► Testing the 2.0 diesel Golf Mk7.5
► More fun than you might expect
► A better buy than the 1.6 TDI
This VW Golf may have an ‘R’ in its name, but it’s not the one you’re likely to be lusting over. The more powerful 306bhp petrol Golf R is the flagship headline-grabber, but despite having less than half the power – 148bhp to be precise – being sent to half the number of wheels, this Golf 2.0 TDI R-Line diesel somehow manages to be very nearly as satisfying to drive.
A diesel VW? Uh-oh…
Despite VW’s past NOx naughtiness, this diesel motor really suits the Golf. For a diesel it’s very refined and willing, with plenty of punch from low revs. Work it a little harder and you can make very swift progress without really trying – or the engine making much of a din. Claimed economy of 65.7mpg is a nice sweetener, too.
It doesn’t matter how low the revs are, this Golf can pick itself up and run. It seems a little quieter than the more powerful 184bhp unit in the top GTD diesel model, and you can use every single horsepower without the front wheels spinning in protest.
R-Line equals sharp looks and handling
A slick manual gearchange and a clutch that even the most hamfooted of learners could handle make the 2.0 TDI surprisingly satisfying to drive, whatever the pace. The gearbox is good enough to make the £1415 DSG automatic gearbox option redundant unless you’re particularly averse to manual labour.
R-Line trim includes 17-inch alloys and lowered suspension, which adds a little firmness to the ride, but still manages to bat away most bumps without fuss. In fact, this Golf provides a smoother ride than the Golf Alltrack off-road wannabe on the same size alloys.
This added stiffness means that the 2.0 TDI takes corners well, with reasonably weighty steering faithfully telegraphing the level of grip. It’s not a hot hatch, but the well-judged ride and steering provide a good level of confidence.
Refinement is strong, too. Not only is the engine more muted than pretty much all of the Golf’s competitors, but there’s little wind or road noise, so even a motorway-long schlep shouldn’t prove too taxing.
It shouldn’t cost much to fuel, either. On our drive we chalked up 54.0mpg according to the trip computer – more than we got with the much weedier and coarser 1.6-litre diesel on the same route.
Ditch digi-dials and pricey Pro nav
Following the Audi A3’s lead, VW is now offering customisable all-digital dials – called Active Info Display – for the princely sum of £495. R-Line models do without it, which is no hardship as the crisp analogue gauges are sharp and far nicer to read than versions drawn out in pixels.
Less is more when it comes to media systems, too, with the R-Line’s standard 8.0-inch Discover Navigation sat-nav proving easier to adjust on the move than optional £1395 all-touchscreen Discover Navigation Pro, which ditches several physical control knobs forcing driver and passenger to prod the screen or use gesture and voice controls.
Some drivers may value these options, but we can’t fathom why anyone would want to ditch simple physical controls for less intuitive alternatives. Standard kit for the R-Line Golf, meanwhile, includes most of the gear you’d want:
- Manual air-conditioning
- Front and rear electric windows
- Electric folding door mirrors
- Front and rear parking sensors
- Adaptive cruise control
- 8.0-inch Discover Navigation
- Bluetooth and digital radio
- Lowered sports suspension
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- R-Line styling pack
You may be hesitant to choose a diesel VW but this Golf is well worth the £25,720 price. In fact ditching the R-Line in favour of the £24,725 GT version is wiser still, as all you lose are a couple of R-Line badges and other aesthetic trinkets.
Power, handling, economy and plenty of standard kit together make this a great real-world car with plenty of premium feel-good factor plus wallet-friendly 65.7mpg fuel consumption. It’s not cheap, and you could save yourself a whopping £100 per month with the equivalent Seat Leon or Mini Clubman, though (on identical contract terms), while even the 184bhp Skoda Octavia vRS diesel is £60 per month less.
If you can justify the cost, however, the only question mark over the 2.0 TDI 150 model is how well the upcoming turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol stacks up price-wise when it arrives in the UK later in 2017. If this undercuts the diesel, it could be the Golf to go for.
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