► 2018 Golf SV tested
► Better family car than an SUV?
► Our drive of the updated Sportsvan
Here’s a fun fact: in 2016 the Vauxhall Viva outsold the total number of VW Golf SV hatchbacks registered in the UK since its launch.
It’s certainly a rare beast over here – the largest Golf variant sells about as well as the Beetle, and you don’t exactly see a lot of those either.
But here’s the thing – in that same timeframe VW has shifted more than ten times as many Golf SV models than our allocation in Germany alone. Are we missing something here?
Does SV stand for Super Veloce?
No, of course not – the SV suffix is a nod to the continental badge Golf Sportsvan which for some reason gets chipped off and chucked into the English Channel on the journey over. Perhaps that’s because it isn’t particularly sporty or indeed a van. Or because it sounds a bit too close to that bonkers Transit that Ford shoehorned a Cosworth V6 into.
Either way the SV tag is a bit confusing, although it’s admittedly more imaginative than the previous ‘Golf Plus’ moniker. There’s another issue with pitching this car as a more practical Golf hatchback though – VW already makes one of those, it’s called a ‘Golf Estate’, and it’s quite good.
Plus, isn’t automotive marketing these days all premium, sporty, aspirational? Why hamstring the SV by making it sound like a frumpier Golf when you could pass it off as a five-door Scirocco Sportback or even a Touran Coupe?
Regardless, the biggest problem is that this is a car that is aimed at families and isn’t an SUV. In 2017 that is a problem so vast even the Sportsvan’s expanded boot can’t contain it.
I thought you didn’t like SUVs?
They’re not universally bad but for some reason they do seem to be universally popular at the moment, regardless of whether they offer worse value, performance, handling and economy than their hatchback rivals or not.
The Golf SV represents something of a solution to this though – it’s more practical than a standard hatch without the whiff of the garden centre you get with an estate, plus it sneaks in a load of MPV flexibility without resorting to a boxy, I’ve-given-up side-profile. This should be the ideal family car.
For all these reasons we were really hoping the current hot hatch renaissance might tempt VW to introduce a lairy version with this latest facelifted SV to give buyers an alternative to an SUV – a Golf SV GTI or Golf SV R perhaps – and not only because the latter sounds like some mad Jaguar V8-powered collaboration.
Has any of that actually happened?
Predictably, no. As we mentioned this is a car that already sells in enormous numbers in Europe, and VW is unlikely to mess that up to satisfy one British journalist. So instead you get new bumpers front and rear plus standard LED tail lights and a different headlight layout with optional LEDs.
Autonomous braking is now standard – Front Assist avoids cars while Pedestrian Monitoring spots people – and the radar sensor has been moved behind the VW badge to make it look more OEM. Inside the standard touchscreen is up from 6.5-inches to 8-inches, while the largest screen is up from 8-inches to the Discover Navigation Pro with its fabulous 9.2-inch screen.
Most interesting for the purposes of this article though are the new engines – a zippy 1.0-litre petrol and the superb 1.5-litre EVO we’ve previously enjoyed in the Golf hatch.
Neither of those have eight cylinders…
No you’re right, but the top 1.5-litre TSI gets along at a reasonable rate, taking 8.8 seconds to get from 0-62mph. Here’s what else we know about the petrol line-up:
- 1.0-litre 84bhp, 192lbs ft (S trim only) – five-speed manual
- 1.0-litre 109bhp, 148lb ft – six-speed manual or seven-speed auto
- 1.5-litre 128bhp, 148lb ft – six-speed manual or seven-speed auto
- 1.5-litre 148bhp, 184lbs ft (GT trim only) – six-speed manual or six-speed auto
There are also 1.6- and 2.0-litre diesels to come next year and these will undoubtedly be willingly torquey and frugal to boot.
From behind the wheel the SV feels like most things on the MQB chassis – like an insert-adjective-here Golf, in this case the missing bit is ‘slightly larger’. The steering is light and accurate while numb, body movements are well-controlled despite the extra ironwork, and if you push too hard you’ll enter a world of predictably measured understeer.
I sense you’re about to talk about bootspace
Right let’s make this quick – the boot measures 500/590-litres depending on how far you slide the rear seat forwards or backwards (it also tilts for extra comfort) and there’s an extra 50mm between the axles to improve passenger comfort.
The ride is superb and the cabin remarkably quiet, particularly if you pick the largely unstressed 1.5-litre TSI and resist the urge to hammer it relentlessly to the redline.
There’s more head and legroom than the hatch where ever you sit, and while the full UK spec hasn’t been released yet, it’ll be virtually identical to its namesake. Except no GTI.
As a family car the Golf hatchback is a decent choice but the SV improves upon it with a specific set of talents – more passenger space, a larger boot, and a higher seating position that makes installing child seats easy.
It’s not a full-size MPV but it still has the air of a car you need, rather than one you desperately want – and that means while it essentially does all the same things as a VW Tiguan or Nissan Qashqai, it lacks desirability because it’s not an SUV. How sad.