Upsized Volkswagen Golf Sportsvan for families and retirees

Latest VW Golf-based compact MPV is big on practicality and small on compromises

The VW Golf Sportsvan is compact on the outside and spacious inside. -- PHOTO: DARYL LEE
The VW Golf Sportsvan is compact on the outside and spacious inside. -- PHOTO: DARYL LEE
The VW Golf Sportsvan is compact on the outside and spacious inside. -- PHOTO: VOLKSWAGEN

According to a Volkswagen product marketing executive, the new Golf Sportsvan is aimed at young families and "best agers", which we surmise is a euphemism for retirees.

The roads around St Tropez are full of best agers. As the successor to the Golf Plus pass them, they shower it with long, admiring glances.

Of course, the fact that the test unit of the compact multipurpose vehicle sports a very un-MPV-like orange may have something to do with the attention it gets.

But it may also be possible that the best agers are sizing up the Sportsvan as their next car. Traditionally, compact MPVs hold great appeal for European retirees.

And it is easy to see why. That group wants a car that is compact on the outside and spacious inside, with great all-round visibility, which explains the runaway success of the previous-generation Mercedes-Benz A-class among members of Europe's elderly citizens.

In the case of the Sportsvan, it has a relatively tiny footprint - it is 83mm longer than a Golf hatchback, but boasts improved visibility, thanks to an oversized glasshouse and an elevated seating position, with a hip point at least 59mm higher than in the hatchback.

As for the "young family" demographic, well, just look at it. The Sportsvan clearly shouts "practical".

Its wheelbase is 48mm longer than the Golf's, giving more room to those who take the rear bench, which, incidentally, can be configured in various ways.

The Sportsvan also boasts 120 litres more cargo space over the Golf, giving it a stowage of 500 litres - and that is with the rear seats up.

When folded down, the cargo-carrying capacity increases to a cavernous 1,520 litres, which is enough space for the kitchen sink (along with most of the kitchen too).

Unfortunately, outside of their target demographic, cars such as the Sportsvan do not have many fans.

Primarily, it is because they are not the most fun to drive, as their large glasshouses give rise to gawky dynamics.

Thankfully, though, the Sportsvan has some features found in the sizzling Golf GTI. These include variable-ratio steering rack and XDS electronic differential, which brakes the inside wheel imperceptibly while cornering for more incisiveness.

As far as this reviewer can tell, it works. So even if the Sportsvan might not give hot hatchbacks a fright (it is, after all, 134kg heavier and 126mm taller than an equivalent Golf hatchback), the car will not give you a fright should you decide to drive it in a more hooligan fashion, either.

It is also clear that the Sportsvan's strengths lie elsewhere. Drive it in a more leisurely fashion and it is a joy to handle, effortlessly eating up the miles with the cruising refinement of a luxury car.

While you may not get to your destination in a terrible hurry (the sole Sportsvan variant set to arrive early next year is equipped with a 125bhp 1.4-litre engine), neither will you arrive frazzled.

All told, the Sportsvan is a difficult car to find fault with.

It has practicality in spades and, because it is heavily based on the superb underpinnings of the current-generation Golf, it is no slouch in the driveability and refinement departments.

But if we did have to find something to pick on, it would have to be its looks.

The car is not the most handsome thing out there, especially when compared with the striking Citroen C4 Picasso. And its "van" nomenclature tends to preclude it from aching desirability.

But as you can probably tell, we are quibbling. The fact is, even if you are not among its target customers, you will still find plenty to love in this upsized Golf.

The writer is associate editor of Torque, a motoring monthly published by SPH Magazines.

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