Volkswagen took their time unleashing this handsome devil
Yes, the previous VW management dithered, discussed and delayed the project until it was almost past its sell-by date. In July 2007, two full years behind the original schedule, the third-generation Golf Variant will finally appear in right-hand drive form. “Initially, we thought that the Touran and the Golf plus could together cover the estate car segment,“ explains Ulrich Hackenberg, the recently appointed board member in charge of engineering. “Obviously, this was a mistake. Having sold over 1.2 million Golf Variants since 1993, the customer base clamoured for a replacement.”
Better than late never, I suppose. It’s no looker though, is it?
You’re not wrong. Designed by Wolfgang Bernhard Murat Günak, the latest Golf derivative is unlikely to win a beauty contest. The front end is boggo VW fare, the uncluttered side view is bland and the frumpy rear end is a strange mix of diverse styling elements that lack VW’s distinctive design language. And you’d better get used to it - although the sixth-generation Golf will be introduced as early as next year, the old-style Variant is - like the Jetta - due to soldier on for a full eight years, albeit with a mid-cycle facelift.
So who’s going to buy it?
The Mexican-made estate will be churned out at the rate of 120,000 units each year from VW’s Puebla plant with the UK accounting for a modest 2800 of those. Of those, almost three quarters will be sucked up by the fleet and business markets. And there will be plenty of room in the back for photocopiers. In terms of cabin dimensions, it is in fact almost dangerously close to the Passat. The new model is 46mm wider and 159mm longer than before and a full 352mm longer than its hatch donor. As a result, the cargo capacity has gone up to from 1470 to 505 litres with the rear seats in place and a cavernous 1550 litres when they are folded flat into the floor 690 litres with the luggage net in place and to 1550 litres with both rear seats folded – an extra 80litres over its predecessor.
That’s big, but is it clever?
Sort of. Beneath the loading deck and on both sides of it, additional oddments space is readily accessible. The floor itself is flat, but there is a 40mm step at the trailing edge, which can be a nuisance when sliding heavy items in and out. To stop smaller objects from going flying about the place there’s a multifunctional partition will confine the room to move. Although the second row furniture is easy to fold and tumble, you need to remove the headrests to stow away the squabs, which in turn restrict the seat travel for driver and passenger.
Yes, as standard. Europe gets an inconceivably long list of powertrain options but the UK will be limited to three – two diesels, a 105bhp 1.9-litre and a 140bhp 2.0-litre, and a solitary petrol, the 105bhp 1.6-litre FSI unit. There’s a choice of manual or DSG transmissions, and prices are expected to kick off around £14,300 rising to boggo 1.6 to a hefty £20,500 for the 2.0-litre diesel with DSG. A key option box to tick is the panoramic roof that does much lighten the rather workman-like cabin ambience.
The same to drive as the hatch I guess…
Pretty much. We had a punt in the 140bhp TDI. With plenty of torque to flatten hills and make short work of dawdling traffic, it’s easily the pick of the ranger, even if it is the most expensive. The ride quality never felt anything but compliant and composed even when driven with, ahem, enthusiasm, and like the hatch, the chassis feels sharp and alert, the steering ideally weighted and body control was impressive.
The Golf estate may not be an overt style statement like the A3 Sportback, but as a high-quality low-visibility loadlugger that fits a small but important niche with a watertight seal, it makes a welcome return to the core values of the Volkswagen brand.