September 15, 2016 @ 04:51 PM

Review: Volkswagen Golf TSI Highline - When the price isn't right

The venerable Golf has a lot going for it; plenty in fact, but unfortunately the same can also be said for its asking price that puts this capable all-rounder out of reach for the average class buyer.


The Golf nameplate tops the ecclesiastical hierarchy at the church of Volkswagen. While it might still account for but a trifling sum in the sales figures as the name sedately gains traction here, laying it down in laymen terms for the Asian market would label the Golf as the Toyota Corolla of the Western hemisphere; such is the significance of the model that even its modular MQB architecture underpins a vast variety of Volkswagen’s models currently.
 
Over here, its siblings on steroids; the Golf GTI and the Golf R, might be the first to spring to mind at the mention of the Golf name but the regular, grocery-getting Golf TSI is itself one of the most capable performers in the C-segment with aces up all its sleeves.


 
Said sleeves though were getting a little tattered from its years in the market here so Volkswagen Group Malaysia gave it the mandatory mid-cycle refresh as one of its last gestures before handing over the official distributorship to a new parent company.
 
From the previous one variant, the Golf TSI is now available in two trim levels with the most premium Highline being featured here. Globally, the Golf can be had with a myriad of advanced petrol and diesel mills from Volkswagen’s stable but over here, the sole option is the same 1.4-litre TSI powerplant with a slight bump in power.


 
Now putting out 10bhp more at 148bhp, the torque figures remain the same though at a class-leading 250Nm. Sending power to the front wheels is the familiar seven-speed DSG that is one of the weapons in its packed holster.
 
Cosmetically, the beady-eyed will pick up on a handful of negations such as the LED DRLs in the headlights that are now replaced by more generic fixed cornering lamps and halogen bulbs although the main lighting is still a bright xenon unit. At the rear however, the bland taillights have been upgraded to LED pieces that mimic the sleeker Golf R’s design.


 
Inside, the Golf’s cabin is a textbook example of understated elegance with quality materials served in generous portions that make the tactile experience a joy. Contrary to the Japanese interiors that try hard to impress and make use of multiple shades (Mazda is excused), the Golf’s dash is laid out with plenty of user-friendliness and a minimalistic design that places controls for  technologies such as Park Assist at your fingertips but without shouting it out.
 
Brushed aluminium trim adds a wonderful contrast to the dark grey without overdoing the eccentrics and keeping firmly in line with the understated overall theme. Cubby holes and storage spaces are more than sufficient and you should be questioning your accessories if you cannot find enough spots to stash your stuff.


 
With forced induction making its presence known in the C-segment now, the Golf TSI can rely on its previous experience in turbocharged engines to keep it ahead of the pack. Ford took the leap with the mainstream C-segmenters and gave its Focus a 178bhp turbocharged EcoBoost before Honda followed suit and attached a snail to its new Civic.
 
Both make considerably more power with the caveat that it kicks in much higher in the powerband, thus losing its usability. The Golf’s peak power comes in earlier and it also produces its class-leading peak torque much earlier than all its peers, proving that an accessible powerband is the perfect complement to its impressive handling traits.


 
Additionally, the seventh gear in the DSG transmission allows for closer gearing ratios that lend it brisk acceleration and gobs of go. An extra gear also makes the Golf TSI a fuel sipper as we averaged around 7.5l/100km, far short of the official 5.0l/100km but still one of the most economical by miles.
 
Typical to its German roots, the Golf delivers a driving experience that will earn a soft spot in the hearts of even the most dispassionate of motorists. Even if getting from A to B is your sole reason for needing a car, the Golf TSI will be able to give you something to smile about with every commute and the Park Assist will ensure the drive ends with a hands-free parking job.


 
Push the unassuming hatch hard and you will be rewarded with loads of mechanical grip and poise that is unfamiliar to others in the segment. Even with the muteness of the electric steering numbing feedback, enough gets through to the delectable steering wheel that you will always have the limits of the car within your grasps.
 
Even with the excellent road manners and holding, the ride is never the worse for it with damping and cabin intrusions from undulations all dispatched firmly and reassuringly. The dark art of ride and handling tuning is one that even manufacturers can botch occasionally but the Golf has displayed that a pliant ride can be had in the same vehicle with dynamic handling, something Mercedes-Benz’ engineers missed out with the A-Class.


 
Quick off the mark, responsive and eager to rush forward with seemingly uninhibited reserves of power, the Golf paints itself a jack of all trades and masters quite a few of them as well. Given that it still plies its trade in the passenger car division and is not an outright sporty model, the amount of performance on hand will delight anyone that has to spend time behind its wheel.
 
Even with comparisons against the Civic and Focus as it does go head-to-head against them in other markets, the ugly truth is that the country’s taxation structure prices the Golf TSI well above the C-segment bracket buyers are comfortable with, leaving it in the twilight zone of sorts between the regular C-segmenters and the entry-level A-Class.
 
The brand would have to truly stir your soul for you to splash the RM159,888 asking price, even for the endearing driving experience that makes it arguably the most complete hatch in its class if only price was an afterthought.



Volkswagen Golf TSI Highline
Price: RM160,635 OTR without insurance
Engine: 1395cc, inline-four DOHC, direct injection, turbocharged, variable valve timing, 148bhp @ 5000-6000rpm, 250Nm @ 1500-3500rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual clutch (DSG), front-wheel drive
Performance: 8.2sec 0-100kmh, 216kmh, 5.0-litres/100km
Dimensions (l/w/h): 4255mm, 1799mm, 1452mm
Weight: 1288kg

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