contemporary station wagon design credo.

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It’s just a little too bulbous, a little too humdrum, a little too void of those deliciously sleek lines and curves that make something like a Volvo V60 so attractive. Consequently, you find yourself wanting to label this rather peculiar Volkswagen with a SUV or MPV label. Except when you do, neither manages to bring about any further clarity. Still, be this as it may, the seemingly uncategorisable Golf does start to make a bit more sense once you sample its roomy interior. Because thanks to an increased wheelbase (48mm longer than the Hatchback) you’ll find that there’s a useful amount of extra space for legs and luggage.

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Especially in the aft chamber where the seats can either slide forwards to increase boot capacity (a Tiguan-shaming 500 litres) or backwards to better accommodate those endowed with extra-long legs. Indeed, this is one of those rare vehicles in which five adults can realistically — and comfortably — fit. Up front you’ll find a redesigned dashboard that’s wholly unique to the SV. Developed to be as user-friendly as possible, it basically elevates all the most important switchgear, bringing the controls for the ventilation and audio systems closer to your fingertips. Which is important when you factor in the higher seating position — one of the features VW believes will woo prospective buyers.

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Speaking of features all SV models come reasonably well equipped. Even the entry-level 1.2 TSI Trendline sports a USB port; five-inch touch screen audio system; XDS electronic differential lock; alloy wheels, manual air conditioning and driver fatigue detection. Comfortline, native to all the other derivatives in the current SV range, ups the ante with an even higher level of specification as well as a more luxury-oriented cabin. Now I suppose the Sports Van moniker would be somewhat more apt if the formidable 162kW GTI lump featured on the engine line-up list. Unfortunately, for the time being at least, it doesn’t. Instead you can pick between two lukewarm turbocharged petrols (81kW 1.2 and 92kW 1.4 TSI) or an ultra-frugal diesel (81kW 2.0 TDI).

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I drove the more potent of the two petrol engines and was impressed at its overall performance. Bolted to the optional DSG gearbox (a six-speed manual ships as standard cog-swapping fare) it merged effortless highway cruising with reasonable off-the-line accelerative urge. It’s a nice all-rounder, one that should suit the needs of most everyday people. In terms of handling, well, the SV drives exactly like its hatchback brother — just with a smidgen more body roll through tighter corners. Ride comfort remains top drawer while road and wind noise has been kept to an ear-pleasing minimum. The SV is a very relaxing tourer. So relaxed in fact that I spent most of the launch snoozing in the passenger seat while my partner tackled the winding passes that link Knysna to Port Elizabeth. Although this brief bout of automotive narcolepsy could also have been bought on by that anodyne, non-committal styling.

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Whatever. Slumber-inducing or not, the Golf SV remains an accomplished vehicle. It’s good to pilot and offers up a useful slug of additional stowage/passenger space for those members of the populace who can’t make do with the regular hatchback model (does such a demographic even exist?). Interestingly enough, it also undercuts its two most obvious rivals, the Mercedes-Benz B-Class and BMW 2 Series Active Tourer, which I guess makes it good value for money if you’re shopping inside this niche market segment. Unfortunately it also happens to be pretty much on par with its stable mate, the Touran. Now this cut and dried MPV is arguably better looking. It’s also more practical and can seat two extra people. Plus an all-new Touran model, riding atop the excellently ubiquitous MQB platform is due out later this year. All of which makes the Golf SV and the reason for its existence that much more befuddling.

The Facts: 2015 Volkswagen Golf SV
Engines: 1197cc four-cylinder turbo (1.2 TSI); 1395cc four-cylinder turbo (1.4 TSI); 1968cc four-cylinder diesel (2.0 TDI)
Power outputs: 81kW at 5 600rpm; 92kW at 5 000rpm; 81kW at 4 400rpm
Torque figures: 175Nm at 4 600rpm; 200Nm at 6 000rpm; 250Nm at 2 500rpm
0-100km/h times: 10.7 seconds; 9.9 seconds; 10.5 seconds
Top speed figures: 192km/h; 200km/h; 190km/h
CO2 figures: 117g/km; 125g/km; 120g/km
Fuel consumption: 5.1l/ 100km; 5.4l/ 100km; 4.6l/100km (claimed combined)
Prices: From R292 500 (1.2 TSI Trendline Manual); R325 200 (1.4 TSI Trendline Manual); R340 700 (1.4 TSI Trendline DSG); R343 700 (2.0 TDI Comfortline Manual); R359 200 (2.0 TDI Comfortline DSG)

Thomas Falkiner