Relaxed round of Golf

The latest Golf offers a reasonable mix of dynamism, comfort and refinement.
The latest Golf offers a reasonable mix of dynamism, comfort and refinement.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Volkswagen's facelifted hatchback comes with a 999cc engine that is fun and frugal

Volkswagen's latest one-litre Golf is a trip down memory lane, back to the original iconic hatch which arrived with a bang four decades ago.

You fire up the engine by twisting a key, the steering wheel is just for steering, manual gear changes are via the gear lever and you - not the machine - decide on how cool you want the cabin to be.

And right in front of the wheel are analogue dials with real needles.

The car - a facelift of the current seventh-generation model - is rather basic when compared to all other recent models. But it is such a joy, simply because it enshrines the values of the first model introduced in 1974.

The car is uncomplicated and made to be accessible to the masses, although with the latest spike in COE prices, it cannot be described as cheap at $108,400.

Grasping its steering wheel with three shiny enamel-coated spokes brings back memories of earlier cars. There is not a single distraction on it, which is a good thing.

The entry-level Golf is powered by a 999cc three-cylinder engine. But with turbocharging, it is substantially spunkier than the 1.6-litre which drove the very first Golf.

  • SPECS / VOLKSWAGEN GOLF TSI

  • Price: $108,400 with COE

    Engine: 999cc 12-valve inline-3 turbocharged

    Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch with manual override

    Power: 110bhp at 5,000rpm

    Torque: 200Nm at 2,000-3,000rpm

    0-100kmh: 9.9 seconds

    Top speed: 196kmh

    Fuel consumption: 5 litres/100km

    Agent: Volkswagen Centre Singapore

It has, in fact, a bit more output than the preceding 1.2-litre turbo, with a fairly ample 110bhp and 200Nm available.

The car feels a tad weedy below 2,000rpm though. And you always feel its transmission - a seven-speed dual-clutch - is programmed more for efficiency than performance.

Indeed, the Golf TSI (as VW prefers to call it) is unlikely to hit 100kmh in the 9.9 seconds stated by the manufacturer. Even so, it proves to be driveable in most situations.

During times you require extra promptness, it is best to flick the gear lever over to manual mode and do some shifting on your own.

Driven this way, the compact hatch is reasonably perky. Blessed with possibly the best front-wheel chassis in the business, it offers a good mix of dynamism, comfort and refinement.

The car is as spacious and versatile as its bigger-engined siblings. The boot is now lined with a heavy-duty anti-slip rubber mat, so that wet or gritty items do not foul up the rest of the stowage area.

Modern conveniences such as electrically adjustable wing mirrors, electronic parking brake (with auto-hold), Bluetooth connectivity, automatic (halogen) headlights with daytime-running LEDs and rain-sensing wipers are onboard.

But you do not get the other more premium features such as navigation, cruise control or reverse camera.

As mentioned earlier, the car is not unattractive despite its austere set-up. In fact, it is, in a way, more "Golf" than its over-equipped siblings.

VW has not cut back on safety though.

The Golf TSI has Isofix childseat mounts, a slew of airbags and most of the electronic stability aids found in costlier models.

More impressively, its tested fuel economy of 6.2-7.7 litres/100km is fairly close to its declared figure of 5 litres/100km.

A relaxed round of Golf, anyone?

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2017, with the headline 'Relaxed round of Golf'. Print Edition | Subscribe