Upsized Golf with ample room

The Volkswagen Sportsvan can fit a family of four and a dog comfortably.
The Volkswagen Sportsvan can fit a family of four and a dog comfortably.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

VW's Golf-based Sportsvan offers more space than pace

This Volkswagen used to be called Golf Plus, which made it sound like a Golf for overweight people.

It is now called Sportsvan, which makes it sound, well, sporty. And sporty is good in automotive talk.

Sporty is better than sleek. Or sexy. Or efficient. It is even better than spacious, which essentially is what this Golf-based VW is.

At 83mm longer, 126mm taller and 8mm wider than the Golf, the Sportsvan offers lots of room for passengers as well as cargo.

It has 500 litres of stowage, which trebles to 1,520 litres when all the rear seats are folded. This compares with 605 and 1,620 litres for the Golf Variant, which is the wagon version of the Golf.

What the Variant cannot match is the Sportsvan's high ceiling, which allows folks who are slightly taller than Maria Sharapova to fit comfortably in the second row.

Visually, the Sportsvan seems as big as the Touran, Volkswagen's compact seven-seater. But it is actually half a size smaller.

So while it possesses the utility of the Variant and has ample room for five, it does not have a third row of seats like the Touran.

  • SPECS/VOLKSWAGEN SPORTSVAN HIGHLINE

    Price: $134,300 with COE

    Engine: 1,395cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged

    Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch with manual select

    Power: 125bhp at 6,000rpm

    Torque: 200Nm at 1,400-4,000rpm

    0-100kmh: 9.9 seconds

    Top speed: 200kmh

    Fuel consumption: 5.4 litres/100km

    Agent: Volkswagen Singapore

But it is a nice compromise nonetheless - one that would work quite well for a family of four with a dog.

What Sportsvan drivers need not compromise on much though is performance. Even though the car takes 9.9 seconds to reach 100kmh (0.6 seconds more than a similar Golf), it does not feel at all lethargic at the wheel.

Its ubiquitous 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, with 125bhp and 200Nm, pulls willingly, if a tad undramatically.

With its MPV-like dimensions and form, you would think it is anything but sporty. Well, yes and no.

The Sportsvan acquits itself fairly well around corners, with its chassis resisting roll admirably. But it lacks the natural flair that you see in a regular hatch.

Its ride is decidedly firm. But this seems totally out of character for what is essentially a monospace car similar to the Renault Scenic.

It might have been better for Volkswagen to offer more comfort instead. Because no one with kids and pooch onboard is likely to drive like Lewis Hamilton.

But with a name like Sportsvan, Volkswagen may well have been obliged to confer the car a semblance of sportiness.

You are doubly aware of the jiggly ride because of the rear seatbelt buckles, which knock incessantly against their anchor pillars. As they are way in the back, there is no way for the driver to rectify this din.

The only way is for him to remind rear occupants to pull the buckle down towards the sleeve that cushions it and keeps it in place.

Despite the niggles, the Sportsvan is a decent proposition. It comes with a premium suite of features, including drive mode selector, panoramic sunroof, a big touchscreen infotainment monitor with an easy-to-use navigation system, keyless access and ignition, cruise control and electric parking brake with auto release and hold functions.

Last but not least, golfers will love this upsized Golf because there is enough space for their buddies as well as their gear.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2015, with the headline 'Upsized Golf with ample room'. Print Edition | Subscribe